Beer Brewer Targets Wine Market

A few months ago, we ran an article, Beer Wants to be More Like Wine. Now, the brewers are getting serious. Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Co. that brews Sam Adams, has a goal in mind, according to Beer takes its place at the table at BusinessWeek. “We’ve been trying to show people that beer has all the complexity, variety, and quality accorded wine,” says Koch.

The article describes an unusual and complex food pairing exercise:

Koch worked with Jason Miller, executive chef of David Burke’s Primehouse in downtown Chicago, to create a special menu for BusinessWeek in which each of the four courses was highlighted by an American craft beer, or microbeer as they’re also known. We agreed that Koch, who can do a dead-on impression of Julia Child, could select one of his own beers, but had to choose other brews for the other courses. With each course, we had a 6 oz. tasting of a different beer.

The pairings they chose all sounded quite interesting, but the standout was the last one:

…our evening ended with a snifter of Samuel Adams Utopias, a limited-run beer that retails for $100 for a 25-oz. bottle …we couldn’t resist trying the distinctive Utopias, which had a 25.6% alcohol by volume in the 2005 batch. Served at room temperature and lacking carbonation, Utopias — which is fermented and aged in a combination of old scotch, bourbon, port, and cognac casks — compares to a fine port or cognac. But the Utopias doesn’t have the ethanol kick at the end that is typical of those distilled drinks. The vanilla and caramel flavors surprised even the nonbeer drinker at the table, who proclaimed “this is like a dessert.”

Sounds like a great meal, even for a wine lover. At the same time, we wonder how successful the brewers will be in packaging beer as an upscale beverage worthy of serious thought. Koch certainly seems to be doing his best, but I think it will need the marketing muscle of the big brewers to make a dent in America’s collective consciousness. Of course, the whole idea of a mass-market brewer pushing high-end craft beers is a bit of a contradiction.

We certainly haven’t seen many restaurants jumping on the bandwagon. At a minimum, we’d like to see restauranteurs offer the option of a smaller portion (to allow drinking different beers with different parts of the meal) and suggesting pairings. Of course, carrying an appropriate selection of beers, preferably on tap, is essential.

We’ll see how this plays out. If any restaurant near you seems to be taking this concept seriously, let us know.

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