San Diego CityBeat

Beer and wine meet for the ultimate grudge match
An annual pairing dinner casts the deciding vote
By Ian Cheesman

Monday, Dec 05, 2011

Beer is a young upstart in culinary circles relative to wine. It’s a convention that the Stone Brewing rabble-rousers happily challenge with their annual Beer vs. Wine dinners at the posh El Bizcocho restaurant. They pit professionally selected beers and wines against five courses for diners to judge which is the ultimate pairing. The four previous cage fights split victories evenly, meaning I was party to judging the gustatory rubber match. Here’s my play by play:

First Course: Roasted Garden Beet Salad: I figured Raymond Vineyard’s (RV) Sauvignon Blanc had this in the bag, but its acidity was a bit much for the beets. Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA, however, introduced a spice and citrus component that pleasantly softened and nuanced the course. Beer 1, wine 0

Second Course: Hamachi “Fish ‘n Chips”: Iron Fist Brewery’s Spice of Life overwhelmed the delicately flavored hamachi en croute in a way that the Sonoma Cuvee Chardonnay’s lemon and pear notes did not. As much as it pains me: Beer 1, wine 1

(Exciting!)

Third Course: Sonoma Duck Breast: I enjoyed how Raymond Vineyard’s No. 3 Field Blend cut the Brussels sprouts’ bitterness, but Lost Abbey’s Lost & Found triumphed by deliciously layering raisin and fig notes on the simple preparation of duck. Beer 2, wine 1

Fourth Course: Short Rib en Sous Vide: While I appreciate not shellacking short rib with a demi-glace, it provided Raymond’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon a familiar flavor vacuum to exploit. Even St. Bernardus Abt 12’s warm, malty counterpoint to the earthy meat couldn’t compete. Beer 2, wine 2

(Nail-biter!)

Fifth Course: Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta: I presupposed the raisin and apricot from the Sauternes would crush this pairing, tipping my decision toward wine and casting me as a pariah in the beer community. Thankfully, the spicy, floral counterpoints from Alesmith’s Horny Devil really surprised and refreshed. Beer 3, wine 2.

Overall, 251 out of 461 votes crowned beer as the new champion of fine-dining refreshment. I don’t care if you disagree—it’s science now. Wine could not be reached for comment.