At the beginning of every BREWVANA experience, we make sure our guests understand that rule number one is to “respect the beer.” If you take a sip of something, and you don’t enjoy it, we implore you to please, take another sip. If you don’t like the beer after the second sip, that’s fine. Take one more just to be sure. If you still don’t like it, you can either dump it out or pass it off to another guest (there’s usually always one guest who is eager to, uh, take one for the team). Upon the first sip, your body registers that you are consuming a neurotoxin, a central nervous system depressant called ethanol, alcohol derived from grain, and mankind’s greatest invention. It’s natural reaction is to reject this toxin. Upon the second sip, your body relaxes, and says, “Well, okay. This is fine. Everything’s fine.” Unless, of course, you genuinely abhor the taste of what you’re drinking. That is also fine.
Whatever you do, do not spit anything out! “This isn’t wine tasting,” I may say.
But just how far off from wine tasting is beer tasting? Rather, how different is wine from beer? The best way to experience this for yourself is on a BREWVANA Beers & Barrels tour, where every Saturday we explore the relationship between beers, and, you guessed it, barrels.
There are some crucial, fundamental differences, but the gap is narrowing. Wine is more highly alcoholic, and is traditionally viewed as more sophisticated than beer. However, with the explosion of craft beer, we’ve seen an exponential increase in beer drinkers who are discerning and examining far more closely the flavors and aromatics of craft brews. We’ve also seen an increase in the alcohol content of any given beer, something that is viewed as a gateway to the attraction of micro vs macro beer. Why buy a can of malt liquor when, for a dollar or two more, you can enjoy a 22 oz bottle of a craft imperial ale that is equal or greater in alcohol by volume?
As a college student tailgating at a football game in Florida many years ago, I brought along a case of Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale. When I passed the beer around to my fellow tailgaters, one gentleman exclaimed, “Damn! These them fancy beers!” Fancy indeed.
The most obvious differences between beer and wine lie in the base ingredients and fermentation methods. What grapes are to wine, barley is to beer. Wine is fermented in casks using wine yeast, and beer is fermented in steel tanks using lager or ale yeast. Some brewers, with the help of winemaking friends, are regularly challenging this dichotomy. For example, brut IPAs are all the rage right now, serving as a dramatic foil to the popularity of hazies. Bruts use champagne yeast, an aggressive strain that consumes every last little bit of fermentable sugar, making for a crisp, clear, bubbly brew.
Upright Brewing (which you can visit on the aforementioned Beers & Barrels tour), is fond of using grapes in their wort, openly fermenting with wine yeasts, and aging in wine casks. A stellar example of this beer and wine hybrid is their Oregon Native. Lompoc Brewing are no strangers to utilizing wine yeasts and casks as well, and their creations can be sampled on our Pacific Northwest is Best tour on Thursdays, as we visit their Side Bar location.
Another progeny of the marriage between beer and wine that stays truer to the beer side of things is Bridgeport’s Rosé IPA. An otherwise standard northwest IPA is transformed into a wine drinker’s delight through dry hopping with rose hips and hibiscus. It’s great in their beautiful new cans, but it’s even better at the taproom, which you can gain insider access to on Sunday’s Pacific Northwest is Best Tour.
Whether you prefer wine or beer, or you genuinely love both, it’s an exciting time to explore the craft beer scene in Portland, and only BREWVANA gets you behind the scenes, insider access to all things craft and alcohol.