Beer? Wine? Hard Liquor?

Written by Tom Becham for

beerwineliquorGather any group of drinkers together, and you will no doubt generate some discussion – and disagreement – over the relative merits and drawbacks of any particular alcoholic beverage.

I will admit, that for me, with age comes an ability to find the good points in much anything. While I am first and foremost a Beer-Geek, I can also appreciate a nice merlot with a steak, or port with cheese, or an eiswein with a slice of gateau. There are also times when a sip of a nice single-malt Laphroaig or Talisker seems nigh unto heaven itself.

But bottom line, beer is by far my drink of choice in the majority of circumstances. The first reason is that, being in my mid-40’s, getting drunk is no longer my top priority. Rather, I’d like to simply relax a bit and enjoy the taste of what I’m drinking. So, that knocks out distilled drinks for most intents and purposes.

But why beer over wine?

Courtesy and Shawn Rice
Courtesy and Shawn Rice
With all due respect to wine, it simply doesn’t have the variation or versatility of beer. And by beer, I’m talking about the well-made variety, and not the tasteless yellow fizzy alco-water from the Bud/Miller/Coors/Corona Axis of Evil.

For starters, wine uses only water, grapes and yeast. Beer uses grain (usually malted barley, but including pretty much any grain that contains fermentable sugars), water, yeast, and hops. Besides there being a wide variety of grain that can be used to ferment beer, the “malting” levels of the grain can be anywhere from a pilsener malt

(very lightly roasted and imparting a clean, grainy flavor) to a full-on coffee-like “chocolate malt” (which naturally causes a – what else – baking chocolate and coffee flavor in the beer). Likewise, hops are a pretty varied creature as well, and can be light and have earthy qualities, or be harsher and tongue-scrapingly bitter. So, right off the bat, one can see that beer can be made in a startlingly huge variety of styles.

Secondly, one can find the appropriate beer to go well with just about any food. True, if a beer is well-made, it can taste good accompanied by just about anything. But for a true “pairing”, beer again beats wine in many, many categories. Try finding a wine that pairs well with curry, spicy Thai food, or Mexican meals. An IPA or Vienna/Marzen Lager can handle that job. How about the peculiar flavors of asparagus? A Belgian Tripel or Saison is your choice. Even dessert? Yes. A fruity lambic or roasty imperial stout is your go-to.

Finally, there is the issue of cost. Given the current state of the economy, beer shines here, too. Especially when one considers the cost of the product versus the quality purchased. One can obtain a truly world-class corked bottle of fantastic tasting beer made by monks after a centuries’ old tradition for less than $20. The equivalent quality wine will generally set you back at least one bill with Ben Franklin on it, and usually at least two.

prositOn a personal note, I appreciate the fact that many current craft beers now rival wine in their alcohol content. While I may not be looking to get drunk when I drink now, I also don’t want to put huge volumes of fluid in my body. Being in my mid-40’s, there are certain…. issues… that arise from drinking large amounts. Simply put, I don’t relish the idea of camping in the bathroom. Beer now does much better in that respect, too.

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