Wine Celebrates, Beer Apologizes
It’s a simple statement really. For too many, Wine is celebrated and beer is left to apologize for lacking sophistication. Or so it seems. I promised back in my wine infused interview from my last post that I would work on my wine based blog and so here goes nothing.
In the last few months, several authors have found it fashionable to slam beer for apparently “trying to be more like wine and less like beer.” I didn’t realize they had cornered the market on using fancy words to describe the aromatics of fermented liquids. I guess it Christs’ fault? I mean if you want to blame someone, I would start with the Son of God. If he had served beer instead of wine at the last supper or had turned water into beer we might not be having this conversation. So yeah, I blame the Messiah. But I recently finished reading a new book to me called “Fermenting Revolution.” The book actually supports many suppositions that Jesus may actually have been working with Beer(or a barley based beverage) rather than wine in the bible. But, I didn’t mean to digress so far. I want to get back to these oenephiles and sophistication.
Actually, I blame ignorant writers looking to pick a fight amongst consumers who feel that beer is an easy topic. Problem is, beer really isn’t an easy thing to pick on these days. Craft brewed beers continue to see accelerated double digit growth and as such, more and more people are being turned onto the benefits of the explosion of beers that are now available on every corner.
But let’s get back to the article that really caught my attention. It was originally published online by Slate Magazine and titled:
“Beer in the Headlights. Sales are Flat. Wine is ascendant. How did this happen?” It was published on May 30th and has been written about by other bloggers who are much more timely in their writing than I am. In the article the author makes the following assertions in support of wine. I just roll my eyes every time I read them.
Wine marketers have it comparatively easy. They merely summon a picture of a bucolic vineyard or people raising their glasses around a table full of food—they don’t have to sell their selling points.
Unfortunately this much is true. See my post about “Something from Nothing” and you can see that I feel wineries have it too easy when it comes to marketing. They tug at our pastoral strings evoking the beauty of winemaking. Brewing beer does have a disconnect from the land in many ways. It can be problematic to sell Terrior when you’re making beer in the middle of an industrial park one mile from the Highway. Yet, they forget to tell you that numerous wines are made in these same industrial parks. It’s a dirty little secret.
This is why brewers have been frantically pushing beer-and-food pairings lately. Beer—which can be great with food, by the way—is in danger of being left out of the American mealtime, banished to the den (only when pro sports are on) or to the back porch (only for the early rounds of grilling).
Gee, I thought we were pushing beer and food pairings because beer can be a superior beverage when it comes to matching with food. Silly brewers, apparently we’re not ready to graduate to the big people’s table where wine reigns supreme. In reality, we’re already there. Beer and food pairings are working. I see evidence of this everywhere. I guess all the beer dinners that I have attended and presented at this year were really nothing more than a chef trying to placate my ego? But let’s get back to the article. I have more quotes:
Wine is basically an agricultural product (fermented grapes), while beer is the result of a complicated process of manufacture (boiling barley to extract sugars, adding hops and yeast, fermenting the wort that results).
Last time I checked, My barley came from a farmer who tills the soil for a living all the while praying to the Lord his maker for a bountiful crop at harvest. The Hops I use come from another set of Farmers who must tend to their crops during the brutal summer months and pray for no rain at harvest. So I guess that means, they aren’t really farmers then? Mass produced beer down to artisinal beers are ALL produced from living organisms that come from farms. To call beer an engineered product of “complicated manufacture” misses the point. Moving along to the next statement-
This holds true whether the brewer is a medieval English villager or Anheuser-Busch. The hallmark of beer is consistency: A brewer strives to make batch after batch of Pilsener so it tastes the same—and often succeeds without much difficulty. Wine is more variable: The sugar levels and tannins and acidity of the grapes fluctuate from year to year, and so does the character of the resulting wines. This explains why the whole concept of vintages is so central to wine but largely absent from beer.
I would argue that in many ways, beer can be more predictable but even so, ALL beverages will change over time no matter if they be beer or the holier than though Red Wine. The difference is that Domestic Mass producing type brewers strive for consistency. Me, I strive for expression in my beers. I worry not if they vary. What I concern myself with is that they taste great. AND no, I don’t care if you think that beers should always be the same. If that works for you then fine. It doesn’t work for me.
To all the winos out there trying to maintain your romantic notion of life and hillsides with hanging fruit, I have only this to offer. I like Wine too. I drink it often. Yet at the end of the day, your elitist attitudes towards a divine right as the chosen beverage of sophistication may go by the way side. Sure, we have a long road ahead of us. Still in only 11 years as a brewer I have seen numerous mile markers at the side of the road. Each time I pass one, I’m left wondering how many more there are on this road and how quickly we’ll be at the end. I must say, I like what I see.