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Unlike some things people love to debate, like crispy or soft bacon, beer and wine enjoy a unique group of followers. They rarely argue about which beverage is better, and many people drink both wine and beer. However, there are a few people that don’t like beer and some that think wine tastes terrible. Americans drink about six billion gallons of beer each year, so beer haters must be a small population.
Whether you belong to the beer club or prefer wine, you might be drinking the wrong beer or wine. Most people get attached to a favorite beer or wine, and they never explore the other options available to them. The chances are high that you may be missing out on a better tasting beer or wine.
Don’t forget that some wines compliment specific foods while others may ruin the meal. The same might get said about beer, but it’s more likely that beer goes with just about any food especially anything grilled or fried. That said, you know what you like, and we aren’t here to change your mind, but we urge you to branch out a little and explore some new flavors.
The Basics of Beer
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Beer is any beverage made by fermenting grain. Barley is the grain most often used to brew beer. The barley is malted which merely means the seed gets roasted when it begins to germinate. The roasted barley is milled to crack the husk and boiled in water to get the flavor out of the grain. Brewers call this process the “mashing.” The result is a mildly sweet liquid called wort.
The final wort gets moved to a new kettle, and the brewer adds it to the mix and boils the mixture. Adding this ingredient is an art and personal choice for most brewers. You need it to give the beer a little bitterness and aroma, but overdoing the hops leaves you with a bitter brew that tastes like you might be chewing on a pine tree air freshener.
That said, some people like beer with abundant hops and added bitterness which is why it comes down the brewer’s preferences and beer recipe. An extra “hoppy” beer usually gets labeled as an India Pale Ale or IPA beer. Oddly, India Pale Ale originated in England, but no one can agree on the time period. The term “India Pale Ale” got used for the first time in an Australian newspaper ad in 1829.
Back on topic, once the wort and hops get finished boiling, the mixture is cooled down, and yeast gets added to the kettle. The yeast eats the sugar in the wort and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This part marks the beginning of the fermentation process, and it ends when the yeast runs out of food. When the yeast gets finished, the aging process begins which may last a few days or weeks.
Beer comes in five types although the differences between a stout and porter beer are negligible. Beer types define the beer and how the brewer creates it. Beer styles do little more than add color or artificial flavors to the mix. When choosing a beer, pick a type of beer and experiment with the styles that beer offers. The five types of beer are:
- Malts: these beers tend to be darker and sweeter than other beer types.
- Stouts and porters: these types of beer may be darker than most malt beers, and they may not appeal to everyone’s taste buds.
- Ales: roughly a third of all beer consumed in the US and Canada is an ale. Ales tend to look moderately dark or reddish, and they may seem bitter to some taste buds.
- Lagers: this type of beer is usually aged for a few months and kept just above freezing during the process. They tend to look lighter in color than most beer and may be sweet or bitter.
The Basics of Wine
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Wine comes from fermenting the juices of wine grapes. Wine grapes are different from the ones you see at the grocery store. Wine grapes contain more sugar than regular table grapes which are also much larger than wine grapes. The high sugar content and juicy pulp of wine grapes are part of the reason we use them to make wine.
Don’t get the idea that eating wine grapes might be a good idea. These sweet, juicy grapes sound tasty but eating one leaves you with a mouth full of tiny seeds and chewy grape skin. Avoid the urge to eat wine grapes and stick with the ones your grocer provides. Besides, the wine made from grapes is better than trying to eat one of those sweet seed pods.
You can make wine from almost any fruit although tomato wine seems like it may leave you disappointed. Some wineries blend the juice from two or more of over 70 species of wine grapes to produce a wine unique to their winery. Winemakers may create a specialty wine for the winery or region, but those wines are probably just a variant of one of the eight most common wines:
- Riesling: This wine pairs well with poultry and Asian foods from across the area. This white wine is sweet and tart at the same time with a hint of citrus and floral flavors.
- Pinot Gris: This wine goes well with mild cheeses, salads, and most baked or poached fish meals. The wine is a dry white with hints of several fruits from pears to limes.
- Sauvignon Blanc: This wine pairs well with pork, chicken, fish, and some spicy foods. The wine is a dry white and a little tart with subtle herbal hints in the flavor.
