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Aug 26, 2007 02:24 PM

Beer or Wine as a "Life Style" Choice

I polished off an Old No. 38 Stout by North Coast Brewing Co. last night. Good stuff. And as many of you probably know, this (and many other stouts) have, among other things: obvious roasted coffee and chocolate notes. This brought to my mind again something that I've never understood; how people who enjoy coffee (note: fairly dry with no creme) can find beer completely intolerable. I'd find it equally difficult to accept that anyone who enjoys tea couldn't find anything enjoyable about for example Yards ESA, Flying Fish ESB and others which include a certain tea character to them.
So I've concluded that for some ignoring beer is simply a "lifestyle choice" and has nothing at all to do with how it actually tastes. For some, beer doesn't fit their "image" of themselves. Maybe it's beer's association with High School and/ or college parties, or maybe it's the tacky and apparently endless marriage between sex and beer in TV and print ads.
To me it's almost like beer suffers from the very opposite phenomenon that wine suffers from; some people perceive wine as a "fussy" drink and wish to be associated with the more "working class" option of beer.
I've noticed though TV ads which address this very phenomenon within beer culture. Sam Adams for years has promoted the quality ingredients that it uses in it beers and Amstel has been promoting itself as an option for food pairing at serious restos. How can wine make itself more appealing to "joes"? Does it need to? And is beer on the right track?


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  1. I think I said this on another post but , my in-laws are very wealthy and they consider beer as low class and wine, vodka and scotch etc. to be civilized drinks.
    You should have seen their expressions when I mentioned that civilization as we know it probably resulted from the discovery of beer; they changed the subject.

    1 Reply
    1. re: niquejim

      I've always wondered how folks can close themselves off like that. I love good beer. I love good wine. I love good coffee. I think there are a subset of folks who drink for the societal reasons, and not because they particularly enjoy the taste. They drink beer because the guys at the superbowl party are drinking it, they drink wine because the folks in their music appreciation class are drinking it.

      I drink them both because they taste good.

    2. Interesting, I was just thinking about this today, because as I am a wine drinker for the most part, there are times when I prefer a cold beer. If I'm eating something spicy like Mexican or sushi I like bubbles. Beer or Champagne. It depends on the food and my mood. While I agree that adverts may want things to aqppear that beer is lower class. I have to say that is only the case if consumers give in to such perceptions.

      1. Actually, I think that with the rise of the "microbrewery", that beer has elevated itself concerning the public's opinion....Frankly, I am a wine drinker, but I have really never thought of beer as "working class", but rather that some people simply prefer the taste, and some like both...There are some really good, and sometimes expensive, beers out there...

        2 Replies
        1. re: jinet12

          The rise of the microbrews elavated beer in the eyes of beer "lovers" not beer drinkers, unfortunately.

          1. re: jinet12

            Ever watch "Cheers" back in the day? Cliff and Norm and Woody and the rest always drank beers. Frazier's character however when first introduced ordered IIRC a white wine spritzer. On the other hand I was at a large wine, beer and spirits retailer. Like many they have a regular wine tasting (which I attended). At the tasting there were two young guys who obviously knew each other, one drinking and the other not. As I recall the one not drinking was holding a 6er of beer and was wearing an NFL pullover. When the guy pouring wine asked him "Sir, care to taste any wine" he reacted as if he were asked to try on a skirt. Personally, I'd drink at a wine tasting just for the free buzz.

          2. I think there is another element going on with the rise of craft brews and I think it largely has to do with the brewers themselves, in many instances.

            Craft beer deserves to be taken as seriously as wine and, in some quarters, it is getting there. The problem is that many in the craft beer culture want craft beer to have a counter culture image - hence the drug references in some craft beer names, the artwork associated with some of the labels, etc. For example, I was at a beer festival yesterday and Magic Hat was handing out condoms and making an obvious sexual play on its branding.

            In addition to the counter culture, the demographic of craft beer also reaches out to college kids who don't really understand the brewing techniques but recognize that higher gravity beers are a ticket to a quicker buzz.

            I am more interested in the brew itself, so I look beyond the counter cultural and boozy elements of the craft beer culture. But, I think these elements need to be addressed if craft beer wants to be taken seriously by a broader demographic.

            5 Replies
            1. re: brentk

              In your opinion could you give us a few more examples of quality microbreweries out there that are "doing it right" and which are "doing it wrong" in terms of giving their beer a balanced image of both fun and seriousness?


