Beer is big business. Whether it’s independent craft beer, imports or a bottle from a larger brewer, the industry as a whole welcomed over $100 billion in American sales for 2014, according to the Brewers Association. While the estimated retail value of shipments in the U.S. including domestic and imported wine accounted for just over $37 billion last year. Sales aside, the potential for fermented overlap between the two industries is at an all-time high, with wine drinkers and beer lovers swapping styles, sharing description details and imbibing the bitter and the sweet whether it hails from grape or grain
However, for those that sit firmly in the beer camp or consistently reside on the wine side it can be tricky to hop from one drink to the next without sacrificing general preferences along the way. So, we’ve gathered the most popular beer styles and matched them up with “best bet” wines for low risk wine buys.
Think crisp, refreshing lager or pilsner on the spectrum of Bud Light to the hoppy, herbal nuances of German-inspired Prima Pils from Victory Brewing.
The reciprocal wine should enjoy some of the same characteristics, namely vibrant, fresh character, crisp palate appeal and winsome aromas. Look no further than a light-hearted, easy-drinking, bubble-induced Italian Prosecco or opt for the bright, white flavors and lively profile of Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Looking for more herbal with citrus? Then opt for a New World Sauvignon Blanc.
Complexity is the name of the IPA beer game. Indian Pale Ales may be heavy on the hops or lighter in style depending on the particular IPA style that a brewer pursues.
Steering towards bitter while often showing a decent citrus fruit component, these beers are fuller-bodied and carry higher levels of alcohol.
Sticking with the vinous themes of full-bodied and complex, look to a red wine with plenty of pep. Consider the dark berry, gamey, spice-filled character of the Rhone Valley’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape or the firm structure and delightful black pepper notes of Chilean Carmenere.
Or check out Spanish grown Grenache, which promises to kick in alcohol and earth with condensed, dried berry character along with a slightly bitter finish.
Rich, smooth, somewhat sweet with a touch of banana and a swirl of vanilla, highlighting golden tones and a smidge of cloudiness, wheat beers represent a familiar favorite in the best of beer drinking circles. These tend to be easy-going brews with a fresh focus on food.
To pinpoint the splash of vanilla, cover the banana-esque nuances and offer up a similar smooth, rich and round palate, check out California Chardonnay. Oak-aging softens the wine’s edges, adds a bit of butter on the nose and mouth and can make certain bottles taste a touch sweet. Need a plan B? Reach for the fuller-bodied, lush and intensely aromatic Viognier.
Big, bold-styled beer that reels with rich, chocolatey character, Stouts run the gamut from Guinness to the creamy, coffee coated delights found in Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout.
Big and bold reds that will fill a similar preference for style and structure are undeniably a well-to-do California Cabernet Sauvignon that has seen a bit of new oak and maintains well-structured tannins. Merlot, while smoother in style, often shares in the chocolate-mocha draw that entices stout fans and shows some bright cherry flavors to boot.
Built on the back of spontaneous fermentation, then adding whole fruit components (typically black currant, peach, cherries or raspberries), these fun and funky beers bring a whole new tasty twist to the brewing world.
Mimicking the fresh fruit intensity and lighter alcohol content of fruit lambics, safe wine bets include off-dry German Riesling with concentrated aromas, ripe peach fruit and some sweet residual sugar or Moscato d’Asti, a sweet, semi-sparkling wine from Northern Italy.
Whether you lean towards an IPA or the dark-layered intensity of your favorite stout, there are wines that share similar lines and styles with the most popular beer options found on today’s ever-changing beer market. Mixing and matching key color profiles, flavor components, food-pairing options and overall palate presence makes the most of both the grain and the grape.
By Stacy Slinkard