Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why Even Keep Up The Pretenses

May 2008 BusinessWatch MagazineAre you excited? The latest Dane County BusinessWatch magazine is out! I know, as a beer geek you've been waiting all year for this issue. It's the issue where this bastion of fine business journalism looks at the "Best brews for BBQs. ... wines, too!" Don't forget the wines.

Well, imagine the shock, horror and amazement you would feel when you actually turned to page 31, to find ... this: (my comments in black)
Best Brews
for BBQs Wines too!
By Michael Muckian

Summertime, and the grilling is easy. Brats are jumping, and the temperature’s high. But what wines and beers go best with grilled meats? The answer often depends on what you’re preparing and for whom.

Wait a minute, now it's "wine and beer." What happened to "best beers" (and wines, too)? But still, the brats are jumping and the temperature's high. Perfect for an ice cold Capital US Pale Ale? A New Glarus Edel Pils? A Tyranena Three Beaches Honey Blonde? Heck, maybe a Furthermore Proper, a Central Waters IPA, or any of the dozens and dozens of Wisconsin summertime beers.

Grilled meats — burgers, brats, tuna steaks, hot dogs and ribs — appear either naked on the grill or dressed in tangy, sticky barbecue sauce that can alter the entrée’s flavor palette, dictating which beverages best match it.


Sometimes it’s best to check with the experts before popping the wrong cork or twisting an incorrect cap.

Well, it's not always best to check with an expert first, but I understand what you're getting at.

“You want a wine that is imminently quaffable with a lower alcohol content,” says Craig Madigan, a registered first-level sommelier and general manager of Johnny Delmonico’s, the downtown Madison steakhouse. “A red wine with 14.5 percent alcohol level or more is too ‘hot’ for hot weather. Go with something lower in alcohol and more refreshing in character.”

I thought this was about beer (and wine, too)? This is starting to sound like it's more about wine. Moreover, it doesn't look like this "expert" would know a good, Wisconsin beer if it came gift wrapped. There's only three Wisconsin beers on the Delmonico's "Wine List" - Fauerbach Amber, Capital Amber, and Miller Mother-f'ing Lite. Now, I'm not slamming Fauerbach or Capital, they make fine beer, but, come on - Capital Amber?! This is a beer list chosen by a distributor, not by someone who knows anything about beer. I'm sure Mr. Madigan knows everything there is to know about wine, and admittedly, that's what he's talking about here, but I thought this was an article about "Best brews for BBQ ... and wines, too"?

Madigan says reasonably priced younger wines best complement outdoor grilling fare, something fruit-forward in character and acceptable to a broader array of palates. He recommends the following wines:
• Roshambo Zinfandel (about $14), from California’s Sonoma Valley, is not your typical fullbodied “peppery” Zin. Characterized by jammy fruit flavors, the wine is brighter than other zins and easier on the palate and the pocketbook.
• Qupé Vineyards Syrah ($19) is a richer, fuller wine, but one with good fruit, serving as a fine match for grilled fare.
• For something completely different, go with a Furst Gewürztraminer ($12). Gewurz is German for “spicy,” and the white wine, produced in France’s Alsace region, is redolent of fresh apricots and spice, delivering flavors both refreshing and unique to the average American wine palate.

Setting aside the derogatory "average American wine palate" we have now had descriptions of three wines and not a single beer even mentioned.

If you plan on serving beer,

Oh, here we go. The article about beer and we finally get the "if you plan on serving beer" like "not that you'd want to, but if you're going to ..."


Because he's clearly so knowledgeable about beer

suggests Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. Lighter in body, but with a nice caramel malt flavor, the British brew stands up to anything your picnic table can support without weighing the drinker down.

For a high temperature summer barbecue you recommend a nut brown?! Not to say you're not entitled to your opinion, but this suggestion is absurd from a professional. Besides the obvious fact that it's one of the few beers that he actually serves, who the heck orders a Samuel Smith Nut Brown in the middle of August to drink with burgers and ribs? If you're saying to yourself "nobody," you'd be pretty darn close. No Tyranena Bitter Woman, Lakefront Cream City, Lake Louie Premium. No. Screw all of those. You want a Samuel Smith Nut Brown. Does Mr. Madigan get a commission on the stuff?

