You may not know this, but beer and wine are actually very good friends. They grew up together and share a lot of the same stories. So why is it that a person would devote themselves to just one or the other?
This division between beer and wine probably dates back to Ancient Rome. As the Romans conquered the lands of the Vandals, Goths, Huns, and Celts, they felt the need to demonize the local beverage of choice — beer. For them, it was vulgar compared to wine. They were wrong.
As an avid wine drinker — and a beer lover — I feel I have a responsibility to turn fermented grape juice fans on to beer. So I've picked out four brews that I think they'll like. Here you go, wine people.
Bubbly: Duvel, Belgium
Traditionally, beer and champagne both become sparkling by refermentation in the bottle. Over time this will give a beverage small, tightly textured bubbles. Duvel utilizes a complex schedule of maturation to achieve their trademark effervescence. This ultra-bubbly golden strong ale is perfectly at home in a champagne flute. Made with the lightest toasted pilsner malt and spicy hops, this beer is as dry and snappy as any sparkling wine. The brewery's house yeast strain is known for its aromas of pear brandy and sea foam. At 8.5 percent abv., Duvel is also a wonderful substitute for mimosas. Champagne flutes are a serious recommendation, by the way. Serve this to friends under the guise of wine. They will be surprised. Serving temperature: Chilly, 38 degrees; normal fridge temp should be fine.
White Wine: Weihenstephaner Vitus, Germany
Bavarian weizen beers are known for their banana and vanilla notes as well as sparkling carbonation. Typically, this is lighter, more refreshing fare consumed in sun-filled beer gardens. Vitus is a weizen, but it's brewed to bock strength, in this case 7.7 percent abv. This boost in malt adds creaminess to the body, and the aromas become more tropical and honeyed. The warmer alcohol levels also provide a more wine-like impression, and this one begs to be sipped. When serving, the yeast sediment in the bottle is intended to be added to the beer. Out of a wine glass, this super-wheat beer is evocative of a white from Northern Rhone. Serving temperature: 44 degrees, about the same range you would serve a white wine.
Red Wine: Rodenbach Grand Cru, Belgium
In the world of wine, Grand Cru denotes a vineyard or estate known to produce the best of the best. Grand Cru in the beer world alludes to the brewery's top offering. For their Grand Cru, Rodenbach blends older beers that have soured over two to three years time in oak foudres with fresher un-soured beer. Aromas of sweet oak, balsamic vinegar, and cherries make this beer far more interesting than the open bottle of cabernet in your kitchen. Treat this beer as you would a red wine with a nice steak or a triple-cream cheese. Often referred to as the "Burgundies of Belgium," these beers should be treated to an oversized pinot noir glass. Serving temperature: 50-55 degrees, slightly cooler than you expect a red wine to be served.
Tawny Port: Southern Tier Oak-Aged Back Burner
Barley Wines are beers that have the complexity, strength, and often the age-ability of wine. This deep amber elixir is rich with toffee and warm caramel accented by toasted coconut oak perfume. Nutty flavors from copious amounts of toasted malt will deliver many of the same oxidized flavors found in tawny port. Historically, these "October beers" were brewed during the fall harvest to mammoth strengths and matured for at least a year in oak barrels. Barley wines are best enjoyed late in the evening in a brandy snifter. Pair Oak-Aged Back Burner (abv. 9.6 percent) with the funkiest blue cheese you can find or with vanilla ice cream. Serving temperature: 55-plus degrees. Honestly, no matter how cool this beer is served, it will eventually come to room temp as you enjoy it slowly.
Note: Contrary to some marketing, cold is not a taste. In fact, ice cold is the preferred serving temperature of beer that doesn't have much flavor. I have never taken a beer's temperature, so these are approximate serving suggestions. Also, wine glasses are wonderful vessels for beer. Typically their shape allows you to swirl and release the aroma captured by the inward taper of the bowl. A cold freshwater rinse before pouring is also recommended. Make sure your glass, whatever it might be, is spotlessly clean.