Category Archive: Grape vs Grain

What is the next trend in Craft Beer?

Posted on April 18, 2016

India Pale Lager

Craft beer is happening everywhere! However, if you live in San Diego, it is easy to believe that San Diego is the capital of craft beer.   We have over 100 breweries in SD. Heck, we have Ballast Point who sold for $1 billion dollars. We have Stone Brewing who opened a brewery in Germany. Blind Pig Brewery created the double IPA.   Blind Pig was where Russian River Brewery was first conceived.  We are legit.

This is classic narcissism.  We can’t stop looking at ourselves and think that we are the best . But, rightfully so. When I google ” beer capital of the USA” CNN says it is Portland, San Francisco and San Diego. Thrillist says Portland, San Diego and Denver.  Yahoo rates it Portland, San Diego and Denver.  We are the leaders in craft brewing. But what is a more accurate statement is craft beer is happening everywhere!

On a recent trip to Brazil, I came across many craft beers from different Brazilian cities. I’ve been to Brazil twice before and never saw much craft beer. There may have been one or two brands, but now the markets have a dedicated section.  Beer in Brazil has always been a yellow watery fizzy drink, drunk very cold. The key is to drink it so that there is a layer of ice floating on top.  Since the weather is so warm, people need a low alcohol refreshing drink.  It makes sense. However, low alcohol and refreshing does not mean flavorless. Typical Brazilian beers are made with adjuncts such as rice, corn and cabbage. The new craft brewers are using barley…what a novel idea.

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One of the trends I see happening in areas such as Brazil, and let’s throw San Diego in there as well, is light hoppy beers.  The session IPA has been all the rage in warm cities.  Brewers continue to make their beloved IPA’s but tone down the alcohol so that we can enjoy more than one beer.  In Brazil I tasted a delicious IPL, India Pale Lager. It was by far the best beer for serious beer drinkers in Brazil. It made sense.  It is light and refreshing with hop aromas and slight bitterness to give balance.  I see that Modern Times is also making an IPL,  Although it is a specialty beer, I can see them adding it to their core don the road. I expect this summer we will see more brewers brewing this style.  India Pale Lager, I believe will be the next trend in craft beer.

Modern Times IPL

The lager is the most influential beer style in the history of the world.  It is what most of the world drinks.  Whether you are in China, Mexico or Germany the lager reigns supreme.  So it only makes sense to amp it up with hops and bring the lager into the craft movement.  It may not be the ideal winter beer if you’re living in Minnesota.  But for the summer time, it is the best. The India Pale Lager is the next trend in craft beer.  Say good-bye to yellow fizzy beer and hello to yellow refreshing hoppy beer.

Do you want to learn more about beer?  Want to know how it all started and what to look for in a beer?  Why not come to my beer school. It is a fun and interactive way to learn about craft beers.  Beer school will be at OB Warehouse and the spring semester starts April 23rd. I look forward to sharing some beers with you.

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The Grape vs the Grain Pairing with Food

Posted on October 27, 2014

grape vs grainIn round one of the Grape vs the Grain we discussed the styles of wine vs the many styles of beers.  We can say that beer has many more styles than wine.  One reason is that beer is made from many grains.  Styles will vary by the type of grains used (rye, sorghum, millet, barley, corn, wheat etc).  Then the styles will further vary by the way those grains are treated, toasted, sparged and attenuated.  Hops gives us an even higher variation of styles.  The choice of hops, the amount of hops and when hops are added will change the style.  Finally, adjuncts and  by adjuncts I mean positive adjuncts.  These are additions to the beer that change or increase its flavor.  For example, adding coffee to a stout creates a new style, coffee stout.  Adding orange to a wheat beer creates a sub-style of wheat.  It would be sacrilegious to do this with wines.  Adding adjuncts to wine, does not change the style, but ruins the wine.  Yes, an almond Champagne is a ruined Champagne in my book.

Wine styles are based on the grapes and their region.  Sauvignon Blanc varies style.  A French Sancerre Blanc is mineral driven with its focus on acidity.  A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc style is aromatic, green and citrus.  A California SB is fleshier and riper.  Adding coffee or oatmeal into the barrels would be a huge no-no.  So this leaves wine styles limited to grapes and regions. Wine making techniques can also change the style, but in comparison to beer, wine styles are fairly limited.

Grape vs the Grain round two, pairing with food.