For Josh Foley, a second-level sommelier and bar manager for the Capitol Chophouse in the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace,

ummm ... I thought this was about beer (and wines too)? Why are we still talking to sommeliers? You couldn't find a single person knowledgeable about beer to help you? The score is now 3 wines to 1 beer. Let's see, maybe Mr. Foley knows something about beer, at least the Capitol Chophouse sells Ale Asylum.

it’s food first, beverage second. The meat is always the constant, Foley says, but variations in sauces will drive the wine and beer selection. Sauces range from tangy vinegar and tomato-based variety to mustard-infused marinades to Asian hoisin and teriyaki sauces, each of which commands its own approach and colors beverage choices. Foley suggest the following matches:

• Tomato-vinegar basted meats call for a bold red, like the Castello Banfi Brunello (about $40). The structure and balance of
the Italian red wine, made from the Sangiovese grape, helps tame the sauce’s character and stands up to its more strident elements.
• Lighter sauces demand brighter wines, such as Campo Viejo Riserva ($15), a Spanish red made from the Tempranillo grape with a buoyancy that pairs an inherent earthiness with hints of wild strawberry.
• A mixed-meat grill – burgers, brats and chicken breasts are popular– calls for a more well-rounded wine, such as the Zilzie Shiraz ($12) from Australia’s Victoria region. The lighter body and brighter fruit make the wine a hit with more drinkers.

That's three more wines and so far, only one poorly suggested beer. This is absurd. Why was "beer" even in the title to this article? If you can't do something right, don't do it at all. Clearly, these guys know a lot about wine. The descriptions are interesting, and seem appropriate for the food. But so far, the beer knowledge is, excuse the phrase, piss poor.

Smoked meats create their own flavor demands, says Foley. A bold Zin can help cut the taste on the palate,

seven wines

while on the beer side he suggests extending that palate with a German rauch (smoked) beer.

Rauch beers with smoked food is widely considered obvious and a big no-no amongst the beer-food-pairing cognoscenti. The double smoked whammy is usually just too much - save the smoked beers for creamy, but firm cheeses like gouda and strong, rustic, non-smoked, foods where the smokiness adds flavor to the meal instead of compounding the flavors. So, Mr. Foley doesn't seem to be of any more help than Mr. Madigan.

Dan Carey, brewmaster for New Glarus Brewing Co., created his own version with Smoke on the Porter, part of his “Unplugged” series that mixes rauch beer elements within the body of a dark British porter. “I like Smoke on the Porter because the smoke element is more mellow and understated,” Foley says.

Besides the fact that this was New Glarus' winter seasonal beer and will likely be off the shelves by the time the summer grilling season rolls around, who would drink a full-bodied smoked porter in late July?

Sorry, but this article does absolutely nothing to educate consumers on beer choices for summer barbecues. It covered seven wines, and two beers that best consumed in the fall! And it was billed as a beer article, remember? "Best brews for BBQ's ... wines, too!" But it was actually, "Best wines for BBQ and a couple of beers that you will really like in late October."

In the coming weeks, I promise you we will post some actually usefully information about beers that you might actually enjoy with that bbq. In the meantime, please, please do not take the advice of these sommeliers.


  1. Thanks for this response. I was thinking the same thing when I read the article. Can't wait to see your beer for bbq list.

  2. They didn't do a very good job highlighting Wisconsin Wineries. That would have been something more useful. I swear half-these wine articles sound like they were written by the same person. Highlight something unique and interesting...

    But they really dropped the ball on the beers. I look forward to your list as well.

  3. Cannot wait for your list as well! Article was complete and utter garbage, the publishers should be ashamed.

    As far as supporting Dane County (and other local county businesses) the article falls extremely flat, how could someone let this pass through the editing process?


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