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Brewer's Blog - To the Virgins, To Make Much of Wine


Gather ye beernuts while ye may,

Sound familiar? If so, it’s probably because you were one of the few students not to sleep through your high school English Lit. class. Do you know who penned this standard of adolescent lullabies? Yeah, me neither. Robert Herrick. (This educational programming made possible by: Google, Wikipedia, and three decades of instant gratification. Thank you.)

So why am I leading in with an uninspired satire on a poem I appear to know little about, you ask? Good question. I never was a big fan of this poem. In fact, there weren’t many poems of the “Carpe Diem” genre for which I care much at all. I’ve always preferred the romantic poets – Keats, in particular. Now I hear your future entreaties: “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!” Fine. Real talk. I may not have liked “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” but I’ve learned to appreciate it. While somewhat simplistic in its overall message, each stanza conveys its theme from a couple of subtly differing perspectives. (Additional information available at: Google) Similarly, wine offers a truly unique complexity of aromas and flavors which often seem contradictory to the expectations of the uninitiated. I’ve heard many beer nerds with educated palates admit to being unable to appreciate many wines, or styles of wines. I’m sure much of this is simply due to preference, but on the off-chance that I may yet convert the nonbelievers I offer this broad (and by no means extensive) guide to the wines that I think might just deliver enlightenment to the various types of beer-loving heretics.

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit – clusters, if you will.

Say you drink beer for refreshment – light lagers, blondes, and wheats. These styles you’d drink after doing some yard work, or during a grill-out often have something in common – their flavor is a little muted, mostly “grainy.” They balance sweetness and bitterness, sometimes leaning slightly toward one or the other, and these slight variations can determine which “light and refreshing” brew you reach for. Rieslings may be right up your alley. They’re easy to find, and have a variety of characteristics, not always the one-note sweet whites that are often associated with the varietal. German “spätlese” Rieslings, (it will say that on the bottle, not important right now) are often off-dry, and strike a balance between quality and affordability. They’re slightly fruity, (think apples) and sometimes have a mineral character and a faint carbonation which make them incredibly satisfying on a hot day. See stock photo no. 1: Yardwork done right.

You like hoppier, citrus-forward styles – Pale Ales, IPAs, DIPAs, TIPAs, FIFA? Try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They’re light, dry, and heavy on the citrus notes. Grapefruit is often a dominant descriptor, but it’s rarely the only tropical fruit that makes its way through.

Okay, those were easy, I admit it. What if you’ve crossed over to the dark side? With notes of chocolate, coffee, and nuts, it’s no wonder that stouts, browns, and robust porters have such a following. Fans of these may not be drawn to the fruitier base flavors popular in the U.S. wine market today. For such drinkers, the best bet is to find a red that has been more prominently influenced by its barrel. Some of these are easy to identify if they market the use of a second-run barrel, such as bourbon-barrel aged cabernet sauvignons. These are becoming increasingly easy to find from major U.S. vintners, and often have toasted, smoky notes with hints of vanilla and caramel. The fact that they tend to accentuate flavors associated with roasted malts makes bourbon-barrel aged reds an enticing introductory offer to dark beer fanatics.

On the other hand, some dark beers accentuate sweeter notes, like fruit or caramel. Dark lagers, Baltic porters, and tropical stouts are good examples of these. On the dry side, Zinfandels might be a good choice. No, not the gargantuan bottle of White Zin with the colorful label that you chugged at last year’s company outing. Don’t remember that one? Your friends do. They have pictures. Look for an “old vine” zinfandel from the west coast. These can range from light with red berry flavors to deep, jam-like elixirs with spicy pepper notes. Now is a good chance to talk about sweet wines. An imported dessert wine may be the most complex, and possibly the most expensive, wine you’ll ever purchase. These are likely the best bet for Trappist beer drinkers, as well. They may be made from any of a number of varietals, they may be fortified, or they may be made with grapes infected with Botrytis mold. Sweet dessert wines have such a wide range of flavor profiles that it’s probably best to just ask the connoisseur at your local wine shop to give you a recommendation. But hey, you should have just done that in the first place, they know more than I do about this stuff. Besides, I’m already way over the word count for this assignment.


- Assistant Brewer, Robert "Father Bert" Marks


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