The Firkin for March 2013


Beer is not wine. Seems simple enough to fathom. But for some folks, they have to be yoked together. Like some mismatched Odd Couple. Hence the reaction in the craft beer community to this article in the NY Times.

Here is the deal. Wine is great. So is beer. I like my spirits too.  But for the love of God don’t compare the three. I don’t care if you are a brewer talking to a journalist or a journalist talking to us in the craft beer community.  True, they are all alcoholic beverages but they have vastly different histories, vastly different present creative and economic situations and their trajectories will see all three in (you guessed it) different places in the future.

Beer simply cannot be the new wine or the old wine. Just because a brewery bottles in fancy big bottles does not mean they are “wine-ifying” themselves. It probably means that it was the most cost effective or it looks good on a store shelf. Hell, maybe it means a shorter bottling day.

Just because some beers are aged and cellared does not mean that a beer geek who has a spreadsheet of all his beer meticulously organized is copying a wine geek who does the same thing. People love to collect.  Hence an entire show on hoarding.

And just because a beer costs as much (or more) as a wine in some instances does not mean that beer is trying to supplant wine as the tipple of choice.  It probably means that the ingredients were costly and it took time to make. 

To believe that the craft beer industry is merely trying to mimic the wine industry means, in essence, that you want brewers to restrict themselves. Restrict themselves to what worked with wine.  Maybe they should also copy the industrial beer complex too.  Perhaps they should all make 12oz cans of an adjunct corn lager? 

I know that is an exaggeration but I firmly believe that we shouldn’t put blinders on the craft brewers of the world. Give them free reign. If they want to have vintners help pick a beer blend, do it.  If they want to bottle strictly in jereboams then fine.  Some experiments may not work. But others might.

And in the end the wallet will speak the loudest. If a beer is too expensive or in too large a container or flat out too weird, it won’t make the journey from store shelf to cash register.  In the end, the beer inside is 100% more important than the packaging outside or the pricing on the bar code.

Just like you wouldn’t put a red wine into a dimpled British bitter glass why do we insist on pouring craft beer into the wine world?