- Chardonnay: This wine goes well with seafood, pork, and medium to sharp cheeses. The wine is a dry white and may come with some slight hints of bourbon in the flavor if it gets aged in oak barrels. Chardonnay that doesn’t get aged in oak tastes lighter and comes with more apple and citrus flavors.
- Pinot Noir: This wine goes well with poultry, most mild to medium cheeses, and cured meats. The wine is a dry red with a smooth but often slightly acidic flavor.
- Zinfandel: This wine pairs well with a wide range of foods including chicken, cured meat, beef, and Asian or Chinese dishes. This red wine is fruity with hints of herbal flavors. Variations of this wine include white and rose Zinfandels made from blends or pink Zinfandel grapes.
- Syrah: This wine is best paired with lamb, smoked meat, and dishes from the Mediterranean along with most hard cheeses. You may find this wine labeled as Shiraz as well. This red wine comes with a unique flavor that may remind you of tobacco and plums.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine goes well with lamb, beef, smoked meats, and some aged or hard cheeses. This red wine comes with hints of black cherries and baking spices. If aged in oak barrels, the wine may have traces of bourbon and cedar as well. It is arguably one of the most popular wines.
The Key Differences Between Wine and Beer
As you’ve probably noted, wine and beer are only similar because both beverages find their flavor through fermentation. They differ significantly at every other level. Beer uses wort which is made by cooking roasted grains like barley while wine is made using little or no heat and fruit juices. Both beverages may get aged, but wine benefits more from aging than beer.
Once you get past the differences between wine and beer, you find that each type of beer or wine differs from all the other ones as well. Alcohol and fermentation are probably the only things beer and wine have in common with one another.
Is Drinking Wine or Beer Healthy?
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Wine and beer offer different health benefits and problems. You can safely ignore most of the myths you find online about beer or wine help you lose weight or make you live longer. Avoiding alcohol will help you lose more weight than drinking it, and it can damage your liver which may shorten your life. However, wine and beer come with health pros and cons.
The hops in beer has other uses including the treatment of some sleep disorders. If you compare the nutritional values of wine and beer, beer is more nutritious than wine. Based on the dietary values alone, beer is almost a food by itself while wine is mostly void of any nutritional value. Some studies suggest that hops might help keep you from gaining weight under specific circumstances.
That said, beer, especially some craft beers, may increase your calorie intake by up to 300 per bottle. That means you’ll probably gain weight. Drinking several beers may cause you to get dehydrated, and it could damage your liver if you drink regularly. Health reasons aside, drinking too much beer always leads to some bad decisions as well, but that’s another story.
Wine offers a few benefits as well like adding extra potassium to your diet. The evidence is spotty, but some studies suggest that the resveratrol in red wine may increase heart health and lessen the effects of aging. Flavonoids, like those in herbal tea, found in some wines may help protect your skin from the Sun which further increases its anti-aging appeal.
Wine shares most of the cons we listed about beer like dehydration and possible liver damage over time. White wine can damage the enamel on your teeth, and red wine might trigger a migraine in people prone to having them. Wine may raise your triglyceride levels which could lead to a host of medical problems including kidney disease, obesity, and heart disease.
Drinking alcoholic drinks occasionally probably won’t affect your health, and they offer a few benefits. Excessive alcohol use causes problems, and some of those issues may shorten your life. Both wine and beer consumption can lead to dependency. That said, if you avoid drinking heavily very often, you probably won’t experience any issues aside from dehydration and bad choices.
If you plan to drink wine or beer for their benefits, beer probably offers more benefits because it provides protein and a few vitamins. However, it doesn’t provide very much of either one. White wine has almost no benefits at all. The antioxidants and resveratrol come from drinking red wine. Like beer, the amount you get from a glass or two a day won’t improve your health.
If we measure weight gain based on typical serving sizes, beer is more likely to cause weight gain compared to wine. A six ounce serving of wine contains fewer carbs and calories than a 14-ounce pint of beer. If you indulge, a bottle of wine contains about 750 calories while a six pack of beer holds 900 calories. The way we drink alcohol has more to do with weight gain than the beverage.
Some Final Notes
In the end, the real difference between beer and wine is which one do you prefer. Knowing all the facts and counting the calories has nothing to do with taste. Everyone tastes things a little differently, and alcohol affects each us in unique ways. If available, do a taste testing at your local winery or brewery to see what you like instead of relying on the opinions of others.
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