Switching to Beer from Wine

15393-288One of my favorite craft beer sites has to be the excellent Craft Beer Academy. I love them for their academic approach to beer, brewing, and well just about everything. Sure you might know of the antiquated “steam beer” style, you might know it is actually called “Dampfbier”, you may have even tried a pint of it, but Craft Beer Academy will educate you on the why and the how of the style.

This site and its companion podcast of course embraces the pedantic side of beer and brewing as well as any number of other relevant approaches to beer. Whether it be the sardonic, the humorous, the praiseworthy, or the sycophantic we want to cover all aspects of the great big world of craft brewing.

Yet it is usually those initial steps into the world of craft brewing that are the hardest. With proper knowledge they can be the most rewarding as your taste buds discover tastes and textures heretofore unknown. Yet when wandering aimlessly through the dense jungle of craft beer offerings the first steps can be harmful if not destructive to ever wanting to brave the too often difficult terrain of craft beers.

This is why we want to help ease those steps for the novice drinker. Anyone can get deep into the world of craft beer with a plethora of sites and communities but not everyone wants to be a beer geek. Some people just want to dip a toe in the waters without losing a leg to shark attack. Some of these folks might not even be beers drinkers but want to see what the rabble is all about.

Jesse, our audio wizard and co-host, was just such a fellow. He abhorred the devil’s brew but, which any listener knows well, took great solace in the deep rich tapestry of fine wines. Thus it was a major coup d’etat that we snatched him from the clutches of wine snobbery and brought him innocent and free of preconceptions to the world of beer geekery. We eased him into his new home (though he’ll always have a place in his heart for the fermented grape) with a variety of craft beers to suit the wine drinkers palette.

Craft Beer Academy recently released a guide for what they thought were appropriate beer replacements for wine styles. They are quick to point out that the flavors are not meant to be the same (This isn’t the alcoholic equivalent of tofurkey) but that the “taste characteristics” should be similar enough to impress the wine drinker.

Here is their list:

  • Dry Red Wine -> Fruit Lambic: I get the intention here but the danger is sweetness. Their listed choices of Lindemans Framboise or Cantillon Kriek are surprisingly, almost overwhelmingly sweet. This would like offering a Mike’s Hard Lemonade to a Dogfish Head 61 Min drinker. They are not the same thing. Though I do think a slightly more sour and less sweet offering might be more beneficial. I might go with a milder Flander’s Red or traditionally dry lambic before the options listed but it is definitely the right wheelhouse.
  • Champagne -> Lightly Flavored Wheat Beer: I kind of see the idea behind the choice of a light wheat beer to replace champagne. Champagne is light in color, light, and can be either sweet or very dry. But champagne has a ridiculously harsh mouth feel due to the high carbonation. I would again point this toward a dry lambic before going into a wheat beer. But as a second choice for a champagne replacement I suppose I could see a good, lemony wheat beer as being adequate.
  • Brandy -> Barleywine: This choice is genius. Barleywines can have flavors all over the taste spectrum so I think you would want to get toward something akin to a subtle fruit sweetness. If done properly I can see a brandy drinker totally floored by the complexity and richness of a nice barleywine.
  • Port -> Russian Imperial Stout: This decision is based solely the brutality of flavor of the style. Assuming that port wine is a dessert beer I suppose that the Russian imperial stout would be its counterpart in the beer world. Though I don’t know if you need the brutality in both flavor or ABV by going into the Russian imperial realm. I think a nice milk stout could be a better replacement personally.

While I object to some of the specifics within the popular beer choices I generally agree with these replacements. I think those looking for the essence of the difference styles of wine, those unique and disparate “taste characteristics” are going to be able to find similar types of things within the beer world. They will be able to find these and many more.

I would challenge those with family members who are acolytes of wine to discover their wine devotee’s favorite style and challenge them with a replacement from the list above. Because what is better for this holiday season then sharing and caring? Also, take a risk yourself and if offered try a glass of wine in their favorite style. No reason to be a one way street of advocacy. And of course, let us know if you win over any converts.