A confession: I'm a wine drinker.
Granted, my beer consumption has far exceeded my wine intake in the past year. And, if given the option of grains or grapes, nine times out of 10 I'll choose the former.
But when I tap into my taste-memory bank, some of the highlights include sipping a luscious Napa Valley merlot on the winemaker's back porch, and cooling off with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc that was more refreshing than a crisp green apple.
I enjoy wine, but I love beer. These days, when I smell and taste wine, I find myself searching for characteristics that remind me of beer: floral and citrus aromas, peppery and spicy flavors, and chewy, cheek-coating mouthfeels.
That quest for beerlike qualities in wines led me to compile these suggestions of beers for wine drinkers.
If you like champagne, cava or other sparkling whites: Try American pale wheat ales.
Their above-average carbonation mimics the millions of tiny bubbles in sparkling wines, and, like sparklers, these beers often leave a touch of lemon on the tongue.
Another potential match would be wild or sour ales. But these beers often contain Brettanomyces, a yeast that, when present in wine, is considered a major flaw. That makes many wonderful beers fermented with "Brett" a turnoff to wine drinkers.
"Tolerance varies, but most (wine) folks have a pretty low threshold" for Brett's wet-leather aromas, says Dave Nelson, who writes about beer, wine and whiskey at his site - wait for it - beerwineandwhisky.com. "It took a while to turn off the part of my brain that yelled, 'Fault!' every time I got a whiff of Brett."
Three wheat beers to try: Odell Easy Street Wheat, Southern Tier 422, Samuel Adams Summer Ale.
If you like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio or other dry whites: Try pilsners.
Renowned beer writer Michael Jackson once suggested authentic, hoppy pilsners to stand in for dry white wines, and I agree. This lager style, when brewed properly, can show grassy, slightly herbal flavors with a zip of sweetness. Three pils to try: Schlafly Pilsner, North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner, Left Hand Polestar Pilsner.
If you like pinot noir, gamay or other light-bodied reds: Try saisons.
These Belgian-style beers often have an earthy, minerally body that reminds me of Oregon pinot noirs. A subtle fruit essence is also common in both lighter reds and saisons. Three saisons to try: Nelson recommends classics like Belgium's Saison Dupont and Fantome Saison, and I'll add a new-world beer, Boulevard's Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.
If you like cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel or other big reds: Try big India pale ales, especially American-style and double/imperial IPAs.
Fans of these wines favor them for their heady aromatics and tannic mouthfeels. Huge doses of hops create citrus, pine or tropical aromas in IPAs, which may smell very different than rich red wines, but the in-your-face element will be familiar. Hops also produce an astringent feeling on the mouth that is similar to what red-wine tannins do. Three IPAs to try: Founders Double Trouble (or Devil Dancer, an extreme "triple" IPA), Boulevard Double-Wide IPA, Caldera IPA.
If you like Manischewitz: Try He'Brew Rejewvenator '10, brewed with concord grape juice.
This new release from New York's Shmaltz Brewing Co., billed as a dubbel-doppelbock hybrid, manages to make its star ingredient shine despite a heap of hops, malts and both ale and lager yeasts. Red grapes are present on the nose and in the flavor, but not cloyingly so like in Manischwitz, a sweet, kosher wine.
A confession: I'm a wine drinker.