A “beer cocktail” may sound weird, but mixing beer with other liquids like hard liquor, soft drinks or fruit juice has been a common practice for a long time. Such beverages seem to make the most sense in the summer.

In that sense, a beer cocktail is a lot like a shandy, a drink I almost never order. There’s an abundance of local beer available at many Oak Park bar/restaurants, and I usually tend toward these more crafted and nuanced brews.

I think there’s a place for any food and drink, however, and sometimes it just does feel right to get a complex, thoughtfully assembled and thought-provoking beer.

Weekend before last, perhaps the hottest day of the year, after going to a wake, we stopped at Avenue Ale House, a place I almost never visit, for dinner. I ordered from the Beer Cocktail list, selecting: a Stiegl Cucumber Radler, which also contained Effen Cucumber Vodka.

Now, the radler is a traditional German drink that also mingles beer with fruit juice (or sometimes even, gasp, Coca-cola or Sprite).

I was surprised how much I liked the Stiegl Cucumber Radler at Avenue Ale House. The flavors of beer and fruit juice mingled well – the light bitterness of the beer balanced by the light sweetness and acidity of the juice – and the vodka gave the drink an extra bit of guts. Cucumber is an excellent summer flavor, and served in a big frosty glass, the Cucumber Radler beer cocktail was a perfect hot weather beverage.

Dinner itself was a solid C: neither good nor bad just middling. We had an Alsace flatbread that had way too much cheese on it. This may seem like an odd complaint, but this onion and bacon item had me thinking I’d be getting something more like the Alsatian tarte l’oignon (ingredients listed on the menu seemed to suggest it would). It was pretty much a cheesy pizza, which may be just what the public wants (but not me).

We also got a bison burger, which was okay and much, much better than the burger we had on our recent Amtrak adventure.

Ordering these two entrees reminded us of a lesson we’ve been re-learning for decades: we’re not twenty-somethings anymore and one entrée is usually just fine for both of us. But we always get concerned, foolishly, that maybe we’re not going to have enough food because, heaven forbid we should walk out of a restaurant and not be stuffed. This is a lesson we never seem to learn. We don’t both need full entrées: half is just fine.

Lessons learned and re-learned: beer cocktails are good, entrees should always be split.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...