If you have not noticed, I have put a lot of time into learning more about beer because I like to drink it.  As I hang out with more brewers and cicerones, I keep hearing that beer pairs better with food than wine.  I automatically cringe.  My eye begins to twitch and have been known to get an asthma attack.  Although I agree that beer pairs with food, I still can’t returning to my wine roots.   I have written about food and wine pairing many times in the past.  There are some basic rules I like to follow.  What I notice when cicerones pair beer with food some of those rules are over looked.  And it makes sense, they have a secret weapon, carbonation. Carbonation in beer changes everything.  It allows beer to match with a greater variety of foods.

One of my rules is never pair a sweet food with a less sweet wine.  With beer, that is irrelevant.  When pairing a semi-sweet wine with a dish that is sweeter, the sugar of the dish makes the wine taste bitter.  This could ruin a very good glass of wine.  This rule doesn’t apply to beer.  I had an Oktoberfest the other day while my daughter was eating doughnut holes doused in sugar and cinnamon.  I took a sip of my beer and stole a doughnut hole from her plate.  I was pleasantly surprised, it made a very good pairing.  The beer is malty and not hoppy.  The doughnut was obviously sweeter but the beer did not taste bitter.  The beer had carbonation that washed away the bitterness.  If it had been a wine, it would have been a different story. The most important part in pairing wine with food is acidity.  However, in the doughnut example, if the wine had less sweetness, the acidity would have clashed with the sugared doughnut and the wine would have tasted bitter.

Beer lovers are proud that they can drink beer with just about any type of food. Beer pairs better with cheeses than wine. How many times have you bought a selection of cheeses and a bottle of wine.  When you spread them out and started tasting them there is always one cheese in the mix that makes the wine taste bad.  Wine and cheese pairing is very difficult.  You have to consider the saltiness, creaminess and bitterness of the cheese and then match it to the body, the sweetness and acidity of the wine.  Having one element out of balance throws off the pairing. However, with beer the pairing is a bit easier.  Sure there are some no-nos to pairing beer and cheese; but for the most part, cheese matches the malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness of beer.  After all, cows eat grain, they pooh and more grain grows, and beer is made from grain. I guess it is the natural cycle that makes beer and cheese and excellent pairing.

beer and cheese

So far, beer seems to pair with food better than wine.  It has malty rich sweetness to pair with desserts and cheeses.  It has hops that pairs with spicy foods, something that wine struggles with.  The toasting of the malt pairs with charred foods or have the maillard effect.  Carbonation allows beers to pair with more foods because the bubbles naturally cleanse the palate and wash away any unpleasantness.  All this being true, beer is easier to pair with food than wine, but is it better?  There are two things that really bother me..

First, beer is filling.  You have a beer or two and depending on the style, you’re done.  There is a reason our ancestors referred to beer as liquid bread.  They say the Egyptian pyramids were built on beer.  Slaves would get paid 2 loaves of bread and two jugs of beer.  They would drink the beer and make more beer from the bread.  Obviously the beer was filling, had carbohydrates and provided enough energy for them to continue working.  The issue is food tastes a lot better when you are hungry.  That is why so many of the élite fine dining restaurants serve small portions.  They want us to enjoy the nuances and perfect combination of what is on the plate.  When eating at a steak house, the first several bites of that bone in rib-eye is absolutely delicious, although it is still good as you continue to eat, but not as good as the first bites. That is because you are starting to fill up.   Beer fills you up quicker while eating. Although the malt, hops and carbonation make for an excellent pairing, that feeling only lasts for a short time.  Food coma soon takes over.

beer is filling

Wine is less filling.  Sounds like a Miller-lite commercial. But it’s true. Take myself,  I can drink a while lot more wine because it does not have carbohydrates which give an empty full feeling.  Wine can keep flowing all night and I don’t get full.  I get buzzed, but not full from the wine.  This allows for a longer experience.  It also lets us try different foods and pairings in one sitting.  This is why we can have 6-8 course menus in a fancy restaurant.  Put beer in the same menu and you will be struggling to finish.  I guess the positive side would be you wouldn’t feel hungry after eating in a chic restaurant if you used beer.  This takes me to issue number two.

