Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's working fine, thank you!

Clay Risen over at The Atlantic asks:
For years, craft brewers have been pushing beer as a dinner-table alternative to wine. So it's worth asking: how's that going for you?
OK, granted, he's not asking me... since I'm not a craft brewer... but I think here in New England at least, it is indeed working pretty well. I mean, I think the success of places like Publick House (yay!) and Lord Hobo (blech!), who pair craft beer with good food (if not high end bistro fare) suggests that people are perfectly open to the idea of beer being brought to a dinner party. I don't know how often it really happens... probably not that often... but if I got invited to a dinner party, I'd certainly feel pretty confident matching up a bottle of Allagash against any $10-$20 bottle of wine somebody else might have brought. Belgians, or Belgian styled beers, generally (though not always) come in a 750 mL bottle with an alcohol content high enough (which leads to serving sizes small enough) that they are perfect for sharing.

I think the main barrier to beer as a substitute for wine at dinner, isn't that there aren't enough options... or the labels are too garish (WTF?)... but that the vast majority of Americans who really love beer, really love hops. As Goose Island's master brewer tells Risen "they'd want to pair beer with their food, but they'd bring in all these hoppy beers than didn't pair well." Stay away from the Hop Devil, and instead bring a bottle of Ommegang's Abbey Ale, and I think any dinner guests (that don't hate beer in general) would be favorably impressed. I suppose if I was in charge of the beverages for such a gathering, I would probably bring both wine and beer... since wine is the expectation... but I'd at least like to think that many Belgian style beers would be enjoyed by a wide audience.