Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beer and Wine: Why can't we be friends?

Beer and wine should be on the same level of class, prestige, and respect. There, I said it.

Now that I have your attention, I have some rambling to share with all those who have an open mind and are willing to be intrigued. When you hear the word “wine,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Be honest. I am willing to bet words like: classy, sophisticated, educated, elegance, snobby, or something to that affect. Now, what happens when you hear the word “beer” in the same context? Perhaps words like: party, wasted, drunk, belly, sports, or cheep. Why doesn't beer fall in the same categoryof words as wine? If the average person does not come up with the same words for beer AND wine or if beer falls in a different class, then more work needs to be done. Although there has been enormous improvement and acceptance of “real beer” in the past years, beer is still on an up-hill climb on this enormous mountain made of empty wine bottles.

Allow me to clarify one more thing here. I have absolutely nothing against wine. In fact, I love wine and I have quite a respectable collection in my cellar that I am very proud of. It is amazing to me how many craft beer drinkers and enthusiast are out there also love/appreciate quality wine as well. They are quite knowledgeable of the drink, too. It is a real shame that rarely is it vice-versa... At least the individuals I've met. I simply ask for the world to be fair and recognize that classy does NOT only mean wine. There is another choice out there. And that choice is clear... I mean, beer (I guess either one will work).

The beer anthropologists like me have an unbelievable passion, praise, and respect for beer and for the talented, hardworking artists who create this ancient beverage. We appreciate the dedication that the Brewmasters and Brewers of the world have for their craft. A true enthusiast (aficionado, geek, snob, or any other name we might go by) will respect all breweries, no mater the size, and all beer styles, regardless of how "light" or "common" or "typical" as it may be. Unlike wine, which only relies on the quality of grapes that the land was able to give, the flavor and uniqueness of beer is entirely up to the brewer. Every little detail is planned out, much like a chef planning to cook a distinctive dish; all ingredients are looked over and chosen to impose a distinct affect to the finished product. Speaking of food, beer finds so many affinities at the table that it can be almost frightening. To paraphrase the words of Garrett Oliver from his book, The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, there are many holes in food pairings where wine simply can not fill, such as in rich desserts and complex cheeses, but beer gladly steps into the spot light and steals the show with a finesse that is uncanny.

My not-so-distant-cousins, the Sommeliers, are the most talented, gifted, educated, and knowledgeable individuals in the world in respect to wine. Sommeliers are identified by their ranking levels, which range from Level I though Level IV: Master Sommelier. In similar fashion, beer has the Cicerone® Certification Program. Most of the general public does not know this program exists, yet they might know what a Sommelier is. The Cicerone® Certification Program consists of several levels of certification, each one is a progressively more difficult than its predecessor. Just as in the increasing levels of Sommeliers, the Cicerone® Certification Program consists of three levels of its own. Those levels are named: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, and Master Cicerone®. The difference in difficulty between the first and second levels is quite astonishing. And the Master level is titanic undertaking, worthy of the prestigious title. Likewise, the Master Sommeliers will agree if I say their accomplishment and recognition is a gargantuan achievement.

Beer is a magical drink; a welcoming, fun culture just like wine aficionados embraces wine in their culture. It is a long-time-coming that these two cultures merge and live in harmony. Let’s face it. Both cultures are full of snobs (I actually despise the word "snob," by the way), geeks, enthusiasts, aficionados, experts, novices, those who appreciate the drink, those that do not, those who abuse it, and those who enjoy it. Mutually, beer and wine have their proven educated individuals who have achieved prominent status and serve as a leading authority in the subject. So then, what’s the difference?

I am fully immersed in the beer culture and all the wonderful emotions it has to offer. I am surly not alone here and we love the company. We are tolerant, educated, respectful individuals. Setting aside the logistical aspects of beer brewing or wine making, there is no distinction between the two cultures. We are all human in the end. So, in my opinion, there is absolutely no difference between beer and wine.


Gilbert C. Perez