First up -- Beer Man's Take -- Evan Benn of Hip Hops
"I'll happily claim victory in our Beer vs. Wine Smackdown, but I'll also humbly admit that it was too close for comfort. Even I voted for wine in two out of the four rounds, and most of our guests were split, too. The final breakdown: Wine won Round 1 (by a landslide), beer took Rounds 2 and 3, and Round 4 was a dead tie.
Round 1: Orzo salad with tomatoes, basil and feta. I tried to "out-wine" Aaron by serving a beer aged in used chardonnay barrels, Nebraska Apricot Au Poivre. I thought the creamy, oaky elements from the wood aging would complement the pasta and feta. And I figured the beer's subtle apricot and black pepper would be icing on the cake to take this round. Instead, Aaron's straightforward sauvignon blanc, with its bright, grassy flavors, proved to be a better match. Bad start for beer. Onward and upward.
Round 2: Duck confit, sour cherry jam, Baetje goat cheese. Aaron snubbed his nose when I described New Belgium Cocoa Mole to the group: ancho, chipotle and guajillo peppers, plus cocoa. "I prefer beer-flavored beers," he said. As I'd hoped, this beer was absolutely perfect with this dish -- the smoky chipotle played off the duck meat, and the beer's cocoa tempered the sour tang of the cherry jam. Aaron reluctantly acknowledged that, while he'd rather prefer to drink his Cotes du Rhones over the beer on its own, Cocoa Mole was a better pairing with this food. Beer ties it up.
Round 3: Jones Heritage beer brats. Was Aaron setting himself up for disaster here, or did he seriously think he could find a wine that would out-pair beer with beer brats? Using the adage "What grows together goes together," I choose a Southern Missouri beer -- Charleville Hoptimistic IPA -- to go with these brats made from Southern Missouri hogs. The beer's juicy, citrusy flavors were as assertive as I'd hoped, but, as Aaron astutely pointed out, they were almost too similar to the big beer character of the brats. I scored this one in favor of Aaron's cab franc-syrah-merlot blend, which was both jammy and acidic, bringing out the best of the brats, and vice versa. I was lucky guests voted in favor of the beer here. It was close.
Round 4: Cheese plate. The funky, barnyardy elements of Green Flash Rayon Vert, a Belgian-style pale ale fermented with wild Brettanomyces yeast, are absolutely perfect with so many farmhouse-style cheeses. It was an ideal match with the Roarin' 40s blue cheese on the plate. Aaron probably could have won this round outright if he had selected a dry sparkling wine, but I guess he figured that'd be too easy. So he went with a red wine that contained 2 percent white viognier grapes. Nice wine. I thought beer won this by a mile, but our guests' split votes disagreed.
Aaron and his wines were admirable competitors. His food choices -- and cooking -- were impressives. As soon as he says the word, I'm ready for a rematch."
-Evan S. Benn
Second up - Wine Man's Take - Aaron Zwicker - The Wine and Cheese Place Forsyth
"Heading into my first Beer vs. Wine event I knew I had my work cut our for me, sure I was making/choosing the food and lets be honest wine does pair better with food but I was up against Evan Benn and the ever growing popularity of beer in general and craft brews in particular. The results were illuminating, beer did win, but wine faired a lot better than expected and for that I credit the open mindedness of both the audience and my competition. Judging by the faces I recognized and the number of people following Evan on twitter this was a “beer” crowd for sure. But, it did became clear that everyone was there to taste the food, the wine, the beer and truly decide which made the most sense for themselves rather than which seemed the more popular or obvious pairing.
Throughout the tasting I was constantly reminded that I was there not only as a presenter but also as a participant and in so much for the first time able to formalize the idea that beer was not just for drinking while making dinner but in fact a complex match for dinner itself. But did that mean I was a convert, did that mean I also felt beer would/should win the “smackdown”? No I enjoyed the wine more than the beer and as Evan will tell you I was constantly looking for a “beer flavored beer”, but like everyone else I as happy to challenge my prejudice and taste the beer and wine with the food and do my best to decide which I truly felt made the best pair."