There are more possibilities when pairing beer with food, however I feel as though it loses that “Aha” moment.  I have had some great beer and food pairings.  Many were downright delicious, like banana waffles and sabayon and a Belgian Witbier.  However, when I have had wine and food paired perfectly, the experience went beyond downright delicious.  When all components on a plate come together with the wine’s body, tannin, flavor and acidity; the experience is magical.  All of a sudden you begin to take smaller bites to savour the pairing as long as you can.  Because there are so many more variables in wine and food pairing it is easier to go astray.  However, when everything aligns it is pure magic.  Such a pairing has nuances and subtleties that might be missed with beer.  Carbonation the secret ingredient, can be the culprit.  It washes away what might make the pairing an “aha” moment.

In conclusion, beer has so much more diversity than wine.  Beer pairs with more types of foods and is excellent with cheeses.  Wine has its difficulties because of the many variables that can skew a pairing.  However, when wine is paired excellently with food, there is no comparison.  Wine allows for a longer and more fulfilling experience.  Good beer pairings are easy to come by> Beer pairs well with so many of the foods we eat on a regular basis burgers, steaks, pastas and other comfort foods.  Although it is more difficult to come by a perfect wine and food pairing when it does occur it is transcendental.  My verdict is: Beer is easier to pair with food, but wine is better!

 

By the way, Beer lovers I am giving a class on the history of craft brewing on November 8th & November 15th at two of our newest restaurants, Sea180 Coastal Tavern & OB Warehouse.  Get tickets now!

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Grape Versus Grain: Wine and Beer Styles

Posted on October 23, 2013

grape vs grain

Over the past six weeks I was taking a night class at San Diego State University focusing on craft beer.  It is a beverage type that has been steadily increasing since 1996.  Listening to me talk about beer has shocked many of my colleagues because they have always known me as the wine guy.  Little do they know is that after a long hard day at work, I usually crack open a bottle of beer and not wine.  I do this for two reasons, first of all the beer is cold and refreshing.  Secondly, opening a full bottle of wine would force me to drink a full bottle.  Once opened, I can’t let it go to waste.  Now, the title of this post says, Grain versus Grape.  So in order for the title to make sense and hit all the SEO points I need to hit, I am going to put wine and beer styles head to head.

Before I begin, let’s take a look at beer and its enormous growth in popularity.  Since prohibition, when beer and all other alcoholic beverage industries flat lined, beer has been on an increase.  Immediately following prohibition there were macro breweries focusing on making a beer that was easy to drink.  They pleased the new adults of legal drinking age who were not accustomed to drinking.  Instead of brewing those dark beers brewed in England, Germany and Belgium, they chose to brew light-colored beers made with inexpensive adjuncts such as corn and sugar.  These beers were accessible to the new American drinkers.  Soon with the help of advertising, these macro breweries dominated the beer market.  Not until Jimmy Carter allowed home brewing in 1976 did we see real beer come into the marketplace.  With innovative breweries such as Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada and the New Albion, beer became craft.  Today the market place has seen a drop of 1% in beer sales, but an increase of 5% of craft brewing.  This can only mean that people are not drinking fizzy yellow beer and looking for proper brews.

My company sent me off to take this beer course so that I can stay with the times.  They believe that beer is soon going to take over wine sales.  I don’t believe that is true.  I think both can live harmoniously together in the same market.  I see craft beers taking over the sales of macro beers and not so much wine.  You are either a beer drinker or a wine drinker, or both.  See plenty of space for all of us.  But lets put them head to head anyways, just for fun.

WINE AND BEER STYLES GO HEAD TO HEAD

There are two types of beers, lagers and ales.  However, within those two beer types, there are thousands of styles that range from beers using pale malts with noble hops that are light in color, such as a Pilsner, to dark roasted malts with double American hops such as an American double stout.  Within  these 2 styles there are hundreds more.  Most all beers use a percentage of pale malts to give the beer structure.  After that, the percentage of roasted, smoked and charred malts will change that beer into a completely different style.  And then within each different style of beer based solely on the percentage of pale and roasted malts, the addition of hops will decide a whole new style.  Hops are what provide bitterness, aroma and flavors.  Hops that are grown in different terroir  have different flavoring characteristics.  So a beer made with pale malts will vary style by the addition of either West coast hops (American), Noble (German), Nelson (New Zealand) or Goldings (English) and this list is also endless.  That pale malted wort (wort is to beer as must is to grape) will change drastically by the hops the brewer has chosen to add.  Next variation in style is the choice of yeast during fermentation.  Will the beer be a lager or ale.  Will that same beer be tank fermented, barrel or bottle fermented.  Just by having a few different choices, the brewer can make hundreds of styles from one type of wort.  At this point we haven’t even spoken about additives and adjuncts.  The brewer can brew with coffee, chiles or what ever they want to experiment with.  This takes that one simple style of beer to an infinite number of styles.

