A business associate once told me that the world is pretty much segregated by what it drinks. He opined that there are wine drinkers and there are beer drinkers, never bothering to account for those who might enjoy whiskey, gin or vodka, let alone teetotalers. At first it confused him when I would order beers he had never heard of and then discuss the merits of different vineyards on a restaurant’s wine list.
As consumers experience the flavors of Belgian ales and the makers of sour ales experiment with new fruit combinations, it is likely we will see more grape-flavored beers hit retail shelves.
I can only imagine his reaction if he discovered some of today’s brewers blending wine grape juice with their ales. It would be as if two parallel universes had collided.
The division between beer and wine goes back through the centuries. The first record of beer being brewed is contained in 8,000-year-old Sumerian writings from what today is Iraq. The first known wine production goes back even further, around 10,000 years, to what is now Georgia in the south Caucasus.
In Europe, most northern countries are “beer” focused, while southern countries lean in the direction of wine. Then there is the vodka belt and the whisky makers. Much of this has to do with growing conditions and traditions. Yes, you can get a great riesling in Germany and find locally made beers in Italy, but the truth is that most locals and tourists in these countries consumer the beverages that each land is best known for producing.