Beer is fast closing in on wine territory. Long the beverage of frat parties and football games, beer has graduated into a ritzier stratum due to a renaissance that has been hitting new crescendos every year for the past decade. Along with this renaissance comes a startling selection of world-class beer in the United States, most of it made locally. Every restaurant or bar has wine from Sonoma or Burgundy, but today, more new establishments pride themselves on their local beer selection. The environmentally and economically conscious prefer to drink a reasonably priced and fresh local beer that was made up the street and wheeled into the walk-in, than to reach into their wallets to pay for a hit-or-miss bottle of wine that was shipped thousands of miles to sit in a cellar.
Additionally, thereâ€™s a beer for every palate, whereas the best wines usually call for a highly trained and well funded palate. Beer doesnâ€™t come with the status of wine, but a lot of that status manifests itself in the price tag. The hangover is the same. If a $5 pint doesnâ€™t suit you, it doesnâ€™t really pull on the purse strings like a lousy $30 bottle of wine does.
Even though beer classifies a much larger variety of beverage, the pretense of wine seems to make it difficult to understand exactly what different varieties should taste like. For instance, a chardonnay can be oaked, or un-oaked, and can have flavor profiles that can be acidic, dry, fruity, sweet, tannin, woody, crisp, etc. The average person doesnâ€™t know what chardonnay should taste like. We just know it should be white. Was 2002 a good year? Should I sniff the cork? If I donâ€™t like it, should I send it back? Why am I being charged for the waiter to open the wine at a BYOB? Corkage fees? Really?
Beer makes it easier: a pale ale tastes like a pale ale. Weâ€™ve had a lager before. We know that we like Sierra Nevada pale ale or Yuengling lager, so it makes it easy to order a pale ale or a lager from a brewery we are unfamiliar with.
*picture source robholland