Crappy beer, crappy wine

I am drinking a crappy Mexican beer.

There, I said it. Cast your Chateauneuf stones at me and throw me out of the wine temple if you must! But it is a sunny 75 degrees and I just got back from a rigorous morning of making sand castles on the beach.

So here’s something for you to puzzle over the grill: why can crappy beer be so refreshing while crappy wine is always so…horrible. The carbonation? The lower alcohol? The chill factor? Have your say in the comments. And happy Memorial Day weekend!

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20 Responses to “Crappy beer, crappy wine”

  1. Considering the conversational nature of your question you seemed to lock the correct answer well in advance before the conversation actually started. That makes me feel like not really participating in the conversation but to rather engage in some kind of strange meta conversation such as this;)

  2. Beer, even crappy beer, is cold, bubbly and soothing. I’ve asked many winemakers what they relax with at the end of the day and all but one said cold beer. The exception said ‘I tend to rely on Knob Creek.’

  3. Frequently when drinking beer the prime directive is, it’s cold! You might even ignore that it is crappy, OK not enough to drink light beer, but you will put up with it being crappy. White wine has the same quality. The only reason to drink it is that it’s cold. You might ignore that it is insipid and dull and boring, but it is cold. You can’t guzzle it like beer, so why bother, drink bad beer.
    The first duty of wine is to be red. It won’t be cold enough to cool you off. And it won’t cool you off, unless you take a bath in it. Its just not its purpose in life.

  4. Muscadet is great on hot days!

    That being said some of the local craft beers Lagers, are way to heavy and not refreshing, so really a crappy watery beer will do the trick!

  5. maybe you’ll feeel better about this if you start refering to your crappy mexican beer as a ‘coastal mexican lager’. it pairs perfectly with baked tortilla slices and a tomato, jalepeno, and cilantro melange.

  6. Can’t deal with crappy beer either. Tastes ashy, and gives me a headache, whether its Bud Light, Miller, Coors, or Busch. Bud is acceptable when cold. And there is the key: I agree with the other repliers – cold takes the taste out of beer, but leaves the cool and the fizz. Both slake thirst.

  7. There may also be the matter of expectations. You know going in that a cheap lager may at worst be inoffensive; let’s say the margin of error in production is more forgiving than in wine. Besides, you’re a wine critic; you’re always going to hold wine to a higher standard. Anyway, relax and have another Polar or whatever it is you’ve got in the cooler. 🙂

  8. Calling it ‘crappy’ defies the notion that you are enjoying it. There are lighter, refreshing, AND delicious beers made, you know. Not everything is hopped to death. Brasserie Lefebvre does a Blanche de Bruxelles which is chuggably refreshing, cheap, and in tall-boy format! There’s no need to sacrifice standards to be refreshed.

  9. I don’t find crappy Mexican beer to be refreshing and if you feel that it’s refreshing then I question your palate. Hopefully, your appreciation of crappy beer seems to borne of ignorance. There are plenty of lighter, refreshing beers which are great on a hot day. Try a Laguinitas Pils, Brooklyn Lager, a Kölsch from Köln or a Kölsch style beer made by a domestic craft brewer or a Czechvar next to a crappy Mexican beer and the differences in quality and taste should be obvious. Also, beer ought to be consumed from a glass, or at the very least from a non breakable cup in places where glasses are not practical – such as the beach, or prohibited – such as a swimming pool.

    On a side note, a colleague told me about a Napa winemaker who prefers to drink Vinho Verde or Michelob Ultra after working in the field on a hot day. Vinho Verde’s appeal seems obvious, it’s a near perfect drink after a long day of manual labor in the sun. Michelob Ultra on the other hand, makes me question the winemaker’s palate. Michelob Ultra is practically flavorless and amounts to an alcohol delivery system via carbonated water. It has no good characteristics in terms of taste or aroma.

