It is a battle that has waged for centuries: wine vs. beer. Both wine and beer have helped shape agriculture and frankly, modern civilization as we know it. Once barley was able to be manipulated and planted in droves, small settlements began to pop up across Europe. At the same time, grapes were planted across the countrysides of Italy and France. Beer and wine were both safe to drink at times when water was not. They were both demonized during prohibition, yet survived. Despite walking hand in hand with each other throughout human history the two have been pitted against each other in the modern era.
Beer Geeks. Wine Snobs. Neither of those terms are generally positive and as you can tell, neither group gave that name to themselves. It was long thought that beer was the beverage of the working class while wine was the beverage of the upper class and royalty. Luckily for all of us these stereotypes no longer exist and both beverages are available to more and more people every day. The truth is that wine aficionados and craft beer enthusiasts are actually more similar than most people think.
Let’s start with cellaring, or aging. While aging and cellaring bottles has traditionally been something better suited for wine, aging beer has picked up a lot of steam in the last decade. The world’s most prestigious Chateaus recommend that their wines are best consumed some ten, twenty years down the road. Trying a great vintage ten years after its release can be a real treat. It is always an enjoyable experience sampling vintage bottles of wine. From the beer perspective the aging potential is left with the consumer and many have started cellaring bottles themselves. Many people age sours, Belgians, Imperial Stouts, and Barleywines for years. A barrel aged beer can change dramatically over time. Experimenting with different vintages makes the hobby of collecting that much more rewarding. For example, here is a bottle of a 2003 vintage Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA I recently tasted. With over 10 years of cellaring, it tastes completely different than the current vintage release!
Proper glassware is also very important to both wine and beer lovers and having a collection of glassware is key. I have a collection of some sixty to seventy different beer glasses myself, in every shape and size that you can imagine. As Riedel has shown us, there is a glass almost for every grape varietal as well. Aromatics are incredibly important in the drinking experience regardless of the beverage of choice. A Pinot Noir glass will better showcase the ripe fruit of Carneros or the red brick of Burgundy. A Chardonnay glass can better capture the oaky nose from Russian River or the bright, clean orchard fruits of Chablis. A Bordeaux glass can contain the masculine tannins of your favorite appellation. The same can be said for beer. A nice German pilsner should be consumed out of a tall, open glass to better showcase the crisp and refreshing flavors. An IPA or Pale Ale should be consumed from a snifter, a glass which best showcases the aromatics of the hops. A stout is also best served in a snifter, allowing you to pick up the chocolate or roasted malts that make the beer so big. Snifters like the ones pictured with these Three Floyds' Barrel Aged Dark Lord Stouts work perfectly. All of these aforementioned glasses make sure that you and your company get the beer or wine at its best.
Kahn's Wine Customers enjoying a tasting in the store
Tastings are a key component of the drinking experience as well. Wine and beer bring us together. They are social primers and can often shape our experiences. Just look at the hundreds of smiling faces at the Indianapolis Wine Fest or the hundreds of people who attend the Indiana Microbrewers Fest. What can make a 92 point wine even better? Good company. There is no finer experience than sharing a few special bottles with friends during dinner, meeting a group of friends at a festival, or hosting a private tasting in your home. So, the next time that you’re going to open that special bottle make sure you invite a few friends over to share in your enjoyment. And remember, there are probably other wine or craft beer enthusiasts on the other side of town doing the same thing. Cheers!