Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer vs. Wine: An English writer’s view…

By William Brand
Thursday, February 28th, 2008 at 7:47 am in Uncategorized.

Pete Brown, an English writer, has a most interesting blog. This morning, he writes about that eternal argument: beer vs. wine. Can beer ever stand equally with wine? One factoid, I didn’t know: That there was a time in England and I guess the civilized world that “Burton” the pale ale first made in Burton on Trent in, I believe, the 18th century, was as popular as wine. The successor to Burton, I’m told is Worthington White Shield, which these days is made by Coors, which has kept standards high. This is all true and only tangentially related to Pete Brown’s post. Read on and tell us what you think. Post a comment.

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

Pacific Coast Holiday Beer Tasting Dec. 17One of the strengths of beer is its unpretentiousness, its accessibility. I don’t agree that beer can only ever be a ‘working class’ beverage – Burton pale ale was the most fashionhable thing you could drink for twenty years or so in Victorian society – but I do think that beer is different from wine, and I occasionally get frustrated with people who want to turn beer into ‘the new wine’.

We all know beer can be more complex, can go better with food etc, but when people start trying to talk about beer as if it was wine, they have a tendency to make it elitist. And when people want wine to totally replace beer, drawing battle lines between grape and grain, I lose patience. Anybody who appreciates the subtleties of flavour in a great craft beer and says they ‘don’t like’ wine is either delusional or a liar, and just as bad as those ignorant people who say they ‘don’t like beer’ after drinking one warm can of Bud when they were nineteen.

Elitism is part of wine’s character, so it’s going to be much easier to build in snobbery, mystique, and a sense of specialness. The frustrating part of this is that people can order a bottle of cheap, industrially produced pinot grigio, drink it super-chilled, and while they’re drinking the wine equivalent of Carling Extra Cold, believe they’re actally superior to someone drinking, say, cask ale.

Beer would lose a lot of its soul if it simply aped the culture and mystique around wine.

So I’m not sure. I’d love to see ‘fine beers’ more commonly on the shelves, but can we have that and keep beer as the democratic, sociable drink it has been for five thousand years? Can beer successfully challenge wine at the top level – I’m talking about popular perception, not just among aficionados – without becoming arsey and pretentious? I hope so, but I’m not sure… READ THE WHOLE POST….

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