During one of a few trips up to the Portland (PDX for short) area it finally hit me. Brittany and I were at the Deschutes brewpub in downtown Portland. We both went through a sampler, enjoyed a pretzel with their magical cheesy mustard sauce or whatever it is, then dug into some of their quirkier brews. I can’t for life of me remember which one I was enjoying because a giant light bulb went of in my head due to Exhibit A (check out the photo).
I know I was loosing my mind because of how much I liked it to the point that I was letting my geekiness get a bit out of hand when all of a sudden WHAM! It’s in a friggin’ wine glass…
This was followed by the question: Why are brewpubs so much more fun and so much easy going than winery tasting rooms? Why does wine continue to have this army of folks that state, “I don’t know enough to appreciate it,” yet they know the same amount or less about beer and have no issues.
Brewpubs are fun. They are quirky. They don’t give a shit. As far as they are concerned it is booze no matter how good (or bad) you might think it is. They don’t jump on their high horse about how well their beer was rated or dig into the subtle notes and characteristics that a beer has to offer. They simply say, “This is the pale ale, this is the IPA, this is the sour this is the stout… enjoy,” then walk off to pour the next pint. There is no hard sell except for, “Can I get you another?” If you want to geek out they will with you a bit but it really hasn’t ever been to the level that us wine geeks get to at times (at least in my experience). When was the last time you heard someone ask about acidity and the pH level in a pub?
Now don’t get me wrong. Wine has wised up over the last few years. There are plenty of tasting rooms that keep things casual but also educational, engaging and fun. If you want to geek out we can do that do but it usually goes further down the yellow brick road than needed. On the flip side there are also plenty of beer geeks out there that will drill down into as many details as possible. There are always exceptions that prove the rule.
Just for kicks let’s look at some numbers because I LOVE numbers:
As of 2012 The Wine Institute put together a report that placed the United States at roughly #58 in terms of wine consumed per capita (about 10.5 liters or almost 8 bottles per person per year)1. That said the United States had also moved into the top spot of overall volume consumed per year at 3,269,238 liters (or 2,451,929 bottles)2. Beer is very much the same in the U.S. where per capita consumption is relatively low but total volume is towards top of the list (beer clocked in at 77 liters per capita3).
Leaving spirits out of it here is the rub: In the U.S. a person, on average, drinks 66.5 liters MORE beer than wine each year (66.5 liters is about 50 bottles or 187 12oz bottles of brew). Y’all are a bunch of gluttons for a cold one at the end of the day aren’t you? There is the old saying that, “it takes a lot of good beer to make a good wine.” Ain’t that the truth.
So with a combination of frustration that beer just seems to have more fun and that wine isn’t doing itself any favors I was a tad discouraged. I was baffled by the following question: How do we (the wine industry) show people that enjoyment is the only thing that matters when it comes to wine? It isn’t always about the geeky facts and ratings. You don’t have to be a wine expert or aficionado or pick out the hits of blueberry, cherry, oak and spice to enjoy wine. It is a task that is a constant uphill battle due to a rampant overindulgence of romance copy and marketing. However it is a task worth completing.
When I type beer vs. wine it is less about the actual marketing and sales side of things and more about the experience. Beer has a leg up in that department; probably two in a matter of fact. Wine has some learning to do. Sticking with tradition and the pomp and circumstance will only get you so far which means the wine world is stuck in the 1990s.
Like I said earlier there are always exceptions that prove the rule and that is becoming more and more apparent in the wine world. The movement is still underground. Breaking down old pedestals and pillars takes time and there is an old guard that isn’t going to go quietly. It seems that many have forgotten that the only constant is change and the failure to adapt is the equivalent of planning to fail.
Time for a cold one.
1 – “Per Capita Wine Consumption by Country.” World Statistics (2012): 1-10. The Wine Institute. Web. 18 May 2015.
2 – “World Wine Consumption.” World Statistics (2012): 1-5. The Wine Institute. Web. 18 May 2015.
3 – Soergel, Andrew. “Which Country Drinks the Most Booze?” US News. N.p., 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 May 2015.