  10. Jeeze Dr. Vee, your palate is getting a lot of flak from the beer brigades today huh? Inferiority complex maybe? Hahaha, lite-en up! I don’t think that it has anything to do with palate. It is the fact that cold bubbly beer is liable to take the rust out of your throat in an easy, unassuming way. Sometimes its ok to want nothing more than refreshment and a cheap buzz. Happy Memorial Day!!!

  11. Yes I agree too, I’d much rather have a cold crappy beer than crappy wine.

  12. Chilled, bubbly, refreshing – all great points, but there is still the matter of the A.) mental game and B.) the wallet.

    A.) With a cheap wine I’ll still have varietal typicity and regional character expectations; with a cheap lager or pilsner I don’t think to critique style or sense of place as long as it tastes good. It’s also less daunting to open a 12oz beer than it is to open a 750ml of wine – no matter the price.

    B.)Getting to that next point, let’s say I buy a 12 pack of red stripe for $13 or $14 – 1.16/ 12oz bottle round about. The absolute cheapest wine I would buy would be about 4 to 5 a bottle. two 12oz beers is still only be half of that cost.

    A beer one doesn’t have to think too much about, that tastes the same as the other 11 beers (or 23 or 29, whatever) gains its charm in being uncomplicated and refreshing.

  13. Thanks for the comments and discussion here. There were also some funny comments on Twitter; here’s a selection:

    RT @bcurleymbs: @drvino. One of life’s mysteries.

    RT @ForzaUnion: @drvino crappy beer can hide behind carbonation and watered down refreshment…bad wine can’t hide behind anything.

    RT @Timmyswinecru: @drvino Beer is like sex – it can only be so bad. Wine is like marriage – only the best will do.

    RT @invinumveritas: @drvino beer = hydration (and it goes so well with junk food)

    RT @swalloda: @drvino because cold beer is generally refreshing — cold wine is white and tends to be white Zinfandel

    RT @VintageOrleans: Truth

  14. Bill – Yes, as they say, “it takes a lot of beer to make wine.”

    Quizicat – ha–but remind me not to ask you for any white wine suggestions…

    Weston, Yes, Msucadet would be a good way to go.

    Btw, I was having a Pacifico, which, I dare say, is quite a bit better than Michelob Ultra!

    As to quality beers, yes, there are many that would be appropriate. I love Reissdorf Koelsch (and that from Captain Lawrence is solid domestic alternative), Weihenstephaner is a terrific weissbier that would fit the bill, and a Sixpoint Crisp would have been awesome. But none of these was available and the Pacifico (yes, out of a glass) went down easy.

    Dave + Cathy – thanks!

    Joe – On the subject of relative value, craft beers are certainly giving many wines a run for their money.

  15. […] Vino poses an interesting question: “Why can crappy beer be so refreshing while crappy wine is always so… horrible?” (0) […]

  16. Isn’t wishing for a refreshing, carbonated, well-chilled, low-alcohol wine kind of like wishing Jeep made a four-wheel drive convertible? The only wines I can remember my parents drinking growing up were wine coolers (they were still made with wine until the early 90s) and wine spritzers.

  17. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I bought my first Mexican beers: Corona, Pacifica, and Negra Modelo. Corona is so ubiquitous it must be fairly decent, I thought. NOT SO! One sip, and down the sink it went. There was absolutely no there there, no body, no flavor, not a single note of interest. Tepid water! Undrinkable! The Pacifica followed the same path. The Negra Modelo would have also gone that way but it was the last beer I had and I really wanted a beer, so I drank it.
    I had expectations, but you may not have. You probably know exactly what a Corona tastes like and have no designs from it beyond that. You probably also have some wines that serve this purpose, the go-to wines that do the job. ?.

  18. “Nothing refreshes me like a Tecate after a tough day in the sun.” Anthony Biagi, Winemaker at Hourglass Wine Company, as quoted in the Terroirist

  19. To your original question: how do we define “crappy” wine? Is price the determinant — i.e. can we assume that anything $5.00 or under is “crappy?” If so, I second the Vinho Verde suggestion above… plenty of inexpensive Vinho Verde is enjoyable and delicious, and certainly offers up more flavor and refreshment than $5.00 worth of terrible beer.

