Olives in Beer is a Strange Midwestern Tradition

Order a beer at your neighborhood bar and they might bring you a bowl of peanuts or pretzels to go with it. Or you might get a place that serves olives as their bar snack. But have you ever been to a bar that serves olives in beer? Combining alcohol and some kind of salty, savory food isn't all that out of the ordinary. There's the pickleback (shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice), the Michelada (beer and spicy tomato juice) and the Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice and everything from the garden). But the beertini is something most people would probably consider unusual, unless you're in a some pockets of the Midwest.

No one knows - or at least there's no written record readily available - of when olives in beer became a thing. But the combination of beer and something salty or acidic is fairly common. Besides the Michelada, you can also find the ubiqutous lime wedge on a Mexican beer or an orange slice on a wheat beer. And the flavors of many beers, especially pilsners, ales and lagers, are amplified when paired with some saltiness.

Plopping a few olives in a glass of beer is a Midwestern staple, where you might hear it ordered as a beertini or a Minnesota, North Dakota or Wisconsin Martini. In South Dakota, you'll find a variation known "Red Beer" that combines olives and tomato juice, which is apparently particularly good when you've been outside on a hot summer's day (think a beer version of Gatorade). Some folks swear that you should swap orange juice in for the tomato juice for a beer cocktail version of a mimosa, too.

Want to try olives in beer? Be sure to drop the olives in your glass of beer. Sure, you could rest a toothpick with an olive on top of the glass as a garnish, but half the fun is watching the little green and black spheres bob around in your beer. It's like a barroom culture lava lamp, as the air bubbles collect on the olives and cause them to rise to the top of the glass.


You don't need to get too picky about your beer and olives, either. This combo doesn't need fancy craft beer or expensive olives. You can use canned beer, bottled beer or draft beer. The basic rules are, don't go too dark (skip the stouts, porters and darker IPAs) and use any olives but plain black olives.

For some fun beer olives pairings, try a Hefeweizen with Piccante green olives. The red pepper flakes in the olives add a nice kick to the crisp Hefeweizen. Saison beers are a light beer with a fruity taste, so they pair well with Castelvetrano olives. Really, try your favorite beer with your favorite olives to see what pairing you like best.