Is beer the new wine?
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Is beer the new wine?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips, and it definitely looks like beer’s time to shine has come! With the rise of craft beer, and the surprising art of pairing beer with food, beer has a few surprises up its sleeve…

Craft beer is beer which is brewed by small, independent breweries – called microbreweries – as opposed to beer produced en masse by corporate mega-breweries.

While microbrewing was a way of life for many people the world over for centuries, many of these breweries were forced to shut when multinationals cornered the market.

Now, however, microbrewers are fighting back by creating craft beers with their own distinct flavours and characteristics, using high quality, regional ingredients. And beer drinkers – bored with the standard commercial offering – are jumping at the chance to drink new and unique beers!

Are you a beer connoisseur?

As microbreweries work to take back the beer industry, an interesting phenomenon is emerging. Beer, once considered the preserve of the ‘lager lout’ down at the pub, is being elevated to a drink of distinction. We’re seeing the appearance of fine beers, beer aficionados or beer connoisseurs, beer tasting, and even beer lists!

But can beer really be placed alongside fine drinks like wine or whiskey? “Yes,” says Garret Oliver, microbrewer and editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer.

Which brings us to the next question: pairing food with beer?

Bring me the Beer List!

We’re used to matching wines to food, but according to Garrett, it’s beer which is unrivalled in its diversity and compatibility with a vast array of foods, not wine.

Whether it’s a traditional roast beef, an exotic Thai curry or a rich, decadent dessert, there’s a beer to complement it. So, next time you sit down at your favourite restaurant, wave aside the wine list and ask for the beer list instead!

But if you’re picturing ripping open a six pack and cracking open a can to go with that fillet mignon, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick!

Garrett points to the complexities of an expertly brewed craft beer, not a run-of-the-mill brand beer.

While macrobreweries have led us to believe lagers are the be all and end all when it comes to drinking beer; traditionally there are as many varieties of beer as there are wines.

Guide to selecting the right brew

Lager – clean and refreshing, with a light aroma and flavor, it’s good with chicken and seafood
Brown Ale – on the sweeter side with a malty, earthy character, pair it with beef, pizzas and spicy foods
Pale ale – woody, malty, sometimes with a spicy flavor, it’s great with lamb, wild game dishes and liver pâté
Porter – dark, almost opaque with a rich malty taste and hints of toffee and chocolate, it should be paired with smoked foods, particularly pork.
Stout – similar to porter but heavier and richer, with a molasses taste, it’s good with meat dishes, oysters, mushrooms and chocolate desserts.
Pilsner – a clean and simple lager with a strong hops, slightly bitter taste, pair it with pasta dishes, shellfish and chicken.
Wheat beer – a light beer, good for summer, with a distinctly yeasty taste, it’s great with spicy Mexican, Indian or Thai dishes.

The top five beer drinking countries of the world are the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Ireland, and Estonia; while the top five wine drinking countries are France, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, and Andorra.

Who’s drinking what?

In South Africa, beer is more widely consumed than wine, although South Africa is one of the top wine producing countries of the world. However, microbrewing beer is taking off in a big way here, too. Find a beer microbrewery near you!

Wine’s not the only beverage you can use during cooking – beer is also great for enhancing the flavours of a meal. Take a look at these flavoursome recipes from the American Beer Institute. Cheers!

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Is beer the new wine?