On Wine and Great Beer
Craft beer lovers are constantly faced with the world of wine. From aesthetics to bragging rights, we, in some fashion or another, have to come to grips with the other beverage’s role in the universe. It even goes gender with a pretty fun book pitting a celebrated brewer against a wine activist: He Said Beer, She Said Wine. However, I had never really considered the simple possibility of convergence.
This thought was triggered as I sat at one of my favorite bars nursing a Foothills Sexual Chocolate and stared at the chalk board on the back bar. I was trying to figure out what was odd about the board. It listed beers and wines, all in the same color chalk, same handwriting. I kept going back and forth from wine to beer, beer to wine. Shooting Star Chardonnay—Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. Silver Palm Cab Sauvignon—Highland Gaelic Ale. McWilliams Shiraz—Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout. The lists sounded so alike!
Two days later, as I hosted a Superbowl party, I sat next to a couple of female friends who spent a large part of the third quarter in a hefty debate over the relative merits of the Founder’s Double Trouble that I was serving and their favorite Two Hearted Ale. They even digressed into some comments on Centennial hops vs. Cascade hops. What was startling was that I’ve been to dinner with each of them and their husbands, and both women were pretty passionate about wine. Here they were dissecting the Double Trouble like they would an enjoyable glass of wine.
At my office the next week, as I was considering the possibility of convergence, I got a very interesting package from Matthias Neidhart at B. United containing a bottle of Bracia by Thornbridge Hall. Although I haven’t tasted the beer yet, I look at it several times a day. In an industry known for its traditional, hip, kitschy, and/or outlandish labels, this one is simply riveting for its understated elegance. It looks like a bottle of wine. The paper has amber to purple hues with rich burgundy lettering and a nice stepped back graphic. The back label reads like a well-written beer review, combining aesthetic and technical information.
While I was formulating my thoughts about the possible convergence of aesthetics around quality beverages that promise a rewarding experience I caught a glimpse of a George Clooney movie—ironically, while cutting through an airport lobby. With a slight come-on tilt of the head, Clooney’s character, himself just back from a trip, casually invites the woman next door to stay for a glass of wine. The promise of intimacy is transparent. I wonder what the promise would have been if he’d said beer instead of wine? Backslapping camaraderie?
Can there be a limit for convergence? I don’t think I’ll ever be free of the corner tavern romance of beer. Sitting at a white tablecloth dinner, while eyeing each other through candlelight over a nice double IPA? Done it and loved it, which is the ineffable beauty of beer, its breadth of occasions. I just don’t get that breadth from my wine-loving friends. But, hey, what do I know? I’m in
This editorial originally appeared in May 2011 Issue No. 32, Vol. 2