Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beer is NOT Wine, Deal With It!

Yesterday I tweeted the following:
"winos jumping on the beer bandwagon is a bad thing for the industry...discuss".
In response to a few requests for further elaboration, here goes. First though let me say that I quite enjoy wine from time to time, indeed I spent much of Saturday in vineyard tasting rooms in our local area sampling some very nice wines, and some bloody awful ones, so don't go getting it into your head that this is some kind of anti-wine rant, it isn't. Having said that though, I do think beer is an infinitely more interesting drink, but that for another post sometime.

The genesis of my tweet came from some comments I overheard in one of the vineyards on Saturday. The bar area at the final vineyard we visited, Barboursville Vineyards to be precise, was fairly crowded, so rather than adding to the mêlée with four extra bodies, Mrs V and our friends waited on the periphery whilst I went back and forth getting samples. During one such trip, a couple just in front of me was discussing how "craft beer is the new wine" whilst simultaneously complaining that brewery tasting rooms were "too industrial" and that they couldn't take beer seriously until it "became like wine".

Now, I don't want to tar all wine lovers with the same brush as these pseuds, but as I have posted about plenty of times before, I am not convinced that wine people are capable of appreciating beer on its own terms. Yes they may have refined palettes able to detect strawberries dressed in rubber gimp suits or some such bizarre combination, if you have never heard Jilly Goolden waffle on then count yourself fortunate, but trying to force beer into the wine frame of reference is pointless, and does a disservice to beer.

There are times, and I accept that I may be oversensitive about this, that I get the feeling that there are too many people trying to gentrify beer, to take it away from being the drink of the everyman and make it a niche product for those with pockets deep enough to pay for it. That's not say to that beer is the lowest common denominator drink, but rather that is transcends class and status, and it infuriates me when some people try to intellectualise beer by comparing it to wine.

As I said in a post a couple of weeks ago:
"I often find myself rolling my eyes at the seemingly endless attempts to turn the drink of the everyman into something antithetical to its very nature, something fancy. We often read and hear about beer "achieving the status of wine", as though middle class respectability with its chunky knit sweaters, Volvos and wine and cheese parties is something worth aping."
There are times when my sincerest wish is that the people trying to "raise" beer to the level of wine would just spit the dummy, throw their toys out of the pram and bugger off.


  1. I too feel like beer is trying to compete with wine, not from the product standpoint but from the taste review standpoint.

    There is room for fancy beer and for craft beer fanatics to talk about notes of cat piss, pine needles, and biscuits…and gimp-suited strawberries. Some craft beer is getting very complex in its makeup so it warrants educated reviews.

    But we can't alienate the everyman beer drinker. Craft beer is going to need them to sustain the industry longer term. Craft beer has room to grow in both directions.

    1. Cheers to that, sir. It is truly the difference between the "beer geek" and the "beer snob." The inclusion of the beer geek is much more fun, inviting, positive, and exactly what the industry needs. The exclusion, elitism, negative vibes, and telling people that what they are drinking sucks is a sure way to make sure that the craft beer industry fails.

  2. 'During one such trip, a couple just in front of me was discussing how "craft beer is the new wine" whilst simultaneously complaining that brewery tasting rooms were "too industrial" and that they couldn't take beer seriously until it "became like wine".'

    I'd hazard they know FA about wine either. I don't think it's people analysing the complex flavours beer has to offer that will put 'everyman' off 'craft beer,' (most people won't ever read that stuff, just as most people don't read about the wine they drink) but charging more for a bottle of beer than most people are prepared to pay for a bottle of wine will.

  3. But there's nothing wrong with demanding that beer be given its fair share of the limelight alongside wine, is there?

  4. The most worrying trend I find is copying the pricing of wine. I don't mind paying a fair whack for my beer, but some pricing at the trendier end of the market is getting ridiculous.

    I blame the geeks.

  5. Bailey,

    Not in the slightest, but does it need to use the wine world as a frame of reference? For me it is like Henry Higgins trying to "correct" Eliza Doolittle's accent to make her acceptable to polite society.


    Again I agree completely, spending $15 for a 6 pack for some over-hopped imperial IPA that tastes like nail varnish remover is taking the piss. As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I can get a six pack of Pilsner Urquell for less than a locally made "pilsner" in full confidence that the original is far superior.

  6. The worst, IMO, are sommeliers or other wine people that are now giving "tasting courses", or some other shit like that, while they clearly know about beer less than I know about wine.

    I think there's plenty of space in this world for "fancypants" beers. However, unlike the wine world, which does not seem to acknowledge the existence of the "two buck chuck" and other kinds of wines that are by far the best sellers, we can count on the macro brewers to remind us that beer is still the everyman drink.

  7. Pivni, the difference with beer is that the cheapest beer is sometimes the best. Not sure that's ever true with wine.

    1. I've read of a couple of experiments where cheaper wines ended winning in a blind tasting.

      There was also this bloke that send exactly the same wine in two different bottles to one competition. The cheaper looking one was rejected, the other one went through, and of course, there's that Benny Hill gag of the label switching :)

  8. The biggest thing that I see, at least in my world, is that it seems there is a lot more "beer tasting" going on and a lot less "beer drinking." Sometimes I really want to just drink a few pints of a really nice ale.

    1. Amen to that! More session beers would be good to help that along...


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