On this day in 1933, the Cullen-Harrison act was signed into law, reversing the prohibition on selling beer in the United States. Eighty-eight years later, I want to encourage those who wouldn’t call beer their alcoholic beverage of choice to see beer as a drink worthy of further consideration. Removing the ban on beer released floodgates of creativity. Today the Brewer’s Association recognizes 79 beer styles from 15 style families. There’s a very real chance that our understanding of beer is confined by the limited number of styles we’d usually find at our local grocery store or bar.
My intention is to build a way back to beer for drinkers of the other stuff. If I can supply ideas for the next time there’s a row of bright beer handles across the bar, maybe those unenthused by beer will place an order and try something new. There may be no better place to begin my customized beer suggestion than with the usual drink order that wins over beer.
For red wine fans, my suggestion starts with Flanders Red Ale or Lambic. These two sour ale styles have acidity and dark fruit flavors (cherries, plums, raspberry, prunes) reminiscent of red wine.
Trappist Dubbel offers dried fruit flavors and light sweetness from the malt, while Dry Stout or Doppelbock will have a heavier taste with notes of roasted coffee and dark fruit.
The Lambic style of beer can have a range of different fruit as its backbone, so I encourage both red and white wine drinkers to try the style. However, white wine drinkers will want to grab a peach or apple Lambic instead of cherry or berry to align with the notes usually in their wine.
Sour beers and wild ales, especially styles like Berliner Weisse, are a great way for white wine drinkers to find light, fruity, acidity in a beer.
If a drink with a delicate balance that can pair with every meal is crucial, Kölsch is a clean and crisp beer style with a whole lot of range. Though it is more of a beer-ish beer than Lambic or Berliner Weisse, the four core beer ingredients get balanced in a way that makes it feel elevated for those who find big brand ales ho-hum.
Sauvignon Blanc drinkers in particular can find something promising in Saisons. Belgian Saison yeast gives a peppery, spicy character to this beer style, which is brilliantly set off with pear and Meyer lemon flavors.
Though on the boozier side, Belgian Tripels and Strong Golden Ales also have a spicy and fruity flavor fit for white wine fans.
The dryness and light spice of a Saison and even the more classically beer-like Belgian Witbier have the right profiles to please a cider drinker.
For something bright and playful, cider and kombucha fans should try out a Radler – a Bavarian beer cocktail that is 50/50 beer and citrus soda (often lemon or grapefruit).
Barrel-aged beers are a great start. Sipping beers, like bourbon-barrel-aged stouts, will deliver on the warmth & smoothness that Whiskey drinkers like.
Tart German Gose is the right beer for Gin drinkers. Citrus peels and coriander seed serve as aromatics for both drinks.
Sweet Mixed Drinks
The lightly sour, but mostly fruity flavor of a Lambic will hit the spot for a sweet cocktail fan. Not every brewery’s Lambic will be as sweet as the next, so mixed drink fans will want to taste around to find their desired level of sweetness.
If I achieve nothing else, I hope that these suggestions will encourage some curiosity and exploration. Feeling beer-literate will allow you to navigate beer menus with better insight than “stout is the dark one” and “ABV means it’s boozier, so let’s do that one.” There are too many styles, and breweries bending those styles, for myths about beer being boring to continue. Instead, I say Happy National Beer Day!