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Hoops on Hops: Beer for wine lovers

Dave Hoops

This week I’m getting into wine and beer. I love wine, the rich, round flavors of a solid red, the crisp, dry and fruity taste of a great white. The flavors of the fermented grape are hundreds of years old, and millions of people are fans.

Considering that a wine drinker sometimes is not a beer drinker, today I aim to shed some light on beer for the wine lover. Are there beers that can please a wine aficionado across varieties?

I think so. Let’s get started with red wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s the world’s most recognized red varietal. Rich, warming, dark fruit notes of black cherry and chocolate with oak overtones are some common flavor descriptors of this great style. Beer styles: Imperial or Oatmeal Stout and if possible, served on nitrogen. Well-made stouts usually display many of the same flavors I mentioned above — barrel aged versions especially.

Pinot Noir

A lighter and more delicate style with notes of strawberry, raspberry and hints of floral flavors make this a perfect sipping wine. Many of the best versions are produced in the Pacific Northwest. Beer styles: fruit beers — try a lighter Blonde Ale or Wheat Beer with mango, strawberry, passionfruit, raspberry or apricot.

Merlot

The earthly, chewy and dark nut flavors in merlot make this wine a robust choice; often a hint of smoke also makes an appearance. Beer styles: Smoked Porter or a coffee-based dark beer like Porter or Stout are excellent choices for merlot lovers. It can be hard to find but in this case, I recommend Alaskan Smoked Porter as a perfect selection.

Zinfandel

A true American varietal, also my favorite red wine style. Tangy, with a full body and a large, juicy, fruit-based spectrum of flavors this wine really delivers a flavor wallop.

Also, the best pizza wine in my opinion. Beer styles: hoppy beers like IPA, or hop forward pale ales are the way to go for zin lovers. These are great match with their own flavor wallops, and they are unsurprisingly awesome pizza beers.

Now, on to white wines.

Chardonnay

The granddaddy of all white wines with the oaken smoothness and creamy rich flavors that tickle and coat the tongue and a clean, crisp finish that is so satisfying. A great chard is a treasure. Beer styles:  Pilsner, and if possible, a Bohemian variety, which will highlight a bit more malt balance and less hop bitterness. Pilsners are the chardonnays of the beer world, and if you are a regular chardonnay drinker, I can say with great confidence you will enjoy a great pilsner.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauv blanc has become one of the number one white wines worldwide in the last 10 years, with tasty examples from the U.S., France and Down Under readily available at your local shop. A light and airy wine with flavors that can taste grassy or straw-like but also tropical fruity. Beer styles: Gose or Berliner Weiss, these light and spritzy German styles have made a huge splash lately, and the tart, slightly salty flavors that are often infused with fruit are refreshing and low in alcohol.

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio

These wines run a wide spectrum from white to yellow to pink. They are often a bit more affordable and are great everyday wines with easy drinking neutral notes, low acidity and muted aromas. Beer styles: American light lager or light German lagers are a great match for this wine. The clean flavors that are a mix of adjuncts like corn or rice with barley really bring the aggressive flavors associated with some craft beers down significantly, making the muted aromas and almost watery notes a simple, yet pleasurable drinking experience.

Riesling

Rieslings sometimes get a bad rap because folks think they are hyper sweet white wines, this is not the case at all. Rieslings also come in dry versions, and these excellent, delicate wines run the whole flavor gamut displaying more acidity and medium-body round flavors that can range from fruity to floral or flowery. Beer styles: Sour beers or kettle sour beers, which are darlings of the beer world right now. Whether it is a 3-year-old Lambic with cherries or a 2-week-old kettle soured beer with grapes, the dry, mouth puckering sweet/tart flavors are a joy to imbibe. Try a Riesling side by side with one of these fun beers.

As always, these pairings are subjective to personal taste, so please email your pairing ideas to me to try; I look forward to feedback.

Happy spring, enjoy!

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