              1. re: Chinon00

                Clearly, Brooklyn has done the best job of positioning its beer to be taken seriously. They have probably been the most active in the east coast about setting up beer dinners to highlight the pairings of food and beer. Dogfish Head and Victory are two other east coast brewers that I see taking the higher road as well. To me, those are the three on the east that are taking a professional approach to providing a balanced image of beer. I would add Ommegang to this list as well. Not on the east coast, but Lost Abbey is taking a similar approach.

                Another brewery that I know less about but impresses me with its packaging is Allagash. In their big bottle series, their price points and packaging show that they are seeking a different market than most other brewers.

                In North Carolina, where I live, Highland and Duck-Rabbit are two promising smaller breweries that are doing it the right way.

                On the other end of the spectrum, I have already mentioned Magic Hat. I would add Sweetwater, with its 420 ale to that list. Not on the east coast, but certainly positioning themselves in the same way is Lagunitas.

                Mind you, this answer does not correlate with my preferences with respect to the beers, themselves. I would say, however, that I have not been overly impressed by the beers from the three at the bottom of my list.

                1. re: brentk

                  Out here in San Diego the local breweries make a lot of attempts at having their beer taken seriously via beer dinners with food pairing. I don't know how well it really works, since most of the wine geeks I know harbor some deep prejudices against beer, and a lot of the beer geeks I've met really embrace their vision of beer as the drink of the proletariat.

                  1. re: brentk

                    Funny that you said DFH is one of the breweries doing it right - it was the first brewery I thought of when you said this:

                    "demographic of craft beer also reaches out to college kids who don't really understand the brewing techniques but recognize that higher gravity beers are a ticket to a quicker buzz."

                    I volunteer to pour beers at a local beer fest that is held about 4 times a year, and whenever I pour for DFH, its always the young college kid who comes back again and again and doesn't care what kind of beer it is, but knows that its probably high in alcohol if its DFH.

                    1. re: LStaff

                      Yeah, DFH seemed to be in the wrong column, there. While I like many of their beers it's often *in spite of* their advertising/image. Take the re-named "Golden Shower*" (bet the frat boys loved that one) for instance, a 9% beer, in the copy of which DFH claims "Over three quarters of the beer made and consumed in America is sold as Pilsner. But it doesn't have the alcohol content..." Now, I have never heard that old world pilsners were once that high in alcohol and today's Bud (5%), Miller High Life (4.7%) and Coors (5%) are all *more* alcoholic than Pilsner Urquell (4.4%).

                      * (Now called "Golden Era" and available in bottles for around $14 a 4-pack)

                      Also, I was amused that they make a big deal out of their "Festina Peche- "A refreshing neo-BerlinerWeisse fermented with honest-to-goodness peaches to (get this!) 4.5% abv! Because extreme beers don't have to be extremely boozy!" but, of course, for that style, it's a lot more alcoholic than the standard bearers, Kindl (2.5%) or Schultheiss (3.3%).

              2. I'm a woman who likes really good beer and I don't see anyone marketing it to me. And I still find that at most nice restaurants beer isn't treated very seriously.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ccferg

                  I think they should market towards women. i have turned a few of my past lady friends into quality beer drinkers. many other women i have met harbour deep rooted prejudices against beer and wont like ti from the get go. Even if you tell them Guiness has less calories than a Corona, they will still opt for the Corona.

                  Hell I even have male friends who I have introduced to the wonderful world of Tripels. however they immediately hate swartzbiers with their preconcieved notions of dark beer being heavy.

                  Right now there are a lot of preconcieved notions people have about beer. These notions are sometimes class issues and they are sometimes ingrained notions about what beer they "should like" or how a beer should taste based on appearence. I definitely understand Chinon's confusion on why people who love coffee dont love stouts. I think this falls under the same auspices.

                  As to most nice restaurants not treating beer seriously, i think this is beggining to change at least in NYC. Many restaurants are compiling good beer lists to compliment their food.

                  For wine I like wine but I drink more beer for a couple of reasons. First is price. i can buy some of the most expensive beers and only pay a fraction of what a similarly regarded/quality wine would cost. Secondly when out at restaurants, good glasses of wine are much more expensive then good beer. In fact a good beer is often cheaper than crap wine. Regardless i dont want to hijack the thread.

                  1. re: MVNYC

                    If women only knew how cool they look when they order beer .. I'm fully heterosexual, but when I see a woman drinking beer I find her really appealing. I always wish she were my best friend. (But not if they order a Corona or a light-something.)

                  2. re: ccferg

                    I am another woman who really likes good beer and I wish beer was marketed more to us (well, other than Sam's Light - LOL). I also wish that beer was treated more seriously in nice restaurants - outside the brewery-restaurant and pub genres, good beer is sometimes hard to come by. I am in California, so we have it a bit better than in a lot of areas, but restaurants here are still seriously missing the boat.