Monday, December 26, 2011

Part 2: "What we can learn from the wine expert’s perspective on Craft Beer."

A couple of weeks ago, Nick Anderson —The Beermonger— guest-hosted here at YFGF. His piece —"What we can learn from the wine expert’s perspective on Craft Beer."— was a review of Wine Enthusiast Magazine's list of Top 25 Beers for 2011.

The post elicited a surfeit of hits; it was selected by as one of that blog's favorite beer blog posts for 2011; and it engendered an interesting give-and-take on Facebook between Anderson and Paul Hill, the On-Premise and Specialty Retail Sales Manager at Select Wines Inc, a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia. I've copied the entire exchange, below, with permission.

Things to take note of:

  • Lists are inherently non-inclusive. The utility of a list will be directly related to its sample size, but, regardless of data, many beers, a priori, will have been left untasted or unmentioned.
  • The omission of brewpub beers on most beer lists. To review them would be Sisyphean: there are many, and there are many that open and close, seemingly weekly. The omission of brewpub beer —a non-trivial portion of the beer produced in the U.S.— leaves truly fresh beer prejudicially unheralded.
  • Not all wine geeks disdain good beer; not all beer geeks are ignorant of good wine.
  • Follow the link at the end of the discussion to a different selection of the 50 Best Beers: a 'geekier' list, as Hill points out.
Paul Hill
I agree with a lot of what you've written. I actually had a discussion the other day on how I thought it was odd that when talking to winemakers they will expound endlessly on the brix, soil, slope, rainfall, multiple grape clones used, age and type of oak, porosity of said oak, filtration systems, fining agents, chemicals used or not used, trellising styles....etc.etc. But you ask them about the yeast, and unless it is a wine made with' native yeast' you'll usually get a "huh?" Or a "why?". But anyone that's ever brewed knows the decision on yeast is as important to the final result as your hops or grain choices. That being said, I disagree with your claim that wine geeks tend toward ...
December 7 at 10:43am

Paul Hill
... Macro lagers.
There's plenty of us out there who can appreciate the"balance" or cleanness of a Montrachet as well as the wild character of a geueze. The only problem with brett is when its where it shouldn't be. If its not appropriate for the style...its a distraction and a flaw. Thats as true for a pils as it is for a pinot grigio. Admittedly I don't know of any wines where its appropriate, but I've had wineries who almost embrace their"infections" a house character...of course I hated the wines. Another thing about the list. The WS Top 100 list is out of usually 6 to 8 THOUSAND wines they tasted. This top 25 is out of the 131 beers they reviewed for the year. I'm pretty sure we've all had more than that this year. So, I thought it was a reasonable list considering only 31 non US beers had the possibility of making the list, and obviously not only hundreds of breweries were excluded, but multiple states had no representation in their sample pool. Ya kind of have to take the list with a grain of salt when that means at least almost 20% of the beers they tried scored 92+. Maybe they only tasted 4 sour beers on the year. geeks, and wine snobs...we all know lists if any kind only exist so we point out their flaws.
December 7 at 10:57am

Nick Anderson
Good points. I was admittedly painting with a broad brush with the macro thing, but it's something I've noticed over the years. A LOT of wine people drink nothing but Miller Lite, Corona, etc when they turn to beer. Those folks tend to be the ones who're the most sensitive to brett so that's where I went. Also: I really liked the WE Top 25 which is why I commented on it in the first place. I too wish we'd hear more about the yeast strains used in winemaking. Maybe it's just the beer geek in me, but I'm awfully curious about who uses what and what characteristics which strains may impart.
December 7 at 11:03am

Paul Hill
True, but I've always been amazed when dealing with winemakers and brewers around the world, that after they leave work...more often than not the wine makers want to go out and drink a beer(beer geeky beers), and the brewers very often talk more passionately about the wines they have cellared at home. I guess that can be chalked up to"one is work, one is fun". But its all about taste sensations regardless of where it comes from. Maybe all the BG's and WS's dancing around your hippy campfire should just be called flavor junkies!
December 7 at 11:07am

Nick Anderson
Yeah, I think so. The whole difference between people into beer and wine is choice of beverage; in the end we're all looking for something interesting.
December 7 at 11:44am

Paul Hill
Just looked at the list again. To show how small a sample we're dealing with here. Saw that allagash triple was#10. Love the beer, but allagash is definitely in the upper echelon of us brewers that embrace brett, oak, and are blurring the line between wine and beer. Why weren't any of their other beers on the list? The allagash black was#1 last year. Oh, because they only tasted one beer from Maine this year.
December 7 at 11:58am

Nick Anderson
True, but it's not Beer Enthusiast magazine. Another aspect of the list I found interesting was seeing what they picked out to feature to their (primarily) wine-centric readership from the relatively small sample of beers sampled.
December 7 at 12:17pm

Paul Hill
What about this list? The Fifty Best Beers: Guide to the world's best beers. Definitely raises the "beer geek" factor.
December 8 at 10:03am

Nick Anderson
That's a pretty damn good list right there.
December 8 at 10:08am

Caveat lector: I am employed by Select Wines, Inc.

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