It seems that some people have only recently discovered that drinking beer with a meal can actually enhance the dining experience. I came across an article titled Move over wine: Pairing beer with dinner the new trend and it struck me as odd that a drink that has been a mealtime staple for thousands of years could be considered part of a new trend. At least it wasn’t called a fad.
I think it would be more accurate to say that beer pairing dinners are a new trend. Certainly there seems to be a rise in the number of beer pairing gatherings at which people are fed a multi-course meal with a different beer at each course. But I think this is part of a larger trend of people discovering that there is more to beer than the tasteless industrial beers that dominate the US market. This coincides with the rebirth of the American microbrewery that began back in the early ’80s and the slow but certain introduction of “craft” beers to the average American palette. The fact that Budweiser has just added an amber ale to their offerings is proof that the taste buds of America are maturing.
Wine has accompanied meals almost as long as beer has. So why have wine pairing dinners been around for so long while beer pairings are considered a novelty? In the parlance of our market-driven society, it’s a branding issue. Wine in general is seen as sophisticated and complex and by extension, so are those that drink it. Beer, on the other hand, is seen as an inexpensive medium for delivering a buzz to sports fans and college kids. A fine meal deserves a fine wine while beer is only worthy of backyard barbecue fare. This image of beer and beer drinking was advanced, or at least reinforced, by the high-dollar marketing campaigns of the major American breweries.
Thankfully the craft beer movement has started to gain momentum and people are increasingly giving good beer some respect, including pairing it with fine food. After all, beer is just as complex wine, if not more so. Beer is made from more ingredients than wine which gives it a versatility which wine can’t match, as noted by a chef in the article.“They can’t really manipulate wine enough to give you unique flavors such as chocolate stout. I just couldn’t imagine chocolate wine or anything like that.”
I am not saying that beer is better than wine. That’s like saying pie is better than cake; it’s a matter of personal preference. When made by those dedicated to their craft, both wine and beer can be exceptionally tasty libations. I am glad, however, that beer is starting to get some recognition as a sophisticated accompaniment to good food.