By Rick Riozza
A true thing can be said about wine lovers: they tend to appreciate a lot of other good things. Quite often there’s nothing more appealing that enjoying an ice cold beer on a hot summer’s day.
During CV Weekly’s 1st Summer Mixer held at Charli Marrone’s, both the staff and the public intermingled; I met Lisa Morgan, Sales Manager for the CV, she asked, “Hey—what do think about doing something on beer? Can you do that?”
I responded, “Yeah—I’ll tell you how easy it is: I simply clear off the wine bar, grab a bucket of ice and plunk down a few bottles of lagers, ales, and IPAs. And if I still have some energy, I’ll scrounge around my freezer for beer mugs; check the pantry for pretzels; and, be on the look-out for some beer nuts—how ‘bout that?”
Most of us like our beer in a bottle; but that sound of cracking open a can comfortably serves the opening salvo to nice afternoon. Right now, they are selling Stella Artois in a beautifully sleek design white can—I mean it looks like a chic metal chalice. Beer in a can can’t get any sexier. And isn’t that beer delicious!
I remember the thrill of having and enjoying a Heineken six-pack back in the day. They truly had done their marketing and I was impressed with myself holding those beautiful European sweaty green bottles, eschewing those “old style” brown ones that Schlitz and Lucky Lager came in. The problem, however, was that this new beer stunk like skunk!
In my college drinking days, I really wasn’t a beer drinker—like a burgeoning wino, I was out enjoying Spanada and sangria. But wanting to show off my Heinies, I stuck with the skunk.
Of course, these days, my go-to beer is still a Heineken—although it is a Light. But it’s one of the most flavorful light beers in the business. Amstel Light is also a great tasting light.
I think there’s still the puny issue in the brewski world of whether a “light” beer is a wimpy beer. Yeah we have ‘wine snobs” but the beer scene has machismo. Granted one hates to compromise their hops and malt appreciation just to cut the calorie/carb intake, but personally, I am going to get really full after a couple of strait-on lagers or ales. I do prefer light beers for that very reason and the Heineken Light still has some beloved skunk to it!
Just because we do a light, doesn’t disqualify us from enjoying great lagers and ales ‘round the world. Historians tell us that the Ancient Egyptians were brewing beer. The chances are they were brewing ales. According to About.com Beer “The brewing processes of the two different kinds of beer–lager, cold and efficient, and ale, warm and complex, result in very different final products. Although both are beer, the two are as different as red and white wines. Lagers are clean, refreshing beers with typically light aroma and flavor. Ales are complex, flavorful beers.”
You need cooler temperatures i.e., refrigeration, to brew a lager. A dark lager was the original style in Bavaria replacing that heavier ale brewing style of the past. Of course everything comes around in time and now we’re enjoying all types of beer styles. If you haven’t tried the new Guinness Black Lager, it’s got those great dark beer flavors but is light bodied. It’s perfect for the light beer lovers.
The pale lager became the style of America as refrigeration proliferated and has become the standard international beer style one can taste in a Miller, St. Pauli Girl, or a Tsingtao. It’s the generic spin-off of Bohemia’s pilsner style: High carbonation, light to medium bodied with light to medium hop impression and a clean, crisp malt character. Alcohol content typically 3.5-5%. And freshness is all important, as opposed to some ales, like wine, that can age.
A really quick spiel on IPAs—India Pale Ale. The story is that when British brewers were making beer for export to India, it took a higher alcohol content to preserve the ale being shipped through the hot tropic zones and needed full hop flavor with its intense bitterness to match that alcohol.
Interestingly, the more experienced wine drinkers tend to really enjoy the hops and bitter quality of an American IPA with its citrus, pine, grass, or floral overtones. And typical beer grub like Buffalo chicken wings, Mexican food, spicy sausage, burgers loaded with toppings, smoked oily fish, nachos and the like get an additional bump-up in the food & beer appreciation with an IPA.
You know—it’s kind of fun playing in the suds—and it’s so hot out, I don’t feel like clearing off the beer bar just yet. So let’s keep our discussion brewing and get into all this “craft beer” revolution stuff for the next column. In the meantime, why not head out to one of the popular beer bars and taverns that you read of in CV Weekly—check out what they’ve got, and enjoy a cold one.
Rick continues to host corporate & private wine tastings and consults on wine for special engagements. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org