It’s the battle of the booze! Is wine fine or beer better?
With Oktoberfest and the Uncorked Wine Festival happening we decided to get a wine expert and a beer advocate to fight for their particular cause because, well, it’s entertaining. Now we've always loved both the grape and the grain, just not at the same time, and would never want you to choose just one drink. It's simply our aim that after reading our experts' arguments you can then savour each sip that much more. BAR FIGHT!
Wine is Divine
The beer vs. wine debate will never be settled and that’s for one reason: those damned beer jocks just won’t relent! No, let’s pull back a bit. I enjoy a good beer and there’s a saying in the wine industry: “It takes a lot of lager to make a good Chardonnay," since any winemaker quenches his thirst at the end of a hard day with an ice-cold beer, because beer quenches thirst like nothing else.
While beer must get its dues, and there’s more variety out there than ever before, if you think there's half as much diversity and character in beer as in wine, I beg to differ. And if you’re going to try and convince me that beer is as interesting a product in terms of style, flavour and as natural a product as what wine is, I think you should put the crack-pipe down and back away.
Rather than debate what one is or isn’t and end up sounding like a pretentious wino, let me put forward the unique case of how much work goes into a wine. You see brewers can make a new batch of beer whenever they feel like it: they simply order some more hops, get to work in the brewery and two weeks later taste the handiwork. Doesn't taste great? Brew another batch, anytime of year.
Good wine – and I'm talking about good wine here, not R30 supermarket plonk - is grown in the vineyard, not conjured up in a cellar with ingredients imported from around the world. The reality is winemakers have one chance a year to make it. Yup, one chance. Those grapes that are picked and fermented, well, if they cock up they have to wait another 365 days until they can try again.
Before they even get to the cellar, they've got to ensure grapes are healthy and in balance, free of infection, rot and the multiple other problems that can happen in a vineyard. It takes weeks of laborious work before you can even think of fermentation, and that's where the alchemy starts.
Alchemy is what it is, since every bottle of wine is different, ageing and changing differently over time. When was the last time you had a 10-year old beer? While beer expires after a year or so, wine changes character, often becoming more complex and delicious, developing even additional flavours.
Wine's complexity is part of what makes it so enjoyable, but has simultaneously made it intimidating. While beer's simplicity makes it an easy drink, wine snobbery puts people off the stuff, so let me end this by saying very simply: all you need to know about wine is drink what you like, and the only way to know is to get drinking. Cheers to that.
Dave Cope is the man behind Publik wine bar and online wine shop.
Beer is Better
“If she prefers beer over red wine and bonfires over candlelight, she’s a keeper” - sang a country singer named Earl once. Everyone loves bonfires so let’s move on to why I prefer beer.
Wine is uppercrust, pondering philosophical prose. It divides the room in two halves - those who ‘know’ - and the quiet ones. They linger on the sidelines, trembling with fear of mispronunciation and misidentification. Petit verdot, mouvedres, viognier - say what? Beer is every man’s drink. Pilsner, lager, ale or stout? Beer is easier to order, identify - and rhyme with when you’ve had a few.
As a generous glass after a disheartening day or as a constant cooking companion, sure I’ll have wine. The solitudinal, sombre friend who numbs the loud noises, lulling your psyche into ignorant bliss. But where there’s wisdom and sedation in wine, there’s freedom in beer. But surprisingly beer also helps you sleep better. Docs everywhere recommend hops for sleeplessness, anxiety and awkward moments chatting up the token hottie.
Beer-boep? Yes, beer is thought to be higher in carbs (not strictly a rule of thumb) but if you’re drinking craft (like any good person should) you’re also getting a drink laced with good guys like vitamin B, niacin, protein, folate and antioxidants, not to mention water. You’re practically getting a hydrating meal.
Beer drinking also makes you rowdy and rowdy people are the ones running down the street with pants on their heads, bush diving into unsuspecting sidewalk shrubbery, while trying to keep their beer tower in tact. What does a wine drinker have to show for their day of patriotic dedication?
Beer is humble. You could brew your own batch at home. No acres of mountainous hillside required. Just a shed and nimble ability to dodge exploding bottles. See? Beer keeps you fit.
With beer you can err towards the uncouth and swig straight from the bottle and it still tastes delicious. Wine would never have it. Beer doesn’t ask you to pre-pour it, tapping your fingers while it breathes. It’s simply there for you, chilled - ready to make life better.
Beer is spontaneous. You don’t need a bottle opener to crack open a cold one. Keys, a tent peg or eyeball socket will do just fine.
But to a German gal, prior to Oktoberfest, it’s just gotta be beer. Craft beer!
Craft is camaraderie, crazy tall tales about brewers saying f**k it to the norm. Craft is a journey, an experience not an occasion. When I started drinking craft I was a Honey Blonde girl. Somewhere in between the frivolity of fruit beers, the raucous laughter of lager and the intermittent IPAs, my taste buds stretched to appreciate the full spectrum.
A love of craft allows you to walk into your favourite watering hole and have the bartender say, “Can I pour you the usual, love?” It’s the gentle carbonation of life’s humdrum, the silly, mustache-y kiss from a perfectly foamy head.
But the absolute best thing about beer? It’s never once tried to be the superior drink.