Tasting Beer Part 3: Wine-ification
Part 3 of my “Tasting Beer” series. The first two posts are here and here.
Thing one: wine-ification is a terrible word. Thing two: I’m pretty sure my first exposure to wine was out of a box, so it took a while before I understood the idea of wine being fancy. That is not to say that beer ever had a “fancy persona” in my mind either, but I guess that’s kind of the point to all of this.
Lately, thanks to the rapid growth of craft beer in America, there has been an increase in restaurants that feature craft beer, and programs like Cicerone have been getting more attention. This is of course is when the opinions start to come out about craft beer’s role, and often times, it is compared to wine. The New York Times had an article associating beer bottle sizes with “wine-ification,” Food & Wine compared beer glassware and food pairing with snobbery, and NPR recently discussed Cicerones.
If you feel like rotting your brain, read through the comment sections of those articles. Amongst them are posts of this nature:
“sorry, but beer to me will always be just another form of birth control and i proudly hold up my case of schlitz, and the 2 children ive had with 3 wives as proof.”
“Beer in a snifter? Isn’t that just a tad pretentious?”
“Class 1 of the Cicerone program: How To Appear Knowledgeable By Acting As Pretentious As Possible”
I did enjoy this comment, however:
“Is this a preview for the upcoming season of Portlandia?”
Various beer writers have shared their opinion on this topic, with most arguing that beer isn’t as snobby as wine. Garrett Oliver, of Brooklyn Brewery, on the other hand seems to argue that wine isn’t as snobby as beer!
I personally agree the most with this comment from the NPR article:
“even people who drink bud light deserve clean glassware and keg lines.”
That ultimately is what I hope people can start to agree on. Beer is an extremely diverse beverage and it can serve many different purposes. For those who can afford to enjoy fine dining, let them enjoy their beer paired with roasted duck confit. For the rest of us, let’s eat pizza or tacos (seriously, I could eat either of those for every meal!). I want bars and restaurants to be knowledgeable enough to have clean tap lines and a trained staff that can describe beer accurately, regardless of what beer they are pouring, and even if it’s not a beer that I would want to drink. I have this picture in my head of someone who isn’t a beer drinker deciding to order a beer for a change and getting turned off to beer entirely, either because of a tap line infection or because of a poor recommendation from the bartender.
It is with that in mind that I don’t understand when I hear fans of craft beer criticizing its growing popularity, or the merits of Cicerones. But I also don’t understand when they do the opposite, like criticizing other’s choice of beer, or holding Cicerones up on a pedestal.
I admit that I often get excited when I get to try something rare or aged, and I also admit I like to collect barrel aged beers or sours at home. However I don’t hate “faux craft beer” the way many do. I don’t actually care what you like to drink, so long as you care what it is that you are drinking.
I think the best response to all of this that I’ve read is this article by Jen Muehlbauer of East Bay Beer, appropriately titled “Fancy Beer: Pinkies Out or Middle Fingers Up?” Definitely give this article a read if you have the chance. A good summation of all of this would be her closing sentence:
“A wonderful aspect of the beer community is that it’s okay to get fancy and it’s okay to keep it super casual, as long as you’re drinking something you like and having a good time. I hope there’s always room for every single one of us.”