5 Sommelier-Approved Beers for Wine Enthusiasts
Wine and beer are often thought to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, warring cousins with little in common aside from their shared boozy bloodline. They're basically the Carlton and Will of alcohol: One's richer and more refined with an air of stuffiness, while the other is more relaxed and fun loving yet rarely taken seriously.
But just as we love the entire Fresh Prince clan equally, discerning winos are 100 percent capable of enjoying a tasty Maibock with the same tipsy fervor they feel when sipping a great Merlot. All they need is the perfect gateway brew to usher them into Bel-Air the wide world of beer.
A professional wine guy with the heart of a beer drinker, Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan, the beverage director for Boston's Himmel Hospitality Group, is well versed in showing grape fiends the sudsy light. "There are so many great transition beers that'll help a staunch wine drinker find a beer that they love," the expert assures.
Here are Callahan's picks for easily available brews capable of converting the wine-inclined.
① For the Red Wine Drinker
"Oak and oxidation are two big components in a lot of wines, and barrel-aged ales often have very similar aromatic profiles," Callahan says. One of my favorites is Rodenbach Grand Cru, a wonderful sour beer from Flanders. It is a blend of old and new red ales that are barrel aged; it has an amazing lift, complex florality and is on the more savory side. If you like Burgundy, you should drink this."
② If Easy-to-Sip Whites Are Your Thing
"What do we love about Pinot Grigio? It's easy," Callahan explains. "Nice and cold, it goes down without having to think about it, just like a good lager, a beer that's very crisp and refreshing. My go-to is Augustiner-Bräu Edelstoff Helles lager. It drinks softer, just like Pinot Grigio, and while the flavors are simple (malt is the main focus), they're really pure and wonderfully balanced."
③ Calling All Sauvignon Blanc Addicts
"Sauvignon Blanc is a tough one, as its brightness and fruitiness, with all those herbaceous green notes, make it a love-or-hate thing most of the time," Callahan says. "For me, the best transition beer would be a juicy IPA. I know that sounds crazy, but with West Coast-style IPAs, you get those same big-time citrus and grapefruit notes plus lots of herbaceous undertones." We recommend trying a pint of passion fruit-scented Boulevard Tropical Pale Ale or the endlessly sunny Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA on for size.
④ Bordeaux Lovers, This One's for You
"If the descriptors like dirt, funk and barnyard all sound like something you'd be into, you should check out Brett-fermented beers. Short for Brettanomyces, this lovely little yeast strain causes all sorts of havoc in certain beers (and wines, for that matter), but in a good way. My top Brett beer, Orval, is like a front-row seat to a Parliament-Funkadelic concert circa 1976—there ain’t nothing like it," Callahan says.
⑤ Just the Thing for Chardonnay Enthusiasts
"Grüner, Chardonnay and Albariño have a range of fruit and aromatics (Grüner is more herbaceous, Chardonnay a little rounder, Albariño more floral), but they all have one thing in common: lees," Callahan explains. "Lees are dead yeast cells that stay with the wine through part of the winemaking process, resulting in bready, doughy and nutty notes. And as lovely as this is in wines, it also makes for fantastic fruit-forward beers with a lot of citrus and stone fruit up front, balanced by a nice biscuity backbone. My favorite in this style is a German Hefeweizen (Hefeweissbier) from Weihenstephaner. It's got a creamy maltiness to it, but it's also driven by citrus zest and exotic spices."
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