  20. It’s true that on a hot day, cold and fizzy goes a long way – unless it’s a wine cooler; it can’t be cold or fizzy enough for me to drink it, no matter how hot the weather.

    And I don’t like crappy beer at any temperature. There is a difference between just crappy beer and what many here in the Midwest call a good “lawnmower beer” – that glass of cold beer that is the perfect refreshment after mowing the lawn in those humid 90+ degree days in August (this year, in MAY).

    Mass market American swill is typically made with “adjuncts” like rice and corn. Indeed, the very term “adjuncts” is distorted beyond any of its intended original meaning – “stretchers” to save money on good malted barley or wheat. Many of these beers are ENTIRELY “adjuncts” – no malted grain at all. What’s more, carbonation is not natural but added artificially – because the beer is pasteurized after fermentation, killing the bacteria that produce carbonation naturally, like in a proper beer. And little or no actual hops are used, instead relying on “hop extract” – a chemical concoction tasting like real hops about as much as vanilla flavoring tastes like real vanilla beans.

    But it is perfectly possible to produce a light, so-called “drinkable” American-style beer from good ingredients, using good brewing practices. These beers, prior to Prohibition, were the standard American sudsy beverage, similar in style to the classic Central European Pilseners brewed by the immigrant brewmasters who came to the U.S. mostly from what was then called Bohemia – now the modern nations of Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and parts of what are now Poland, Austria and Germany. From this base, recipes from transplanted and hybridized ingredients were adapted to American growing and market conditions.

    The result was a new style – an “American” style of beer – and a perfectly valid and respectable one at that. After Prohibition, American palates – ruined by more than a decade of “bathtub” beer – were ready and willing to drink any damned carbonated urine foisted upon them. Breweries – in the pursuit of profits – cut corners mercilessly, and as long as Americans would drink their swill, why not?

    Fortunately, American tastes – thanks to the micro-brew “craft” beer movement – have been steadily improving, even on the low end. The end result is that now, even pedestrian beer like Miller brewed today tastes better than it did twenty years ago. Market pressure is forcing even the mass-producers to brew better products using better ingredients.

    For myself, in the summer, nothing beats a North German-style wheat beer – served with a twist of lemon or in the Berlin tradition – a shot full of raspberry juice. “Ich hatte gerne ein Berliner Weissbier mit Himbeersaft, bitte!” A variant I found in and around Salzburg, Austria is wheat beer mixed with champagne, served in very large champagne flutes. Sounds awful, right? But I tried it, and found it surprisingly good. Hooda thunk?

    I also really, really like English-style India Pale Ale. I totally disagree with one poster who referred to such beers as “hopped to death.” This beer – IPA for short – is typical English top-fermented pale ale (“pale” being a relative term – NOT pale at all compared to most American beer, but VERY pale indeed compared to say, Guinness, which is the color, opacity and consistency of crankcase oil from a ’51 Oldsmobile sitting in a barn under a tarp since Kennedy was president).

    Before refrigeration – and before the Suez Canal – kegs of ale shipped from London – The Seat of Empire – to Bombay via the Atlantic route around the Southern Africa Cape of Good Hope – would be spoiled from the long trip by sailing ship – at 12,500 miles, equivalent to half-way around the world. The answer was to not double, or triple, but QUADRUPLE the amount of hops. Hops, besides offering bitterness to counterbalance the sweet malty flavors in beer, serve as a retardant to spoilage. Since top-fermented ales have inherently short shelf lives compared to lagers, this was especially important.

    This extra-bitter, herbal “snap” was found to be curiously refreshing by the British colonials serving in hot humid India and what started as a measure of expedience became a taste style of its own, and remains popular today in the era of fast transportation and availability of refrigeration in nearly every part of the world. Analogously, people once smoked meats to keep them from rotting, but in this modern refrigerated age still love their smoked fish, hams and barbecue. So, on a hot day, a pint of IPA – at an icy 40 degrees or at a more traditional English “room temperature” of 60 degrees – is just the ticket!


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