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Walk into any dive bar in America and you’ll find plenty of character in the wobbly bar stools, well-worn pool table, and charismatic patrons. Just be careful not to hit your head on the low ceilings. As you belly up to the bar, you’ll notice patrons have found a certain drink pairs perfectly with the laid-back environment. Most call it a boilermaker. Others call it a beer-and-a-shot. Some even call it a kopstoop or a head-butt, depending on where you’re drinking. But everyone agrees—it’s a go-to drink at any dive.

Where did this dive bar staple originate? And what are some of the best shot and beer pairings? Let’s dive right into it.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

Drinking a beer with a shot of liquor has roots in the Netherlands and Germany for generations. But the first official reports of it in America date back to the 1890s in Butte, Montana. After long days working the mines, workers would retreat to the local saloon for a refreshment. Soon enough, the boilermaker combination of whiskey and beer became the drink of choice. The Irish barkeeps affectionately referred to it as a Sean O’Farrell. The origin of that name is up for debate.

Wait, does the shot go in the beer?

If you’re a boilermaker newbie, don’t fret. The only wrong way to enjoy it is by not ordering it at all. Some boilermaker advocates claim it’s best enjoyed by dropping the shot directly into a glass of beer, similar to other drinks like a u-boot or a Dublin Drop. But the most common way to drink a boilermaker is by downing the shot in one gulp, then sipping on the beer as a chaser. Either way, it’s a no-frills drink with no judgments—just like the dive bar itself.

So, what are the best shot and beer combos?

Everyone has their preferences, but these are some of the pairings that we’d recommend trying at your local dive:

  • Sazerac Rye and an American lager
  • Southern Comfort and an amber ale
  • Buffalo Trace and a pilsner
  • Henry Ramos Gin and an IPA


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