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New Beer Rule #7: Beer is not the new wine

Beer For LunchLast night we ate leftover smoked meat and drank Southern Tier Choklat. One, then the other. No pairing involved. Sometimes you just want a beer, maybe even a strong one.

Choklat, an 11% abv imperial stout infused with dark Belgian chocolate, qualifies on both counts. It’s one of the beers I’ll be writing around 85 words about in the next All About Beer magazine Beer Talk.

You’ll notice these days that more often than not Beer Talk panelists suggest a food pairing for the beer they are describing. I tend to be the slacker. I know that Charles Finkel, who tastes the same beers as I, will have terrific suggestions and I try to use the small space alloted to squeeze in something different.

I’m keener than most about the notion beer belongs at the table, but these days the movement hardly seems to need my help. For instance, the Brewers Association yesterday revealed new details about “SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience,” including something called educational salons. These are presentations by “savvy cross drinkers.”

I guarantee you that the words “Beer is the new wine” will be bandied about.

What does that mean? I really don’t know. The phrase doesn’t seem to serve beer or wine well. Wine is the new wine. Beer is the new beer. (And the old beer, which is equally important.)

Beer “styles” have always evolved, with various riffs sometimes turning evolution into revolution. This is nothing new. In the 1930s it was the monks at Westmalle refining the “tripel” style. These days it might be two brothers in a former hardware store in Warren, Mich., inventing something new or an ex-English major in San Diego blending mead, strong ale and sour beer to create Veritas (Latin for truth).

Truth is it’s still beer.

NEW BEER RULE #7: Beer is still beer.

13 Responses to New Beer Rule #7: Beer is not the new wine

  1. Alan December 21, 2007 at 9:59 am #

    #1 – I want that image as a poster.

    #2 – I like the wording of the rule in the headline better than in the conclusion: “beer is not the new wine”.

  2. Stan Hieronymus December 21, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    Alan – The image is actually a matchup (from an auction on eBay) so that’s the size of the image. You have just as much right to it as I ;>)

  3. Eric Trimmer December 21, 2007 at 12:04 pm #

    The phrase, “Beer is the new wine,” serves a few interesting purposes.

    1. It makes beer geeks feel better about themselves by elevating a working-class beverage.

    2. It will allow fancy restaurants to charge dear prices for that feeling.

    Considering how hard it is to make it in the restaurant biz, and how some folks love to spend money for the thrill of it, I think this is a win-win situation.

  4. Stan Hieronymus December 21, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    Eric,

    From a marketing standpoint, I agree.

    But from a good sense standpoint I don’t.

    I don’t think beer needs “validating” this way. It’s not only new variations that deserve respect but also “traditional” beers.

  5. Boak December 21, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    The price thing is an interesting angle that I really hadn’t thought about before I watched a wine appreciation programme, where I saw that some Californian producer could flog his normal stuff for 800 dollars (or more) a bottle.

    Imagine that beer does get to be as “accepted” as wine, that all the people who devote so much time to understanding wines focus on beer and that all decent restaurants have decent beer lists.

    The result? Rare / difficult to produce beers start costing hundreds of pounds. Perhaps we should all be grateful that the critical world ignores it.

    In terms of matching though – there are some foods that you can’t match with wine, and a few that you can’t match with anything. There are certainly beers that I would never try and match with food. I don’t feel like I’m trying to “validate” beer by matching it with food – I just like beer and food.

  6. Peter December 21, 2007 at 8:14 pm #

    Beer IS beer. It is unpretentious, even if it is a Belgian-inspired ale aged in port barrels, inoculated with bret, & served in a corked bottle, it is still beer. So is best bitter. Beer is an option. Granted beer is my personal favorite option, but that is only a conclusion reached after years of research.

    If we as fans, brewers, and promoters of good beer keep comparing it to wine as if beer were was the younger brother of an overly successful sibling then beer will never come into its own. Even if sometimes it does behave like that cousin you hope doesn’t RSVP to your wedding. Beer is great, beer belongs at the table, and BEER IS BEER!

  7. Eric Trimmer December 21, 2007 at 10:03 pm #

    Regardless of how silly all this “beer is the new wine” business may seem, I think it will probably yield one great result:

    The next time I attend a retirement dinner at some stuffy, old-fashioned restaurant, I will probably be able to order a decent glass of beer.

    It is ridiculous for a “nice” restaurant (defined by me as an eatery with white tablecloths) to have a decent wine list, but only offer macro-lager beers.

  8. leigh December 23, 2007 at 8:29 am #

    yep, your right. Beer is beer. to say, seriously, ‘Beer is the new wine’ – which some do, is shockingly patronising. And i have heard this on the tv, the radio, and read about it. Professionals, eh?

  9. Ray Daniels January 13, 2008 at 8:01 am #

    For me, I think this is a bit about how and where the phrase gets used. As an analytical term used to explain to a retailer what is going on in the beverage world, I’d say that it serves a useful purpose. But for that retailer–or worse a brewer–to say that to a consumer makes my stomach sour.

    Ultimately, I dislike any effort to elevate beer that compares it to wine. As the above comments confirm, beer has its own unique character and traits. We should promote it by teaching people about those traits and helping them to develop a long-term interest in the things that only beer can offer.

    To bandy the phrase about is to embrace trendiness: those recruited under its banner will flee just as soon as they hear of the next beverage trend.

  10. Gail July 26, 2008 at 8:54 pm #

    Yep. I hate when we get defensive with these beer/wine comparisons. Beer lovers should be confident enough to respect both. Wine is not better or worse, it too contains multitudes of experiences too. It’s OK to like either or educate your palate to appreciate both. Recently I heard a sophisticated beer drinker describe a beer flavor as sherry-like then note proudly that he’s never tasted any sherry because he doesn’t do wine.

    At some point that gets silly. Lets be beer lovers, not wine haters or wine wannabees.

  11. Frank February 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Interesting beer, I will have to check it out. I’m a fan of Dogfish head, both the 120 IPA and 90 min. They may be a bit much for the novice IPA drinker, but sweet lord I absolutely love it. I must recommend it to anyone that hasn’t tried it yet.

    Are you a fan of Stone Arrogant Bastard by the way?

  12. Ilya Feynberg July 28, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Beer has NEVER been the new wine. Thousands of years of history say so ;)

    I think further proof of this can be found in the separation between wine and beer lovers. Just a quick thought on this subject….

    Ilya

  13. Beer Wench May 26, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Loves thinking I might just be a “Savvy Cross Drinker”….is there a test or certification for that? bet there will be soon!
    Beer goes great with food period. thanks for the great post!

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