“Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.”
Beer has been around as long as human civilization. When human beings gave up the nomadic life of hunting and gathering, and chose instead to settled down and farm, they started making beer with the grains they were growing. Although wine came shortly afterwards, beer is considered by most to be the oldest of alcoholic beverages. And wine, for a very long time, was considered the drink of choice for those who could afford it.
We’re living in a golden age for beer and wine. There’s never been a period in history where alcohol was made to the standards that it is today. Both wine and beer are made in the same fashion. You let a bunch of food sit around for a while until it turns into hooch. Beer was made from fermenting cereals, and wine was made from fermenting grapes. Yeast, the active bacteria that eats sugar and defecates alcohol, is found in the air, and will actively begin to ferment fruits and grains under the right conditions. Today, yeast is added to both wine and beer process, to speed up and control the procedure.
The point I’m trying to make here is this; the kind of alcohol people drank for thousands of years was rotting food. And human beings couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Our entire species owes it’s formation to booze. My guess is, rotting grapes tasted quite a bit better than rotting wheat mash. Wine was seen as the drink of the gods, while beer was given to slaves.
Even in the twentieth century, wine was the drink of the wealthy and the establishment. Beer was for the blue collared working man. Wine enthusiasts would prattle on about vintages, regions, terroirs, sniffing and sipping on wines from France and Italy. Classes could be taken, and certifications could be earned. Wine sommeliers earned their living by waxing poetic about their drink of choice, claiming that certain wines should be paired with certain foods. Beer was the drink the mechanics and the plumbers would crack open after a long days work. Beer usually came in one flavor, Beer flavor. That’s recently changed.
There’s always been craft beers, beers that were brewed by Trappist monks, beer that was creating with insane hop flavors, but these stayed out of the public eye for most of the twentieth century. We now have access to a wide range of beers, from black stouts to citrusy white beers. Beer pairings have started popping up, suggesting complex Belgian style beers with red meats and Pilsners with certain cheeses. Beer snobs have been growing like weeds.
This is great news for beer drinkers, because that means there are a whole slew of new and exciting new beers to drink. This is also great news for wine.
Wine producers, believe it or not, have been trying to shed the notion that you need to be knowledgeable about wine in order to enjoy it. This imaginary wine boundary has prevented wine makers from tapping into a larger market. The people who grow wine grapes and bottle the result don’t want to limit their customer base to a select few, who claim some sort of magic knowledge is required to appreciate their product. They want everyone drinking wine. Who cares if the Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t pair with the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner? Put it on the table anyways. There’s too much bullshit surrounding wine that’s based on pretentious clowns trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
I should know. I’ve taken a sommelier class in wine.
Right after I did, I was the wine expert among many of my friends and family. I’d get phone calls, asking me if they should crack open the bottle they bought, or if they should lock it away in the cellar. I had to tell people they weren’t wasting their wine if they paired it with something other than goat’s cheese and children’s tears. When presented with a wine as a gift, I had to reassure my friends that yes, the wine they got me was a good wine.
So I’ve put together a little list for people, so we can bury a few myths about wine.
- Most wine was made to be drunk right away. There’s a couple of wines that benefit from sitting around for a while, like an Italian Barolo. Unless you’re asking for something specific or you’re a wine collector, that bottle of wine is probably safe to drink right now.
- Pairing is nice, but unless you’re also a food snob as well, you’re probably not going to notice. Same goes with beer.
- Go to a nice liquor store and talk to someone who works there. I can’t stress this enough. That’s what I do when I want something special. I talk to a person who’s made it their living to sell wine.
Will beer become snobbier than wine though? Never, in my opinion. The snootiness of wine is too implanted in our culture to easily shake, but I’m hoping that wine continues to become more accessible to people in the future. Booze isn’t nearly as classy as the advertisements would have you believe. Just remember, you’re drinking the urine of microbes in order to get your slant on.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I love both wine and beer equally. No preference here.
p.s.s. If someone offers you a beer and you accept, you forgo the right to reject the beer being offered. If they hand you a Lucky, then you drink the Goddamn Lucky. Learn some damned manners and be a gracious guest.