The discussion of beer versus wine, in similar fashion, threatens to hospitalize me. I put this off as long as I could.
|This is what you do to me.|
The biggest thing the debate about beer vs wine lacks is a criterion. How are we deciding which one is better? I personally think we choose a lot of BAD criteria for this debate. For example:
#1. Aging Potential
Is aging potential a good indicator of quality? Often it is. But is wine better than beer because it can age longer? No. In the wine world, we're constantly explaining that an old wine is not inherently superior to a young wine. Similarly, an old wine is not inherently more valuable than a young beer. A question more important than "can beverage X age well?" is "Should I age it?"
#2. Number of Ingredients / Complexity of Production
Beer (usually) has more ingredients than wine. Does more ingredients make beer superior to wine? Or is wine better for (usually) requiring fewer additives? We need to drop this one because a complex production process does not equal a complex or intense flavor profile. Bud Light is basically made in a laboratory by rocket scientists, and it tastes like yellow fizzy nothingness. Stanko Radikon's Ribolla Gialla is made pretty simplistically, and is profoundly complex.
Beer can also excel with simplicity: single hop beers anyone? If we were talking about watches, mechanical complexity would have more desirability, but we're not. Beer and wine both involve a lot of manipulation and ingredients, and neither of them are superior for it. If number of ingredients directly correlates with quality, then I'm off to brew a beer made with the entire contents of my fridge and pantry. Then, I'm going to make a blend of 50 different varietals into one sparkling, aromatized, oxidized, fortified, maderized wine.
#3. RANGE OF FLAVORS
BEER AND WINE HAVE THE SAME EXACT NUMBER OF FLAVORS PEOPLE. THE. SAME. NUMBER. I'm not talking about acid or tannin or sugar or IBUs. I'm talking about FLAVORS. Flavors like apples, tar, pine, cinnamon, bacon, strawberries, cheese, soil, leather, grass, bread, smoke, nuts. I CHALLENGE YOU TO POINT OUT A FLAVOR THAT IS UNIQUE TO ONLY ONE SIDE. Actually, I might have one: petroleum / gasoline, is there a beer that can do that? But seriously, give me a flavor that you think is unique to your beloved beverage, and I will show you how the other side does it too. Per request, here are a few of them:
Common beer flavors and their wine analogs:
Bready malty flavor: found in the majority of sparkling wines as a by product of autolysis, and frequently in sherries and other oxidative wines.
Smokey flavor: Common in a lot of wines with heavy American oak treatment. The degree of toast in the barrel will also influence the intensity of this flavor.
And fuck it, lets do it for wine:
tart cherry flavor: commonly exhibited in varying degrees of ripeness in flemish red and brown ales, and obviously lambics that add cherries.
I can play this game all goddamn day. While beer and wine hit about every flavor note in the book, they do it in VERY different ways. And even though they can both do a flavor, one side usually does one way more often than the other. If you want to start arguing over which flavors are inherently better in alcohol, I will come to your house and beat you with a bat.
Beer and wine have the same range of flavors. STOP arguing about it, for the love of god.
I'm going to go take a break and punch a wall.
Ok we're back! So before I blacked out, we were talking about BAD criteria to evaluate beer and wine. Now is that point where I throw out the only good one I know of:
How is it a fair fight? Beer and wine have profound impacts on food pairing that has nothing to do with matching flavors together. Both beverages have chemical features that help them work with food. They are:
Tannin- Tannin is the astringent, mouth drying sensation you get from a red wine (and occasionally a white wine). This bitterness comes from the anthocyanins found in grape skins. This mitigates fat in red meat better than damn near anything.
Acid- Malic acid, mostly. Beer people are often good cooks, but when you explain how acid in wine works with food they refuse to understand. Its pretty simple. When you squeeze a lemon on those raw oysters, the acid in the juice cuts the oceany fatness of the oysters. When you sip Chablis with oysters, you are basically drinking that lemony acid element, not to mention mirroring the salty mineral character of the oysters.
Sugar- sugar in wine slays spicy and salty food. If you believe wine can't handle spicy food, you're not even trying to understand what you're talking about. Sweet and spicy/salty are combined so frequently in food that it shouldn't be a shocker that sweet wine works with them.
Carbonation- Beer, you do get credit for being almost always carbonated, but wine does it too. Not only does wine do carbonation, but it does it at 6 atmospheres of pressure. Thats enough power to blow fingers off and poke out eyes, AND help douse the flames of a green curry.
|Yes this is all very shocking.|
Hop Bitterness- Beer's astringency comes from the addition of hops, rather than grape skins. It plays as prominent and as effective a role in soaking up fat as tannin in red wine. And hey, get this on record- I believe hops suppress capsicum in extremely spicy food better than just about anything.
Malt sugar- Sugar exists in beer, and makes it a powerful weapon in the war against food. The mashing process converts the starch in the grain to sugar, and you turn that sugar into awesome excellent ethanol. But, just like in wine, often some of that sugar is left over. In the case of high alcohol beers, there a crapload of it left over. This is what makes Barleywine and Roquefort as epic a pairing as port.
Acid- YES, OK? Beer CAN contain acid. Sours are called sours because they have acid in them. It works pretty much the same way with food that acid in wine does, although it is important to note that beers that contain a palpable amount of acid are driven by Lactic acid, which isn't quite as potent as Malic acid. But lets also be realistic and notice that the VAST majority of beers are not sours.
Carbonation- Carbonation goes a long way to deliver the flavor of said carbonated drink, and to mesh with any remaining food flavors in your mouf. Beer is carbonated, almost always. This is excellent.
There are other questions that deserve answers in the saga of beer versus wine, but Beer vs Wine vs Food is the big one. It is the Superbowl of alcohol and food pairing. And, *SPOILER ALERT* there's an extremely strong case to be made that there is no overall champion in this sports match.
I'm done ragefacing. I've got a lot more to say, but its about time I got off the computer and got some "fresh air".
|I don't even drink!|