Beer for Wine Lovers

  • Photos by Will Shilling
From the October 20, 2011 edition

Wine’s made from grapes, beer from grains.

So if you love vino, are you forced to forever turn up your nose at the sight of suds?

Perhaps not.

Many American craft beers bear striking similarities to your favorite vintage. Crossing from one world to the other isn’t as scary as you might imagine.

“The cultures between beer and wine are starting to close,” said Colin Vent, sous chef at DeepWood. “You’re seeing with craft beer right now what you saw with wine in the ’70s. You’re starting to see that appreciation for the product.”

To help wine lovers better enjoy beer, I asked for suggestions from a few area experts who enjoy drinking both.

Here’s what they had to say.

You normally drink: Cabernet sauvignon

Try: Two Hearted Ale by Bell’s Brewery

Donnie Austin of House Wine in Worthington said that the hop character of an India pale ale can act similarly on the tongue to a full-bodied red with a lot of tannins. “I went straight from IPAs to merlot and cabs,” he explained. “This one has a balance of hop bitterness and citrus notes. It’s not too frou-frou and not too bitter.”

You normally drink: Sparkling wine

Try: Blonde Bombshell by Indigo Imp Brewery

Matthew Barbee, owner of Rockmill Brewery in Lancaster, noted that this Cleveland creation contains unique, effervescent carbonation. Drinkers will notice that this American blonde ale bubbles more like good sparkling wine than your average beer. “It’s a little different every time because of the open fermentation,” Barbee added.

You normally drink: Zinfandel

Try: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout by North Coast Brewing Company

Robust flavor and complex structure are favorite characteristics of big, heavy reds, and drinkers can find similar things in big, heavy stouts, Vent said. “Old Rasputin is a great one and easy to find,” he said. “Victory Brewing Company has a good one, which is kind of different.”

You normally drink: Riesling

Try: Pils by Lagunitas Brewing Company

Czech-style pilsners are lagers that offer a sharp, grassy, fruity kick but a smooth swallow. It’s a good first beer for fans of the daintier white wine, Austin said. “If you like a riesling, you’re looking at a lighter style,” he explained. “This beer’s like a Budweiser on steroids, with better ingredients.”