Beer for the Wine Drinker

Maybe you are new to the craft beer scene, or your friends are not true beer drinkers and you have made it your mission to convert them, if they like (or even love) wine, I believe there is a beer out there for them.  Let’s explore beer for the wine drinker.

Beer, much like wine has subtle flavors and aromas after brewing.  This adds to the taste and the experience of craft beer.  When comparing beer to wine, imagine that lagers are a lot like white wine while while ales are a lot like red wine.

According to “Beer 2 n 1” Book by Tadio Diller,  “this is based on the claim that the hops (which gives beer a rounded, bitter flavor) has the same function as the acid found in wine when it come to interactions with food.”  Beer hops and wine acids cut through the saltiness and oiliness of food.

What’s the difference between a lager and an ale?

Ales are more robust and fruity.  They pair great with meat dishes.  Lagers are crisp and more delicate in taste and pair great with fish and subtle flavored dishes.

Not only to beers have styles, they also have a body component, which can be light, medium or heavy.  If you, or your friends, are familiar with wine body component this will help you understand the flavor profile for beer.

Flavor profiles of beer

Light bodied beers are typically lagers, pilsners and wheat beers.  These are very comparable to a Pino Grigio, Pino Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc.

Medium bodied beers are your ales, IPA’s and Bocks.  These are like Syrahs, Merlots and Zinfandels.

Heavy bodied beers are the stouts, porters and barley wines.  Very similar to Chardonnays, Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignons.

From these flavor profiles, it is pretty easy to narrow down a few options to either try at the tap room or offer at your next tasting.  If you are unsure, I would stick first to the light bodied beers.  These are very easy to drink and most people enjoy this profile.  The second choice would be the heavy bodied beers.  The porters and stouts pick up the coffee and chocolate notes usually and are a nice option.  The medium bodied beers are going to be more hoppy in taste which can translate to a more bitter beer.

Wine versus beer

I can’t say it’s a tug-a-war, rather it’s what kind of mood are you in at the moment.  A true wine lover will always say wine is better than beer, but I think there is enough room to enjoy both.  Craft beer is very similar to the tastes people enjoy in wine.  There is the elegant, balance and complexity in flavors as well as the aromas such as fruit, spice, cocoa and vanilla.

The biggest hurdle for new beer drinkers is bitterness.  This is caused by the hops and is most often found in the IPAs.  Again, think about the medium bodied beer flavor profile.

Best Choice?

I would say the easiest transition beer (or should we even consider it the gateway beer?) are the malty beers like those brewed in the Belgian tradition.  These are the witbiers and saisons.  Again, going for a light bodied beer.

Another transition beer would be the crisp ales and lager beers like a Kolsch or wheat ale.  For the hardcore wine drinker try a sour brew like a Lambic.

Do you like black coffee?  A nice dry stout may be a great option.

So, what is the best beer option for those who drink wine?  It all comes down to what kind of wine they like.  As with wine, we all have our favorite styles and flavor profiles.  But, with a little bit of knowledge, which I hope I have imparted on you, now you can make an informed choice when trying beer.

An incorrect question from a bartender/brewer is “what kind of beer do you normally drink”.  Instead, it should be, new to beer?  Do you drink wine and what kind do you normally drink?

Craft beer is brewed with such care and attention to the aroma and taste, it should be treated like a wine.  Smell it, swirl it, sip it and in the end… enjoy a glass with great company.

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