For too long we’ve viewed wine and beer as cats and dogs. The truth is, there are more similarities than differences between beer and wine. Amber ale is like merlot: it appeals to those who want something flavorful but easy to drink. India pale ale is like pinot noir in that it is both simple and complex. IPA and pinot noir provide intense flavors that immediately arouse the senses of casual drinkers, but also challenge the palates of sophisticates. Like pinot noir, a good IPA is subtle and nuanced, with tangled flavors that must be carefully untied like a knotted rope.
If you’re a wine lover, today’s craft beers offer a rich and exciting tasting experience, the kind that made you start loving wine in the first place. Just in time for bottle bringing and feasting, here are some food-friendly beers for wine lovers.
If you like sauvignon blanc, try…
Pre-Flight Pilsner, Airways Brewing Company ($2.50/8-ounce can; airwaysbrewing.com)
The aroma of this light-bodied lager conjures thoughts of golden grain waving in the breeze. Sparkling yellow with a frothy white head, Pre-Flight Pilsner’s fresh, crisp cracker flavor imparts a grassy, herbal character, then finishes dry and doesn’t linger. The flavors are delicate and short-lived, but sharp and snappy. Think of it as you would a Sauvignon Blanc, a delicate beer easily overpowered by rich dishes. Use it to wash down fresh shellfish, such as oysters on the half shell or steamed clams, or pair it with cured meats like ham or prosciutto.
If you like merlot, try…
Immersion Amber, Two Beers Brewing Company ($8/six-pack; twobeersbrewery.com)
The dark tan foam releases faint aromas of caramel, biscuit and just a hint of fruit. Deep and hazy red, this SoDo-brewed beer is malty and rich without being overly sweet. A nice, gentle bitterness lingers on the back of the tongue. Similar to merlot, amber ale’s generally mild character pairs with just about anything at the holiday feast, but it goes especially well with dark turkey meat and spicy gravy.
If you like chardonnay, try…
Spin Cycle Red Ale, No-Li Brewhouse ($5/22-ounce bottle;
Sitting atop a bright, clear copper-red body, the thick, lacy, nearly white head exudes an aroma of fresh bread smeared lightly with jam. The flavor of this English-style ESB is surprisingly hop-forward and balances a pleasant caramel sweetness with sharp citrus notes. Like a good chardonnay, it has plenty of body but manages to be light and refreshing. Serve this Spokane-brewed beer alongside a green salad with a rich, creamy dressing, or pair it with something earthy like a Brussels sprout casserole.
If you like pinot noir, try…
Ruud Awakening IPA, Old Schoolhouse Brewing Company ($5.50/22-ounce bottle; oldschoolhousebrewery.com)
An unashamed Washington hop bomb, this award-winning beer from Winthrop reeks gloriously of tropical fruit and resinous pine, hitting the palate with a massive burst of spicy hop character and an abundance of citrus notes. Like a well-crafted pinot noir, this beer is bold, fruity and nuanced, and if there is something hot and spicy on the table, Ruud Awakening IPA is up to the challenge.
If you like syrah, try…
Profanity Hill Porter, Schooner Exact Brewing Company ($3.99/22-ounce bottle; schoonerexact.com)
This deep, cola-colored porter brings a rich but restrained cornucopia of flavors to the table — like unsweetened chocolate, vanilla, roasted nuts and caramel — and then finishes dry with practically no bitterness lingering. Like syrah, this SoDo-brewed beer is approachable but robust and can stand up to rich dishes like oyster stuffing. If there’s a smoked turkey or ham on the menu, the beer’s otherwise faint smoke flavors will come to life.
If you like zinfandel, try…
Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Fremont Brewing Company ($15/growler; fremontbrewing.com)
The light brown head on this dark-as-night stout releases an aroma reminiscent of chocolate-covered malt balls, with just a hint of molasses. Like zinfandel, this beer is not for the faint of heart, with rich luscious and sinfully intense flavors. Creamy and silky smooth, each sip washes the tongue with waves of flavor: oats, sweet chocolate, vanilla, burnt sugar and a faint alcohol burn. This Fremont-brewed behemoth is perfect for dessert but will overwhelm a holiday pumpkin pie, so consider pairing it with chocolate mousse or chocolate cream pie, or simply add vanilla ice cream to make a Dark Star float.
All beers are available in cans, bottles or growler refills at breweries. Some available at Chuck’s Hop Shops (chuckshopshop.com), BevMo (bevmo.com) and area grocery stores.