For decades, if not centuries, the separation between wine and beer lovers has been clear as day. The prevailing stereotype is that if you enjoyed sipping a velvety Pinot Noir, you would almost certainly consider beer as an inferior beverage. Beer fanatics, on the other hand, would dip their whiskers in ale and laugh at the snobbish wine enthusiast. Both of these groups had one thing in common: they believed that their favorite beverage was indeed the best on the planet.
Nowadays, people slowly realize that it doesn’t have to be either-or. You can easily be a fan of full-bodied Malbec and still enjoy drinking a sour beer or two. But now and then you might hear people saying something silly like “I don’t like beer,” which is basically like saying I don’t like food. The only reason why someone would say a thing like that is because they haven’t tried enough to know what is out there. Let me save you some time; there is a lot out there - everything from elegant and classic brews to completely over-the-top craziness. The same goes for wine. It might take a while to find your favorites, but sampling all these amazing beverages along the way makes it an epic and utterly delicious journey.
What is vinous beer?
If you consider yourself a beer-curious wine drinker, but you never really found a beer you truly enjoyed, there might be a way to acclimatize your palate. Unlike wine, beer can be flavored, spiced, and matured in a myriad of ways, making it a beverage with endless possibilities. Now, thanks to beer’s versatility, the two previously disconnected drink categories have somehow cross-pollinated. Beers that are brewed with wine grapes or matured in a cask formerly occupied by wine giving the beer a distinct vinous touch. Some call these beers “hybrids.”
These tasty beers play hide and seek with the preconceived notion of what a beer should taste like. The line between beer and wine does get blurry, as it should. For beer lovers, this provides a terrific gateway to wine, and for wine lovers the opposite. It doesn’t matter if you are a Master Sommelier or if your father-in-law is a patriarch of an old European brewing family. We can all get along, and we can all most certainly drink a few good vinous beers while we’re at it.
Here is a list of vinous brews that will make hardcore wine lovers fall in love with beer.
Noble Rot - Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Viognier grapes touched with botrytis (noble rot) and green harvested Pinot Gris brewed with pils and wheat malts and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain.
What’s not to like? Dogfish’s Noble Rot is as refreshing as they come and a great example of the marriage between beer and wine.
Punchdown - Side Project Brewing
This beer will most certainly tickle your wine-thirsty taste buds. This beer starts its journey as a Blond Missouri Wild Ale that goes through a 20-month aging period, after which it joins Chambourcin (a hybrid grape variety grown in Missouri) for an extra seven months of co-fermentation and punch-downs to extract color and flavor. A delicious beer with lots of juicy red fruit with a slightly tart finish. Try also their “Bière de Champagne” Blanc de Blancs.
Vigneronne - Cantillon
Cantillon’s Vigneronne is the godfather of all vinous beers. The base of this wine is a blend of Lambics, which are aged 16 to 18 months. Italian Muscat grapes provide the vinous touch. As a result, the Vigneronne is delightfully tangy, aromatic, and elegant in a way that will blow your wine-loving socks off.
Pime Öö PX - Põhjala
This Estonian beer is a beast. Unlike the other beers in this list, no grapes were harmed in the making of this beer. The Pime Öö PX is an Imperial Stout aged in a Pedro Ximénez Sherry cask. Anyone who has ever tasted a Pedro Ximénez knows how overwhelmingly rich it is in flavor and texture, not unlike an Imperial Stout. Oh, and the sweetness: a PX Sherry can easily have over 400 grams of sugar per liter.
It is, shall we say, intense. This beer is full of chocolate, overripe fruit, and sweet oaky character. Approach with ease, don’t rush. This flavor bomb should be enjoyed in a relaxed state of mind with all the time in the world.
Ps. If you are curious about barrel-aged beer, you should check out L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. It’s totally yummy.