beer styles

So many beer drinkers feel that wine is way too complicated.  I look at beer and think, “how can you wrap your head around so many styles?”  Those same people believe that wine is snooty and pompous because we use words such as creamy, oaky, full-bodied and tannins.  I believe that those people don’t drink good beer.  Because when you drink a Greenflash Serrano Chile Double stout one has no problem using words such as full-bodied, malty, chocolate, nuts and a spicy finish with a slight mineral note.  Those beer drinkers that knock wine for its lingo, do not drink good beer, because if they did, then they would get it.  It wouldn’t just be refreshing and less filling.

Beers can be sweet or dry.  They can range from young, drink now beers to beers those that need cellaring.  They can use different yeasts which create different esters.  You can see an obvious difference even if you are a novice beer drinker from one to another.  The colors have a huge variation and the hops intensity really differentiates one from the other.  The tactile sensation on the palate is a lot more distinguishable from one style to the other.  Certain beers are more astringent while others coat your tongue in creamy maltiness.

Wine styles are based on grape types, regions and vinification methods.  This is important when comparing the two, because in some ways it comparing apples and oranges.  Beers come from grain, grain can grow in abundance and are not dependent on vintage.  Beers is made year round.  Wine comes from grapes, a crop which is only harvested once a year.  Grapes are dependent upon their soil, climate and vintage.  A slight change in temperatures at the time of harvest can make wine making very difficult.  The crop needs to be monitored and cared for all year-long until its harvested.  For this reason, wine has fewer styles.  Winemakers are less apt to experiment in creating a new style of wine because they only have one time in the year to get it right.  So most stick to traditions.

wine styles

There have been winemakers that have experimented in creating new wines, some have succeeded and others have failed miserably.  Winemakers are limited by the grapes they use, the place where those grapes came from and the process of making wine.  Let me explain.  There are maybe 6 wine styles made from grapes: white wines, red wines, rose wines, sparkling wines, late harvest (sweet wines) and fortified wines.  Within each style of wine there is some variation. Take white wines, you can have a cool climate, high acid very dry Sauvignon Blanc and a warm climate full-bodied creamy Chardonnay.  These are huge variations for whites.  Within that spectrum fall in wines such as Rieslings which are sweet to off-dry to bone dry.  You can have Viogniers from California which are aromatic and flabby to those from Condrieu which are leaner and more mineral driven.  However, to the average consumer the difference are almost indistinguishable, they are merely white wines.  This is why the master sommelier exam is so difficult.  Trying to identify one from the other in a blind format is a daunting task.  For example three different wines such as Chenin blanc, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner can be difficult to identify.

Lets say winemakers wanted to add more styles of white wines by adding adjuncts.  Well it’s been done before, but nothing ever sticks with consumer, because they’re just not that good.  Whereas beers are always changing by adding adjuncts and the consumer thinks its cool.  If we were to take just Stouts and Porters, you can probably find as many styles of Stouts and Porters as there are white wines.  There are Oatmeal Stouts, Irish Dry Stouts, Baltic Lagers, American Stouts, Double Stouts and more.  Within each of those categories the addition of adjuncts can change the style of Stout.  The list is endless and includes adjuncts such as rye, wheat, corn, coffee, chiles (Serrano, Habanero, Jalapeno, Chipotle), Fruit (Cherry, Blackberry, Fig, Raspberry), Chocolate and the list goes on and on.  Winemaker cannot do that to a Riesling, it would be sacrilegious.

Today I compared wine and beer styles.  One can see that there is so much more diversity in styles of beer and more and more are being created each and everyday across the many craft breweries in the world.  Wine styles have a limit.  They are restricted by growing regions, grape types, climate and vinification techniques.  I am not saying one is better than the other, just different.  What I have noticed with wine, styles may change but they usually go backwards and not forwards.  What I mean by that is when I see a new trend in wine it usually means that the winery or winemaker is looking to the past for inspiration.  For example take the trend of organic/biodynamic, orange wines or natural wines.  These styles of wine come from the past.  I guess it is safe to say wine is postmodern and beer is modernistic.

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