Wine and beer share similarities: both are fermented, filtered and aged. Both also use simple primary ingredients to determine flavour. In wine it’s just grapes and yeast, but in beer there’s the grain, hops, yeast and (to a lesser extent) water. So it’s only right that beer should share a place on the dining table with wine.
Are you gladdened by Grenache? Mesmerised by Merlot? Charmed by Chardonnay? Pleased by Pinot? You are! Good, because there's a beer for that and it's every bit as good as your preferred plonk.
Humans were still bashing away with stone tools and wearing animal pelts as vests when they invented the brewing process almost 12,000 years ago (about the time wine was first being produced), and now only water and tea are more popular drinks of any kind around the globe.
Beer’s heritage is as rich and rewarding as the drink itself; its evolution flows through our own. The breadth of varieties and depth of flavours of beer are breathtaking, easily rivalling those of wine. Have no doubt that the hop is sophisticated, which, like the grape, can zing with citrus and pop with berries.
Malbec is known for its dark fruit flavour, chocolate and coffee notes and slightly smoky finish which almost perfectly describes some stouts and porters. Malbec fanciers would do well to seek out beery alternatives such as Meantime Chocolate Porter, Samuel Smith's organic Chocolate Stout, Caledonian's Coffee Porter and Fuller's London Porter.
Sticking with red and the bright red fruit flavours of Rioja's, you'll find plenty of beer alternatives that will linger long in the taste buds. Thornbridge's I Love U Will You Marry Me, St Austell's Strawberry Blonde, The Goddess of the Spring by The Celt Experience and Arbor Ales Strawberry Blonde all have a, you guessed it, prominent strawberry, red fruit character that make them a great replacement for Rioja.
But let's paint with a broader red wine brush; if you like your reds spicy try Sharp's Spiced Red, which does exactly what it says on the label. If you lean towards mellower fruit flavours St Peter's Brewery Ruby Red Ale will work for you. Should hearty, warming wines be your pick you're spoilt for choice with Shepherd Neame 1698, Wharfe Bank Camfell Flame and Ringwood's Old Thumper, among lots of others, all offering everything your top wine does.
Now we'll lighten things up and look at some alternatives to white wines. Chenin Blanc is crisp and citrusy, just like Williams Brothers Birds & Bees. Keeping it blanc but Sauvignon, the Kernel's Nelson Sauvin has a name that suggests it's a more than adequate replacement, and it is. If you're looking to swap your Pinot Grigio the citrus and gentle honey of 1648 Brewing's Bee Head sings all the right notes. And the next time you want to enjoy the pineapple and mango flavours of a ripe Chardonnay opt for a Brewdog Punk IPA, which also offers the added pleasure of palate cleansing carbonation. Wine definitely can't compete with that.
Here are some examples of beer and food pairings that sing and their comparable wine matches:
|Belgian wheat beer||Scallops||Chardonnay|
|Brown ale||Chicken||Pinot Noir|
|Belgian style ale||Lamb||Shiraz|
|Old ale||Cheddar cheese||Cabernet Sauvignon|
As with wine a beer exists for every occasion, palate and purse. You can pick up a bottle of Fuller’s London Pride and hundreds of delightful others for a couple of quid each.
You needn’t limit yourself to swigging in the pub of a weekend (though that’s a great place to take the dive into beer). Some beers are best sipped in the deep embrace of your favourite armchair (a grand way to imbibe a grandiose barley wine, which is beer in spite of its name), while others suit being rolled around your mouth on the sun-dappled terrace of a riverside cafe (give it a go with a complex trappist tripel).
Pour, and take the first drink with your eyes: hold up the glass and watch the light bounce between the bubbles. (Beer can be beautiful to behold, as anyone who’s lost themselves in the creamy cloud of their Guinness as it sharpened into a purple-black jewel will attest.)
So you see, beer has all the flavours and refreshment wine can boast and spread across more styles than you can shake a vine at. So when you're thinking about the drinks to accompany the food at your next dinner party, all we're saying is give beer a chance. It won't let you down.