Friday, February 10, 2012

Beer Here

As those of you who follow this blog know by now, I’m a big wine person. When we lived in Texas, we took regular trips around the various wine trails whenever we had a chance. Then we moved to Colorado. Now Colorado does have a small but energetic wine industry, producing some great cool weather wines like Riesling and pinot noir. But wine isn’t really the big thing around here. That would be beer.

Colorado has the biggest craft beer industry in the country. It’s home to the legendary Great American Beer Festival every fall (tickets sell out within hours). Our governor’s claim to fame is that he opened the state’s first brew pub back in the day. All of which is really cool except for one thing: I don’t really like beer that much.

Or so I thought. The thing I’ve discovered is that saying “I don’t really like beer that much” is like saying “I don’t really like wine that much.” If you say that to an aficionado, their reaction is likely to be “What have you tried?” Whenever my sons come to visit, we end up touring a couple of breweries (the state is full of them), and I almost always end up tasting something that’s really delicious. Of course, I frequently forget what that was afterward, but I know the good stuff is out there. So here’s what I’ve discovered about breweries versus wineries.

1. A lot of winery owners are either filthy rich (necessary for opening a winery, believe me) or veterans of the industry—either vineyard owners or former winemasters. A lot of brewery owners started off brewing beer in their basements and figured “What the hell?”

2. Winery owners tend to be middle-aged or older (several dot-com retirees in Texas). Brewery owners tend to be a lot younger.

3. Winery owners don’t really experiment much, given that they won’t know if their experiments worked out for several years (i.e., grow the grapes, pick the grapes, ferment the grapes, age the wine). Brewery owners experiment all the time because they’ll find out rather quickly whether putting coffee in the brew works or not (yeah, it does, assuming the brewmaster knows what he’s doing).

4. Wines can be given cute names, but a cute name frequently means a wine that’s not intended for serious wine drinkers. Craft beers, on the other hand, almost always come with a cute name—in many cases, the weirder the name, the better the beer (e.g., Little Yella Pils, Hazed and Infused, Good Juju).

I’ve still got a limited capacity for beer—one glass will usually do it. However, the hubs has pointed out that one pint glass of beer is equivalent to a couple of glasses of wine, so maybe my capacity isn’t that small after all. And I’m learning—I no longer automatically go for the lightest wheat beer they have.
One final anecdote sort of sums up my craft beer experience so far. One day, the hubs and I stopped by the wonderful Avery Brewing Company in Boulder to pick up a couple of six packs on our way home from the Boulder Farmer’s Market. As it happened, there was a tour bus there with a bunch of beer bloggers, mainly from California. They were all arrayed at the bar inside as one of the Avery brewmasters (some of whom look barely legal) explained their latest concoction. As the hubs went to pick up our order, one of the bloggers looked up at me, clearly feeling very little pain. “Do you live around here?” he asked. I indicated that I did. He gave me a bleary smile. “You live in a wonderful place,” he said.


So what’s your pleasure—wine, beer, or something I haven’t even thought of?


Kelly Jamieson said...

Oooh awesome post Meg! I've written a couple of stories with brewmaster heroes and when I researched beer I was fascinated. Although like you, I'd usually rather drink wine. :-)

PG Forte said...

I'm an equal opportunity drinker, happy with either beer or wine. Although I generally prefer my beers in the darker (amber to stout) range.