Saturday, January 17, 2009

Malcom in the Minority

It's not often that I get riled up by a fellow booze journalist. But a blog post made by the Guardian's (UK) Malcom Gluck just struck a gigantic, throbbing nerve somewhere deep inside me.

This is the blog in question.

And if you don't feel like reading it, I'll cut some snippits for you. Here's a particularly juicy little nugget:
50 years ago only 5% of the nation drank wine. Now it is nearer six times that, pubs struggle to sell beer, and the amount of wine imported keep on rising. Why? Well, beer is only drunk by losers and sadsacks, unsexy people who care nothing for their minds or their bodies.
I shouldn't dignify this kind of thing with a response. Never mind the severe lack of factual information here -- are you really telling me that British pubs are struggling to sell beer? The UK invented the beer pub -- what gets me is the reference to increased wine sales from 50 years ago. Are you suggesting, Mr. Gluck, that beer sales have decreased over the past 50 years? That fewer people are drinking beer? That there are more and more people in the UK who are shunning beer altogether in favor of wine? Come off it, man. The fact that more people are drinking wine does not mean that fewer are drinking beer.
That's point one. Point two is that wine goes with the spicy foods we like (which no beer does), is much more of a communal activity and, when it comes down to it, encourages livelier and more intelligent conversation. When was the last time you heard a beer drinker pass a witty remark? Beer drinkers are also terrible lovers, awful husbands, and untidy flatmates.
You've obviously never had an IPA with your chicken curry, Mr. Gluck. I suggest you expand your beer-pairing horizons. Ignorance here is more indicative of an "unsexy" person than their beverage of choice. As for communal activities, I can't remember the last time me and my buds gathered around the TV to watch a game of football (the American [read: real] kind) and cracked open a bottle of vino. I cannot think of a more communal activity than sports fandom, and I cannot think of a more fitting beverage for those occasions than beer. And if you're looking for wit over a pint, jump the pond and have one with me. (And as for the last sentence, well, if we were such terrible lovers we wouldn't be spawning so many little beer-drinkers-in-training, would we?)
Wine is the supercool liquid and drunk sensibly is actually good for you. It's a health drink. Wine has changed from the dry-as-dust, unpronounceable gunge it was in our grandparents' day. Wine in New Labour Land is vivacious, fruity, inexpensive, and it's fun. Small wonder wine drinkers prefer Australia, California, South Africa and Chile to France and Germany.
Yep. And beer in the New World is complex, dynamic, inviting, and emminently drinkable. Beer drinkers will drink brews from all over the world without prejudice as to the particular terroir from which it is cultivated. Beer is made from ingredients from all over the world: Hallertauer Mittlefruh hops from Germany, barley from the midwestern USA, yeast cultivated from abbeys in Belgium. It is truly an international beverage, and beer-lovers appreciate it as such.
It is a wine revolution and every time you drop in on a bar and enjoy a glass of Chilean cabernet sauvignon or acquire a bottle of succulent Australian shiraz from your local supermarket you are being a revolutionary. And as dear old Che used to say, Viva la revolucion!
Drinking wine is revolutionary? Odd, considering how long people have been doing it. Maybe drinking beer isn't revolutionary, either -- I would certainly never classify it as such -- but it's amazing the groundswell of new beer enthusiasts who are finding new and interesting ways to cook, eat, and relax with beer. Good craft beer is being served at many weddings, for example. There are books being published about the proper way to go about pairing beer with certain foods. When beers like Dark Lord or Kate the Great are released at their respective breweries, thousands of people show up to buy a bottle. Thousands more try to bargain their way into the posession of one such bottle, often trading other beers of significant value to get it.

What's more, we beer advocates drink our beer and enjoy it without feeling the need to become inflammatory or pejorative toward wine drinkers, the wine industry, or wine in general. I don't know where this divide came from -- I know more than a few wine drinkers who are dumb as rocks, and many beer drinkers who are some of the most brilliant people I've ever met. Hell, Barack Obama drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon! The measure of a man is not by what he drinks. Thinking anything different is absurd and ignorant.

What utter nonsense, Mr. Gluck. Utter nonsense.

1 comment:

TIW said...

Nice article. Good to read an American perspective on this prime example of foot-shooting.