Monday, February 11, 2008

Respect Beer, or else!

I'm not sure what it is, but for some reason the things I like are the things that are the most maligned. For instance, comic books - that's one thing that most people scorn (even though they usually don't know the first thing about them.) I'm going to post a whole blog on that one of these days, but this time I'm going to tackle a more recent obsession of mine: beer.

First of all, the phrase "Respect Beer" isn't mine, as it's the motto of, a website devoted to all things beer. It's a great place to learn everything from different styles to food pairings to glassware. Of course, I am a member, and I even have a few reviews up there. I'm still quite the novice though, as there's lots more left for me to learn.

Anyway, their motto is a good one, because for some reason, beer does not get the respect that it deserves. Actually, the reasons are pretty obvious, and I'll get to them in a moment. Still, it's a bit annoying when I've had friends imply that wine is somehow "better" than beer. (I'm not saying that beer is better - they're different, but equally capable of great quality.) It's also frustrating to see people drinking out of the bottle when glassware is readily available, and you know that they damned well wouldn't do that with wine. (The reason you don't do it with beer is the same reason you don't do it with wine - being able to smell it enhances the flavor! It's simple science, dammit!)

The image of the beer drinker has obviously been tarnished by the fact that Bud Lite is the top selling beer in the country. The reason why it's popular is because it's easy to get down and you can drink a lot and maintain a level buzz without getting totally plastered. That's fine, I guess, but that shouldn't be the standard that ALL beer drinkers are judged by. Many of us are more than happy drinking one beer, enjoying all the subtle (and not so subtle) flavors that it has to offer. Of course, Bud Lite's not going to do that, but we're not the type to drink that stuff anyway.

According to a book that I have about beer, there are, according to scientific analysis, "as many aromas and flavors" in a glass of beer as a glass of wine. There's also a whole art to beer and food pairing (just as there is with wine, of course.) Not only that, and anybody whose had my grilled chicken can attest, beer makes for a great ingredient in cooking. While Kirsti and I were touring the North Coast Brewery, the head of the company gave a really detailed explanation as to why beer is actually a better pairing for cheese than wine is. I don't really drink wine, but I know that some of the fine English, German, and Italian cheeses I've had have been ehanced by drinking a beer alongside them.

All this, and still some people I know who think of themselves as being "beer drinkers" don't think that it deserves the dignity of a glass or of being seen as something other than soda for grownups. What a shame.

So, not only should beer be respected, but American beer, dammit, should be respected! Somebody asked me recently why American breweries can't make beers that taste like the ones that they have in Germany. Personally, I don't care, as I think that there are some great beers made right here in the U.S. Sure, they're not like the German beers, but it's an exciting time to be a beer fanatic in this country, as after a long, dark time when only the macrobreweries had any offerings, American breweries are experimenting and finding their way. While it's true that our styles are variations on pre-existing ones, some styles are definitely coming into their own in a uniquely American way (like IPAs and Porters). That's not so strange though, as it's not like the Germans (or the English, for that matter) invented beer, and their styles began as variations on existing styles as well. Don't get me wrong, I eagerly await the day that I can return to Germany so I can have some more of that awesome German beer, but I'm not exactly going to go into withdrawal here. Want suggestions? I'll give them to you, so long as you're over 21, that is. (Shoot, from what I understand, the Germans are actually drinking more and more dumbed down beers lately. I mean, Bitburger is their best selling beer? I like it, but come on! Hardly the best the country has to offer!)

One last point, and I'll have to shoehorn it in here, as it's not enough to merit its own blog - at Kirsti's high school reunion, there was a "selection" of beer that included Bud, Bud Lite, Coors, Coors Lite, Miller and Heineken. That is not a selection, dammit, and I almost punched the guy when he said, "We have all the best!" Bud, Coors, and Miller are all macrolagers and while supposedly people can tell the difference, they're all the same style. Even Heineken is basically the same, even though it's the European version of the macro lager. There's nothing particularly "Dutch" (Hollandian? Netherlandian?) about it. They're all basically just a watered-down version of a Pilsner. (Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed a Miller GD on more than one occasion - I'm not saying that they're necessarily BAD, just less flavorful than an actual Pilsner.) As for the light beers, well, yeah...there ya go.


Gary Fouse said...

I wrote several paragraphs on this and couldn't send it through. I just wanted to say that micro-brews, while a big improvement over macr-beers, are still not anywhere close to German beer, speaking of which, I will be in Erlangen in June sitting in a beer garten and drinking liters of Kitzmann.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

They're not close, but they're something else. You should try a homebrew sometime! Now THAT'S the stuff!

Gary Fouse said...

Not if it's too heavy of the alcohol like those Belgian beers. I spent a night in Brussels trying to sample as many as I could. Like drinking perfume.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I make a variety - I've made everything from IPA to Hefeweizen.

I haven't made any lagers though - I'd need to stick the fermenter in the fridge for that, and that'd be a pain. However, I've made some very light (in color) ales, including a Koelsch (the style that's popular in Cologne.)

Right now, I have the following in my fridge: Honey Ale (light in color, a bit heavy on the alchohol), IPA, Christmas Ale (with Cinnamon, Ginger and Nutmeg), Double Barrel (a 5% brown ale), and I'm bottling a light Belgian today.

Gary Fouse said...

BJ Brewery (a chain pub down here in S Cal) has had a light beer they call Koelsch-and it doesn't taste anything like a German beer. Just an American pale microbrew.

By the way, did you ever try the new Steinbach beer in Erlangen? It's OK, but has a slight Hefe taste. I prefer Kitzmann, but the Steinbach has a retaurant-pub at the brewery site. Neat.

Gary Fouse said...

Actually, Heineken is excellent-in Holland. Problem is they serve it in very small glasses.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Well, you're more used to the Bavarian/Frankonian beers, so Koelsch really isn't too much like what they make there. It is pretty underwhelming, I'll agree. I don't have any plans to make it again - I just mentioned it because it's on the opposite end of the spectrum of something like an IPA.

I'd hope that Heineken is better in Holland. I find it incredibly underwhelming here. I'd honestly take a Miller Genuine Draft over a Heineken (and actually have, when there wasn't anything like Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams available.)