For those of you that haven’t met me, both in person and/or on the internet in some fashion, I am a wine lover. A wine appreciator. A wine indulger and some would even say wine worshipper. My fascination with wine began at a rather early age (you can drink at 18 in Canada, ok? Don’t judge me.), and the more I learned about it, the more the infatuation grew. The amount of work that goes into producing a particular varietal, the painstaking process of fermenting and aging and filtering wine, all of that hoping and praying that all of the work wouldn’t go to waste… It’s an overwhelmingly risky profession, making wine, and that’s why I have such adamant and profound respect for the people who do it well.
I may love wine more than I love most people.
I remember being at a tasting in Temecula, California with a few of my closest drunken friends, who weren’t loving the wine we were drinking that day. I was the only one in defense of the stuff, ranting and raving like a grape-loving loon about just how complicated it was to produce a pinot in that climate. My friend Ben, who has had the pleasure of knowing me for over ten years, said: “I don’t think Jewel’s ever met a wine she doesn’t like. If we were people-tasting, however….” How true, how true.
But one thing I’m not is prejudiced, against anyone and anything. I love a good vodka soda every once in a while, or a Mai-Tai when I’m lounging by the pool in Maui, and a taco night isn’t complete without a round of lime margaritas. To be honest, when it comes to food and drink, there isn’t much in this world I don’t like.
Except for one thing. Beer.
When I met my husband Matty 11 years ago, he was a beer-chugging party boy (he also had an affinity for wearing weird disco-era vintage shirts. He wooed me anyway.). Seriously, for the first few weeks of knowing him, I actually wondered if a bottle of Heineken had been surgically fused to his hand. Being one of those young dumb girls in love, I sweetly agreed to share pitchers of beer with him while we gazed into each other’s doe-eyes and tried my hardest not to burp. However, once the love-haze cleared and I realized he was there to stay, I finally put my foot down and told him it was Chardonnay or the highway. I was a wine-lover, damnit! I hated beer. It made me feel full and tired, it tasted skunky and nasty, and it sure as hell didn’t go with a cheese plate.
But here’s the thing: beer and wine ain’t so different. Contrary to what Ben thinks, there are some wines I do not enjoy. I’m not a fan of California Sauvignon Blancs, for example; they’re a little too bright and grassy for me. Or super sweet wines like most Rieslings produced in the US, which are a little too cloying for me. I can’t stand a big oaky Chardonnay, either, preferring ones fermented in stainless steel instead. So was I wrong to write off the entire world-wide inventory of beers out there? Was I just not educated enough to know and appreciate what types of beer I did like? Was it possible that I just hated Heineken and had convinced my addled brain that any and all beer tasted like that? And if so, how positively booze racist of me!
So I set out on a task to find out. To become educated in the making and processing (?) of beer, to learn its intricacies and unlock its mysteries, for both me and the rest of us wine-loving folk out there. And let’s face it: us ladies sure do have a lot of stereotypes associated with us, one being that girls can’t and won’t enjoy beer because it’ll make us bloated or cause us to gain weight over time, which is my least favorite. Especially since all those Cosmos and Mai-Tais and margaritas have about as many calories as any pint of beer, if not more so. So let’s just do away with that ridiculous notion right here and now, shall we? (And for those of you girls who ARE concerned about a few pesky calories, do yourself a favor and get a gym membership so you can eat and drink everything your heart desires. Life’s too short for deprivation. Same goes for you guys, too.)
As a warm-up, and because I wanted to try this new bar regardless, my friend Kerry and I ventured to a little hovel in Echo Park called El Prado. Equally comforting was the fact that they weren’t just serving beer, there was wine there too in case we lost our nerve. This was especially a good thing where Kerry was concerned, who claims to detest beer more than unnecessary body hair, which is saying a lot for her. Luckily, our bartender was as sweet and welcoming as could be, and he didn’t balk at our inane questions about the beer he had on tap, or even Kerry’s claiming of loving a beer she had over at The Village Idiot which had been diluted by 50% with friggin’ apple juice. (That counts as a non-beer half-assed cocktail in my eyes– sorry, Kerry.) He was kind enough to pour a few tastes for us until we found one that was to our liking, which turned out to be the Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, a sweet and almost champagne-like beer tasting mildly of honeysuckle and apricots. I dare say it was smooth and quite refreshing, as far as beers go, and who wouldn’t like a beverage named after a unibrow, even if that constituted as unnecessary body hair?! It was delicious! Surprisingly, another one I didn’t half-mind was the Great Divide Imperial Stout, a super dark and thick beer that tasted like coffee and toffee, all dry and inky black and non-girly. I dug it. And felt the hairs sprouting on my chest. And not just because the alcohol content was 9.5%.
I’m still not used to drinking more than one beer in a row, however, and that wine list was starting to look mighty tasty. Which is to be expected for the first few go-arounds, I’m sure. But I’m learning! And dissuading myths! And trying something new! Who knows? Maybe by the end of this little journey, I’ll be a beer drinker, and wine’ll take a permanent backseat in my life. Also, Firefly may come back for a second season.
(Oh, Browncoats, it was a joke!)
Stay tuned for my account of a tour in an actual brewery… Coming soon to an Opu near you!