Friday, September 26, 2014

Fear The Beer! Wine is getting some serious competition

For decades the choice between wine and beer has been pretty straight forward. Wine with dinner has always been the norm unless you were doing hotdogs and burgers on the grill. Beer was always about tailgating, football, picnics, etc. The idea of beer at a nice meal with a group that your were trying to impress was just unheard of. In recent years that traditional approach has been all but tossed out the window.

Brewers are honing their craft and challenging even the most ardent wine snobs to reconsider this traditional approach as they continue to make better and more interesting beer using better ingredients and new, forward thinking recipes that appeal to the same kind of palate focused beer geeks that the wine world produces. Last week I was ripped out of my safe little grapes world and thrown into a sea of hopheads at the Harbor Brewfest as 2300+ people decended on field at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport for our third annual gathering of craft beer fans. I got a chance to talk to and interact with many of the participants on both sides of the tasting tables and came away quite impressed.

Beer geeks are very much like us wine geeks but there are some very big differences too. Wine people are fun but often reserved and careful about the way that they approach their passion. We choose our wines carefully, we taste them and comment on them in terms that are focused and analytical. Beer fans are more open minded and exuberant when they share their passion. They body language is different and the experience is more communal, Craft beer fans want you in their club!

It reminded me of the difference in the wine world between Napa Valley and Sonoma... They are both very good wine growing regions but Napa is full of itself while Sonoma is connected to its land and its local products. They are farmers and salt of the earth people that aren't very interested in the pomp and circumstance of the wine world. They "hang out", in Napa they "entertain". Beer people hang out.

Having said this, the beer crowd is redefining Chic. Beer is very in vogue and it has found a place on the dinner table either along side or in place of wine. Mixing up a six pack of craft beer to sit down and share with some friends while enjoying a well cooked meal or a plate or artisinal cheeses and meats is becoming a very popular thing to do.

So, is beer on its way to replacing wine as producers continue to make better beers with better ingredients? Well the truth is that wine is probably going to fare just fine on into the future. Traditions are a good thing and there is alot of great wine out there for people to discover. There are a great many affordable and well made wines that will keep us wine geeks interested. However, Beer has taken its seat at the table and if I were a betting man, I would put my money on the next generation continuing its love affair with hops long into the future. Diversity is the spice of life so take the invitation that has been extended through this world and open your mind to seeing what it has to offer.


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