The Undiscovered Country: Beer for Wine Drinkers

As a wine educator I’m constantly studying and tasting wines from all over the world. It’s also my responsibility to explore wines that may not fit my own flavor profile. How else can I hope to educate and ask my students to broaden their palates if I don’t challenge myself to do the same?

But what about taking the leap to an entirely different beverage? Could the craft beer movement, which has recently been credited with helping revitalize small towns, do something equally as magnanimous? That is, convert a wine evangelist into a brew lover?

Fortunately, with the explosion of local and craft breweries it has become easy for wine enthusiasts to think beyond the Bordeaux. Recently I had the pleasure of being guided through an educational tasting with our local Craft and Draft co-owner, Kellan Monroe. For sure he would have his work cut out for him with this beer neophyte.

As I discovered, there are numerous similarities between beer brewing and wine-making, such as the use of barrels in fermenting and aging. Historical and cultural parallels abound as well—Americans now drink more wine and craft beer than any other country! But most exciting for me were the commonalities I encountered in aromas, flavors, and texture. As it turns out, craft beers offer the same elegance, complexity, and nuance as wine.

All available at Craft and Draft, here are some gateway beers that would entice any cork dork to dip their toe into the beer mash:

For Pinot Grigio or light-bodied white wine drinkers, Monroe recommends trying the barrel fermented and aged Carolina Bauerhaus Dat Peach Weisse. As the name suggests, peaches are used in the brewing process of this German wheat-style beer hailing locally from Anderson, SC. It’s lighter and paler than most ales with very little hop presence. Slightly tart, this beer is an easy drinker with just a hint of peach on the finish.

Favor more fuller-bodied white wines? Aged in white wine barrels and also using peaches in the primary fermentation, Goose Island’s Halia would satisfy Chardonnay lovers preferring a more complex drinking experience. “The oak from the barrels leads to a more higher-end, drier drinking style,” says Monroe. Despite the intense amount of fruit used in the brewing process, the flavor is more round with an undercurrent of funk in true Belgian Ale fashion.

Pinot Noir or lighter red wine fans will discover a counterpart brew experience in Ommegang Brewery’s Rosetta, a Belgian-style kriek sour ale blend. Similar to many Pinots, the beer is fruity on the nose, but savory and dry on the finish. The complexity results from a synthesis between old and young Flemish brown ale blended with cherry beer. “It’s elegant yet refreshing because of the balance of tartness and sweetness,” says Monroe.

Finally, Cabernet and bold red wine die-hards will find their transition to the hops life akin to another, more familiar brew--coffee, that is. Founders Brewing Company 2016 Breakfast Stout satisfies Cabernet and coffee lovers alike. Dark and full-bodied with intense java aromas, this stout was brewed with oats, chocolate, and coffee. And just like a fine wine, Monroe cellared this hoppy concoction for a year before tapping it for Craft and Draft drinkers.

Ready to take a pils plunge? An ale adventure? A hops holiday? Make sure to visit Craft and Draft at 2706 Devine Street where Kellan Monroe and Andrew Johnson will undoubtedly show you the weiss (beer) way. You may just become a better-educated, and more well-rounded wine aficionado as a result.

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erlinda@thevinicola.com  |  202.247.1268

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