Short & Sweet

Connoisseurs: Beer or Wine?

Either way, you’re probably still a douchebag

By Thelonia Saunders1447021487.png

You may meet one at a party, standing around, looking deeply into their glass as if to absorb the oh-so-alluring alcohol percentage through eye contact alone. Your heart may begin to beat faster, and you may begin to mumble low threats of bodily harm as they tell you about the “bouquet” or the “body” of whatever fills their glass, calling it “cheeky” or “robust,” and inevitably, disgustingly, gargling it in front of you for what feels like decades. In this way, the connoisseur is a special breed.

But how might the substance in their glass change how you think of them?

The wine drinkers, you presume, would be the artsy people in black turtlenecks, speaking French or Italian, or simply maintaining a silent yet profoundly disdainful stare in the corner of the room. They are lounging on the couch with a wine glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. One may sigh and shake their head as another espouses the virtues and shortcomings of the newest 12-hour experimental film. The beer drinkers, on the other hand, would be by the organic fair trade dips, comparing the relative authenticity of their own local micro-brews, wearing near-identical slouchy beanies and flannels. Eventually one might pull out a ukulele and play an ironic cover of a rap song, as the others chortle into their glasses and laugh at anyone who could be seen drinking a Bud Light.

“They tell you about the ‘bouquet’ or the ‘body’ of whatever fills their glass, calling it ‘cheeky’ or ‘robust’, and inevitably, disgustingly, gargling it in front of you for what feels like decades.”

These people embody the beer-versus-wine debate. It is one of time immemorial, dating back centuries, from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, when beer was a common everyday beverage and wine was reserved for special occasions (especially for Catholics—transubstantiation had to start somewhere). Both beverages go back about 7,000 years, so there’s no “first,” just as there is no clear “best.” And yet, because of these age-old differences in the style of their consumption, the two alcohols themselves seem to have vastly different reputations. Wine is classy, beer is casual. Wine is exotic, beer is local. Wine is expensive, beer is cheap.

However, these reputation discrepancies seem to be based more on surrounding culture than actual scientific fact. Wine is seen as more expensive, and while this can be true, expensive wines are only more common than expensive beers, and there is a wide price range for both. Perhaps the other differences come from the longstanding tradition of a US/Europe dichotomy, in which we are a country of frat boys chugging beer and TPing the dean’s house, and they are a continent of artists, constantly smoking, drinking, and maybe eating some cheese. Combined with the relative age of beer—most being very “young” at the time of consumption—versus the “aging like fine wine” phenomenon, you have two beverages that are quite literally the alcoholic version of “blue bloods” and “nouveau riche.” (Which means that there is a possibility that someone could write a version of Marx’s Das Kapital with beer and wine as stand-ins for the bourgeoisie and aristocrats… Would that make the proletariat moonshine? Get on it, academia.)

To make (what has the potential to be) a long story short: this beer vs. wine debate holds its roots in a classism that dates back to the Roman Empire, and it is not going away any time soon. So while you may roll your eyes at the wine snobs and think that the beer enthusiasts are just way too invested in hops to be anywhere close to normal, I think we can all agree that connoisseurs of both beer and wine can be equally annoying when you are just trying to get alcohol in your body at a party.

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