It’s been something of a legendary divide, a feud of fermentation. All of us seem to fall on one side of the camp or the other. It’s a dilemma we face at every party, bar, grocery store and restaurant: beer or wine?
Perhaps that’s a false dichotomy to some of you, but it’s a debate I’ve seen get red hot among fervent fans on both sides of the aisle. My friend, Cam, for example, is practically a “brew extraordinaire” (his words, not mine). No matter how many glasses of wine I swirl in front of him, he will have none of the stuff, insisting that if it’s not made of wheat and hops, it’s not worth his time.
Marissa, on the other hand, is a guardian of the grape. She and I routinely split a bottle when we all go out to dinner, and she often teaches me a thing or two about regions and varietals I’m a novice on. She and Cam have developed some playful banter, but occasionally the jibes are a little more salty than sweet.
Amidst my philosophical ponderings the other day, it dawned upon me that we should be building bridges among lovers of libations instead of creating divides. I called Cam and Marissa, and bore the burden of making dinner so that we could discuss this all-important issue in hopes of finding a common ground for these beverages that ultimately seek to make us all happy.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: So, Cam, you’ll be speaking for the beer lovers, and Marissa, the wine lovers.
Cam: My opinion is indeed expert.
Marissa: One need look no further than your waistline.
Me: Play nice! Let’s start with an easy one.
So, this was going to be more challenging than expected.
Why is your drink the best drink ever?
Cam: Beer is timeless and accessible. It’s rich, but refreshing. It’s all over the world in so many variations. People have spent millennia perfecting the art. I…I don’t know. It’s kind of that drink that marks a rite of passage into being an adult. What good time didn’t involve beer?
Marissa: I will concede, my college days involved more beer than wine. But, I matured. And wine was something I found that was invariably complex. It made food…and I love trying food…so much more interesting. The process behind it makes it so special. You’re drinking something unique every time.
Right off the bat, Cam and Marissa landed on a potent commonality: both beer and wine involve a distinct process, honed over time, to create something unique. That’s something we can all get behind.
What stereotypes do you think people have about your drink?
Cam: It’s cheap and unsophisticated. It’s good for BBQs and parties, but doesn’t have a place at the fine dining table. It’s for men.
Marissa: I mean, kind of the opposite, right? Like wine is the bourgeois drink. And I don’t think that’s always a positive thing. I think wine is often wrongly called “feminine,” whatever we’ve decided that means.
It seems my two friends were hitting on the same point: people’s allegiance to one, and the way they identify with it, may keep them from opening up to the other.
What should people know about your drink that they might not know?
Cam: You know me, you know I love the uniqueness of beer. I think people are just now starting to uncover that beer can be as boutique as any liquor or any wine. The flavors and types are virtually endless.
Marissa: That’s actually quite true. I will give Cam a point on that one. For wine, I think people don’t know how complex it is. Their first taste might have been altar wine or boxed wine and it just doesn’t expose people to that experience of taking one sip and getting ten different notes.
Are there situations that either of your drinks are inappropriate?
Cam: No, beer is an everywhere drink.
Marissa: I think wine is certainly more enjoyable in some circumstances. You can’t just chug it like beer. You appreciate it. You experience it. It’s to be shared.
The tension picked up a little here. Marissa was touching on one of the tough ones to work around. Cam gave her side eyes, but remained silent.
We proceeded to eat chicken saltimbocca while mulling over the gameday, fratboy stereotype that Cam loathes, while Marissa connected with him on $2.99 bottles of wine and “girls’ nights in.” Cam shed some light on the great traditions of beer, and how more and more people were able to make it at home. He also shared how the microbrewing industry was reviving economies in some cities.
Marissa, who has friends in viniculture, talked about the long agricultural history it had in supporting entire regions.
Me: So, it seems that you both have made pretty noble cases for your beverages of choice. Could it be that they’re not so different after all?
They looked at my suspiciously, not entirely convinced, but a little more open to the mysteries of the other side. To close the night, we had them cross arms and give each other a gulp.
I think I caught two smiles.