Americans are weaned on soda, and beer is usually the next beverage at the age of majority. Many beer drinkers might appreciate fine wine, if they have some stylistic comparisons to help them find a favorite.
Brews and wines do have some distinct differences. Beer is protected from bacteria and oxidation by hops, a plant bud that offers bitterness to balance the beverage, while bitterness in wine is considered a flaw. Americans like their lagers ice cold, though white wine drinkers appreciate not over-chilling their favorite glass to enable its potential flavors to shine through.
The carbonation in brews helps to preserve their flavors and offers a style not unlike sparkling wines in texture and acidity, but different from most still wines. Another slight difference is the touch of sweetness the addition of extra malt gives to a beer, which could be compared to ripe fruit in wines produced in warmer climates.
Beer falls into two basic categories: lagers and ales. Lagers are cold fermented by yeasts that sink to the bottom of the vat. These brews are served well-chilled and are lighter and crisper in style, more like white wines. Ales are fermented warmer by yeasts that rise to the top and include wine yeasts from the environment. They are served lightly chilled to enable their expressive, fuller-bodied flavors to shine, much like red wines.
Food pairings follow style in both brews and wines; serve white meats and light sauces with crisp lagers and white/sparkling wines. Medium-bodied dishes and charcuterie pair well with Rosé wines and light ales. You might serve richly malty brews and fruit-driven, supple red wines with barbeque/sweet sauces and full white with delicate red meats. Enjoy full ales and big red wines with red meats, stews and game.
Here are some suggested wines to match the particular brew styles you might currently enjoy:
Pilsners are hoppy, crisp and quite refreshing. Try Muscadet, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Gavi, Frascati, Viura, Prosecco and other wines that have good acidity, fresh flavors and light body.
Steam, Helles and Müncheners are fuller bodied lagers with richness. Look for wines that are crisp but somewhat richer in texture than pilsners. Try a dry Riesling, dry Chenin Blanc, Verdejo, Albariño, Cava, Champagne-method sparkling, Alsatian white, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre and cool-climate Chardonnay.
Oktoberfest beer is malty and rich with a hint of hop bitterness. Fuller bodied wines, both red and white, would be good categories to sample. Try Chardonnay from a variety of world regions, Pouilly-Fumé, Sémillon and Greco for the whites. A light red such as Beaujolais/Gamay, supple Pinot Noir and Rioja would also work.
Dunkel and Bock beers are round, supple brews with dark maltiness and balanced hops. Round, textured reds with soft tannins would fit in this category. Try Garnacha/Grenache, Tempranillo, a supple Pinot Noir, Barbera, Dolcetto, Pinotage and Zinfandel.
If you prefer brown and basic ale styles, try the same wine selections as for Dunkel and Bock beers.
If you are an IPA (India Pale Ale) drinker, try tannic, structured reds from Bordeaux, Chianti Reserva or Tannat, or an Aglianico or Nebbiolo.
Porter and Stout drinkers might try full-bodied red wines such as Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich Merlot, Malbec, Amarone and Ripasso, a Super-Tuscan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Syrah or a Northern Rhône.
Weissbeir fans can try very crisp Italian whites, Vinho Verde, Grüner-Veltliner or floral whites such as Fiano or Viognier.
The sweetness of fruit beers and milk stouts leads to Porto, sweet Sherry and Montilla, Pedro Ximénez, late harvest whites, Eiswein (Ice Wine) and Moscato.
Try different wines to find those that appeal to your tastes, remembering beer and wine widely differ. Restaurant wine glass programs are perfect for sampling. Experiment and enjoy the journey.