BY NICOLE MANDALA
For most of us, when we think about Mother’s Day we don’t automatically think about beer. That’s territory reserved for that other parentally themed holiday, right? Sure, on Father’s Day you and the pops might go out for a brew to celebrate his awesomeness, but on Mother’s Day, its Sunday brunch, white tablecloths and your only pair of jeans without holes.
Times are a-changin’ though, friends, and its time we recognize that craft beer may have finally secured its seat at the grown up table. More and more fine dining restaurants are incorporating thoughtful, hand-picked beer lists into their drink menus, featuring local micro-brews right alongside famously exclusive wines and chic cocktails.
“There’s always a trend into more casual dining,” says Erich Schliebe, sommelier at L’Espalier in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. “Restaurants that offer really great food and a less pretentious atmosphere are leading the charge. We’re just following that trend.” Schliebe has worked to create a beer list that not only stands up to the food being served at his restaurant but that also stands as a challenge to a clientele intent on tasting some of the world’s finest wines.
“This is an experiment. But hopefully what I’m doing is eventually getting beer treated the same as wine,” he says.
It would appear that this newest phase of the craft beer revolution is right on schedule. Our generation of craft beer drinkers is finally learning what beer drinkers throughout history have known for a long time, which is that beer and wine aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. From brewing and fermentation methods, blending and aging to packaging, marketing and vintage releases, the beer world is starting to look more and more like the wine world.
Only fairly recently have American brewers and beer lovers begun to think and talk about the idea of ‘terrior’ in beer, that sense of place that conveys unique and regionally specific characteristics, a concept intrinsic to any discussion about wine.
But craft beer drinkers aren’t just getting fancier—we’re smarter too. Just like in recent foodie movements, the desire for more locally sourced, organic and artisinally produced ingredients in our beers is growing. For New England fine diners, this might mean that there is more truly local “fine” beer available than very high-end local wines to accompany their meals. “There is no wine history here,” Schliebe says, “but there has always been a great beer history. Westport Rivers [winery in Westport, MA] is blazing a trail for wine here, but the beer guys are continuing history—and a lot of them are avant-garde. I recently met a young local brewer [Ben Howe, assistant brewer at the Cambridge Brewing Co.] who is home-brewing some really great champagne beer. Brewers like that, I see their vision and I think that this is a really exciting place to be for beer.”
Fine food deserves fine beer. What could be better with seared diver scallops than a dry and peppery Saison? Or with oysters than a smoky Imperial Stout? This Mother’s Day, impress your mom by ordering a Belgian Tripel to go along with your citrus salad and show her that those days of Bud can and pizza box forts are far behind you—you’re fine boozin’ now.