Now, we're not trying to get into a "Which is better: beer or wine?" debate here. It's just that we believe that there are some beers that you steadfast wine drinkers out there might really enjoy. Call them cross-over beers. As in, they cross the line between beer and wine. As in, come on over and we'll pour you a pint.
These beer styles draw on many of the same flavor profiles as our favorite wines: robust, fruity, and spicy; crisp, tart, and dry. These are not one-to-one corresponding beer and wine styles. But close your eyes and take a sip, and we bet you'll find some familiar flavors in there.
• Saisons and Farmhouse Ales
- Originally brewed in Europe to serve to farm workers during the midday meal, this style of beer has been making a resurgence in the past few years. It's typified by juicy fruit flavors, spicy notes, and earthy yeast aromas. Beers to Try: Hennepin Farmhouse Saison from Brewery Ommegang, Jack D'Or from Pretty Things Beer, and Saison Rue from The Bruery.
• Barrel-Aged Beers
- Beers aged in old whiskey, chardonnay, or pinot noir barrels pick up complexity and tannic elements from their time in storage. Stouts take on notes of vanilla and caramel. Barleywines will often mellow out with raisin-like and buttery flavors. Every barrel-aged beer is a little different, but the description sounds good to you, it's always worth trying. Beers to Try: Allagash Curieux (bourbon barrel-aged tripel) from Allagash Brewing Company, Brute (wild-fermented beer with champagne ale aged in oak) from Ithaca Beer Company, and Heresy (bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout) from Weyerbacher
- This is a type of Belgian lambic very different from the peach and raspberry lambics that you might have tried. Gueuze is not typically sweetened by any added fruits or flavorings; it's the straight up wild-fermented Belgian brew. The result is a feisty blend of sour fruit esters, some barnyard funkiness, and delicious spice. They're usually highly effervescent, crisp on the tongue, and very dry. Beers to Try: Cantillon Gueuze from Brasserie Cantillon, Oude Gueuze from Hanssens Artisinal, and Farmhouse Gueuze from Laguintas Brewing Company (on tap only).
- Bocks in general are a great choice for wine lovers for their upfront malty and dark fruit flavors (think figs and apple butter), but doppelbocks are our favorite. These beers are as rich and smooth with none of the bitterness that sometimes turns people away from dark stouts. Beers to Try: Troegenator Double Bock from Troegs Brewing Company, St. Victorious from Victory Brewing Company, and S'muttonator from Smuttynose Brewing Company
Which beers would you recommend to your wine-loving friends?
Related: Intro to Craft Brews: Best Beers for Newbies
(Image: Flickr member JMRosenfeld licensed under Creative Commons)