It’s easier than ever to savor similar drinks in different worlds.
The good news: The craft-beer movement shows no signs of slowing down, nor does the popularity of wine. Americans now drink more wine and more craft beer than any other country.
The better news: Americans in general and the millennial generation in particular are exploring and learning about all manner of beers and wines.
The best news: It is easier than ever for enthusiasts to cross over and plant their palates in both worlds.
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This is simply a matter of looking at the flavors and textures of one’s favored beverages, along with such elements as weight, spiciness and acidity.
Here are some formulaic suggestion for both crowds:
▪ Wheat beer = bracing whites and sparkling wines. Besides the acidity and minerality in these beverages, they share citrus flavors and effervescence, even in many of the non-bubbly whites. Think grüner veltliner, French and Kiwi sauvignon blancs and most whites from the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Greece).
▪ Pilsner = crisp, refreshing reds and whites. Pinot grigio is the obvious choice, but its cousin pinot noir, especially as it’s vinified in Burgundy and New Zealand, is a nice choice because of its elegance and herbal/earthy notes. Rieslings, especially the drier ones, also are a great crossover intro.
▪ Farmhouse ale/saison = chardonnay. Juicy and often spicy, full-flavored with some late heft, these beverages also often show a certain yeastiness and plenty of fruit on the palate. Even drier chards like those from Chablis work here, perhaps because of their chalkiness.
▪ Lambic = Lambrusco (that should be easy to remember) and gamay. That whole sweet/tart thing bridges these libations. Today’s Lambruscos (as opposed to their oft-treacly forbears) have nailed that balance, as have the better vintners in Beaujolais. Cab francs from the Loire and your tarter red Burgundies are a nice option as well.
▪ IPA = nebbiolo, tannat and petite sirah. The in-your-face über-hoppiness of today’s IPAs bring more than a little bitterness to the palate in much the same way as über-tannic red wines do. For most aficionados, especially on the beer side, the bitterer, the better.
▪ Brown ale = merlot and cabernet. Big flavors with hints of nuttiness and toastiness bond these potables, which (at least in the good ones) have silky but hearty finishes. These can work at the dinner table with roasted or braised dishes, but might be best enjoyed by a crackling fire.
▪ Porter = syrah. Speaking of winter, some fellow syrah-loving Minnesotans and I often tease warm-weather denizens about how short their syrah season is. The same goes for porters, whose rich brown malt flavors are similar to the smoky, minerally goodness of your better syrahs (including shirazes from Australia, a once-overrated and now underrated wine).
▪ Stout = tempranillo. These burly, full-bodied sippers both deliver great weight but with a strong undercurrent of cocoa/coffee flavors. They often can be so chewy that they seem more like food than beverage.
Which brings up another point: These complementary potations tend to pair with the same kinds of foods. So there’s more than enough happy quaffing and eating to go around.