Cook with Beer but Drink Wine?
Given the paucity of column-inches devoted to beer in the B.C. press, I’m always pleased when some space is allocated to it. A full article, like Joanne Sasvari’s recent piece in The Vancouver Sun, represents a small victory in the battle to get respect for real beer.
Nevertheless, craft beer virtually remains an underground subculture in the province — shunned by the working man and snubbed by the gourmand. I’ve had people talk to me in the various “House of Brews” I frequent and be astonished by my so-called pulling back of the curtain. It’s always a magic moment when in the presence of a beer epiphany, like with two Corona drinkers I converted at the Surrey Summer Cask Festival at Central City Brewing.
Given macro beer’s greater sales and a growing shift to wine, the influence of marketing and media seems pretty clear. Therefore, it is important to reach a wider audience with the information people need to better understand beer. Unfortunately, that audience also includes members of our media.
As an example, today’s Vancouver Sun included in its Arts & Life section a recipe for Beer-Showered Littleneck Clams. Great! A splendid opportunity for providing people with a beer cuisine lesson. But wait, the recipe calls for “1 cup beer (in spray bottle).” What kind of beer? Lager or ale? Barley wine, bitter, blonde, bock, brown? Will any one do? It doesn’t say.
These recipes come from the days when “beer” was synonymous with industrial lager. Some recipes have been updated with the caveat “not dark,” however, even that is not really specific enough with so many more styles of beer readily available today. Heavily-hopped Northwest-style IPAs are not necessarily dark, but will obliterate the taste of clams. Instead, you should choose a pilsner (e.g. Tree Brewing Kelowna Pilsner), Helles (e.g. Okanagan Spring Bavarian Helles), or Kölsch (e.g. Mt. Begbie High Country Kölsch).
Not specifying the style of beer in a recipe is a relatively minor error, although I doubt we would see a recipe in The Sun that called for “wine” without qualification. However, below the recipe, the article boldly declared: “USE BEER TO COOK AND WINE TO DRINK.” Very curious. You are cooking with beer. Wouldn’t it stand to reason you would drink that same beer with your clams? Apparently not.
According to Anthony Gismondi, he “could make this easy and suggest you just crack open your favourite beer, but then what would all the winos do?” Well, first of all, if your favourite beer was Phillips Amnesiac IPA, should you crack it? No. The simplest thing would be to pour a glass (don’t drink it out of the bottle!) of the beer you used to spray the clams. As for the winos, let’s think of it from the other way around. If one were writing about a recipe for Coq au Vin, wouldn’t is seem odd to say, “I could make this easy and suggest you just pop open your favourite wine, but then what would all the beer geeks do?” Right.
Just so that we’re clear, I’m not a beer pimp. I enjoy a good wine on many an occasion. I just think the media ought to be more even-handed when it comes to beer. I think wine madness has gotten a little out of control here, to the point that it is covered much like cars and real estate where the lines between advertising and editorial have become blurred or erased. There is a happy medium and that’s where I would like to see it go.