Wine Writer

Every devout beer geek I know is polyamorous when it comes to beverages. As such, I cover the wider world of drinks–usually the adult type–whenever I can. And when I heard about a thin silver lining that climate change wrought when it came to this year’s grape harvest, I got to tip locals off as to what they can expect when the 2022 vintages hit shelves including from Central Oregon’s first/oldest vineyard, Maragas up near Terrebonne.

How a Beer Writer Writes About Wine

As the great American philosopher Fred Eckhardt declared, “Listen to your beer.” And since beer speaks to people, at least those smart enough to listen and thoughtful enough to hear it, it speaks of hops growing on the bines, amber waves of barley blowing in the field, or yeast hitchhiking on the breeze.

Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk’s beer obviously sings to him. He, along with brothers Brian and Doug Coombs, are the composers behind Alesong Brewing and Blending in Eugene, Oregon. And while they create a wide range of barrel-matured beers from earthy saisons to viscous imperial stouts, no doubt it’s the emphasis on vinous, wild ales that is music to sour beer lovers’ ears. But if their newest GABF medals are any indication, they could almost rename the brewery WineAlesong. And there are others singing similar tunes. For this reason, I got to write about those brewing at the intersection of wine and beer for

Beer Soup

I don’t know when she kicked it off, but All About Beer editor Julie Johnson launched the magazine’s online equivalent to E’s show Talk Soup (now just “The Soup”), a forum to discuss anything and everything in the brewing industry. In 2011 I was asked to keep the soup stirring. I used it to spitball beery ideas that I’d neglected to post on my own then-blog at BeerOdyssey. Here are some of my lasting favorites beginning with the first entry:

Building Brand Disloyalty (5/13/11). “Entrepreneur Eileen Hassi (Ritual Coffee) discussed the idea of local San Francisco coffee roasters creating a disloyalty card emulating the idea conceived by World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies in London…Buy the competitors’ products and get one on the house from us…the polar opposite idea of standard punch-cards (buy 10, get one free)….Beer folks are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to their brewing brethren, but for all the talk of camaraderie and being united against the corporate behemoths, wouldn’t it be great to see this concept emerge in cities with multiple brewpubs or tasting rooms?

Pairing with exes (5/23/11). We love to to pair beers with cheese, breakfast, music and even philosophy. Basically, we take beer and something else we love and muse about the perfect partnership. But what about pairing it with something we used to love, er, make that someone – wherein the partnership has ended?

Consistency (5/26/11). One of the keys to success in the brewing business – or any manufacturing industry – is offering a consistent product so the consumer knows what he’s getting each time. But in no small part, isn’t that anathema to what we love about our little indie breweries? If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that. Is consistency overrated? Is is ever okay to be differently great rather than consistently good?

Whales vs. Diapers (6/1/11). It’s bad enough to bogart rare beers. Is it worse to sell them?

Fruit Beers (6/7/11) and Vegetable Beers (6/8/11). Are we drinking beer or eating a salad in a glass? Of course, this line of thinking led to wondering what to pair with carrot cake (6/10/11)?

Nips. Already addressed here.

33,000 breweries? (6/30/11). The Brewers Association’s fact sheet tells us a lot, such as that there are presently 1,753 breweries operating in the US (give or take, since they also report that new breweries seem to bloom daily)…We don’t have 1,753carmakers or bluejeans brands or even record companies. Do we NEED that many breweries? This led to the next post (7/1/11) positing on the possibility of a brewpub on every corner.

IPA Day (7/12/11). It’s a thing. A month later, I grappled with “Brewers Droop.” The following week, I dealt with Hybridized IPAs for the first (bot not last) time.

Spiritual enlightenment two or three pints at a time (7/19/11). Brewers long ago, and I’m not talking in the early days of craft like Anchor’s Fritz Maytag and John Carpenter but hundreds of years prior, referred to the fermenting agent as “God is good.” …When we appreciate great beer, we might talk about the toastiness of the malt, the spiciness of the hops, or the earthiness (or cattiness) of the yeast, but don’t forget the holiness of the “God is good.”  Isn’t that what opens our mind holes the way it did for the Sumerians, Visigoths, and Romans did? Maybe it even helps us see the divine in each other.

Non brewery collaborations (8/1/11). Perhaps it started with BridgePort and the Audubon Society with Blue Heron Ale, first brewed in 1987 before the concept of the craft beer collaboration was born.

Keg on your coffin? (9/21/11). Chris Trapper’s first song’s first line went, “Put a keg on my coffin.” Throughout the rest of the song, I pondered that interesting twist on the desert island beers question about what you’d want to have if stranded out at sea. Admittedly, at first I started dreaming about what one keg I’d want with me inside my coffin.

Smoked cider (11/7/11). To say the cider tastes exactly like a big, smokey bratwurst (with just a hint of apple) is an accurate description.

Kumquats (11/18/11). I like beer and kumquats and think they could be divine together.

Music to my beers (2/3/12). There’s not shortage of by, about and for beer. What are some of your favorites?

The Oscar for Best Supporting Hops (3/8/12). The Academy Awards might be over, but there’s one category of film theyoverlooked. They’re not really documentaries, though they do document a vital element of our culture. …Oddly, though all sorts of awards go to special effects, what do we root for more than the way this particular subject matter affects our beer?

Why “nice” and “good” are bad (4/16/12). I literally cringe, my face scrunches up a bit, whenever I hear someone say, “A nice bottle of wine” or some such variant such as “a good Pinot.”

180 degrees (Is beer part of your life?) (7/3/12). My life is completely different than it was several years ago, but in the right ways. Before, I was always looking for the perfect girl and the perfect pint.

Purple States of Beer (8/7/12). Something to revisit as election cycles roll around!

10 reasons craft beer is not macho (9/18/12). Some examples:

1. They record notes about each beer they’ve enjoyed in a notebook.

5. Tulip glasses.

9. They use cellar as a verb.