An Age Old Dilemma: What Is Better, Beer or Whiskey?


We talk a lot about beer and whiskey on this site, and we extol the virtues of each one.  The virtues are many, and every once in a while I get a clunker that is used to clean the drain in the sink, but mostly these two beverages are sweet and wonderful.  It got me to thinking…Which one is better?

Now I know intrinsically it is like comparing apples and race cars but when we break it down a legitimate comparison can be made.  First both need an outstanding source of water.  It is no accident that California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington have so many great breweries.  They have great water that is the backbone of great beer.  Same too with whiskey, but a little different.  Whiskey needs purified water that is devoid of most minerals.  That is why so many whiskeys are distilled in Kentucky.  This is America’s largest concentration of naturally occurring water that flows over limestone, creating a water that is naturally pure and devoid of the minerals that can compromise the flavor of a whiskey.  Of course we can now make this water anywhere, so we are seeing the trend of micro-distilleries cropping up all across the country…

Then there is the grain.  Beer uses barley mostly, where Whiskey uses very little barley, and leans heavily on Corn and Rye or Wheat.  Now Rye and Wheat can also be found in some beers, and it makes for an interesting flavor combination, but they aren’t primary ingredients like they are in Whiskey.  However it can legitimately be said that they are both made with grains.

Finally there is the yeast.  Both beverages need those little critters to do their thing during fermentation to create the alcohol that flavors the beverage and gives it that buzz factor we all enjoy.

So which one takes the checkered flag here?  Beer is a very diverse beverage by comparison to Whiskey.  Whiskey has several flavor variations be they scotch, Irish or Bourbon, but there is no way they are as diverse as beer.  That said, the distilling process of whiskey makes it have that heat and sweetness that is just amazing.

I think you all know where I stand, and that Whiskey will get my vote, but Beer is a very close second, and the variety and the affordability of beer make it a great everyday beverage.  I can drink Whiskey everyday too, but without the exploration that can be done on a daily basis with beer.

So what do you think?  Is beer better, or does whiskey get your vote?  If you were on an island and could only have one drink, what would it be?  Like I said I’m going whiskey, but I’m interested to hear where you land.  Let us know in the comments.



Categories: Beer, Lifestyle, Whiskey

Join the Madness

Like beer? Like whiskey? Like goofing off? Follow Us!

35 Comments on “An Age Old Dilemma: What Is Better, Beer or Whiskey?”

  1. October 13, 2010 at 11:48 am #



    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 11:49 am #

      At least you are transparent.

  2. Rob Crozier
    October 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    For me, its beer. I do enjoy a whiskey from time to time but beer offers a wide variety of tastes and flavors that a glass of whiskey does not.

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

      True, but I would say you need to do some more whiskey exploration. There are tons of varieties and tastes. Not as varied, but equally interesting.

  3. David
    October 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Beer. But to be fair, I haven’t had that many whiskeys. And when I do, I like a splash of coke in there, which is probably sacraligious to Whiskey Nerds.

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

      Drink what you like. This is actually how I got into whiskey. First it was Whiskey Sours, then Whiskey coke, then double whiskey coke, then whiskey on the rocks, then whiskey neat. It is a progression. One thing that helps is finding good flavorful whiskey. I suggested several in my top 5 whiskey’s for noobs post.

  4. David
    October 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    By the way, can someone recommmend a good bourbon that won’t break the bank? Like, under $40.

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

      David, there are dozens that fit that bill. Take a look at my Whiskey for Noobs post. You will find several in there. Here’s a link..

      • David
        October 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

        I will say, I recently ripped through a bottle of Old Grand Dad 114 and loved it. I was camping and the weekend was hazy, but oh boy was that good…..

        • Don
          October 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

          Yes, OGD 114 is very good, but as far as 114 proof bourbons go I’ll take Noah’s Mill every time over OGD. That said they are both good.

    • Mike
      October 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Maker’s Mark is one of my go to bourbons; it’s pretty classic with a hint of sweetness. Maker’s Mark 46 is a great new version with a lot of wood (more expensive though). Wild Turkey has a bit of fire to it if you like that. I also like Knob Creek & Woodford Reserve, but they are slightly more expensive I believe.

      • Don
        October 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

        I’m not a fan of Makers Mark. It is all heat and little flavor IMO. Now Maker’s 46 on the other hand is a great improvement and one I truly enjoy.

  5. October 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    Hmmm … I’m going with beer. I like a nice glass of Bourbon in the evening once and a while, especially after a trying day. But craft beer is my go-to beverage. Also, I don’t generally drink Bourbon with meals, and I do enjoy a good meal and craft beer pairing. Hopefully there’s food on this island. If there’s food and beer, I’m good.

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

      Well Chad with a handle like @Beerpoet, I would expect nothing less. Whiskey can pair quite well with food too, as well as in sauces and marinades. Lots to do with whiskey too.

  6. Evan
    October 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    Definitely beer for me… But I think that they’re so different in experience that you can’t say one’s better than the other.

    • Evan
      October 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

      But I am quite excited about the new microdistillery just a few miles away. Can’t wait to try their stuff!

      • Don
        October 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

        You’re very lucky to have one so close. I wish I had a Whiskey Micro somewhere close by, but only vodka and Brandy.

      • Evan
        October 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

        Just one more reason to head out this way some time!

        • Don
          October 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

          You can plan on it. It will happen soon. Probably around the first of the year. I’d love to hang out with you and your new bride for an evening pub crawl. I’ll keep you posted.

      • Evan
        October 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

        Sounds grand!

  7. Jeff Schwartz
    October 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    this is a tough call and one I hope to never have to make – but on an island I am going with beer.

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

      C’mon Jeff, I know you are a wine guy. All you need is a supply of grapes. 😉 Beer works from a refreshment standpoint, but I figure if I am trapped on an island, I pretty much want to be blotto all the time. Whiskey it is!

  8. October 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I’m not surprised that beer is running away. We live in a society of instant gratification and even beers that take longer (it’s a whole 90 minutes IPA, which i do love) Whiskey takes time and patience. If a distiller wants to plan a new whiskey he’s thinking 5 years down the road minimum. And then if it sucks (Woodford Reserves Cutrer finish) That’s a lot of time and investment for an oops! Make mine Whiskey preferably bourbon (Black Maple Hill at present) but not to exclude the fine Irish, Scottish and the rare Canadian as well. I follow it gladly with a fine beer chaser. Together they make a fine marriage indeed. Of course the hangover to follow is a blog post all it’s own

    • Don
      October 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

      Amen John…Amen!

  9. October 13, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Don – you know my answer…….Whiskey!

    • Don
      October 14, 2010 at 10:10 am #

      Good choice! I knew someone that refers to themselves as the bourbondork would choose whiskey. As you can imagine I echo your decision.

  10. October 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    I love beer more and more every day as my knowledge of this fine elixir grows, but if we’re talking about a desert island decision, keep in mind that there will be no refrigeration. Whisk(e)y all the way! And if I need to varrow my choices, I’m going with Knob Creek for my bourbon selection, Red Breast as my Irish selection, and Talisker 10 as my Single Malt Scotch selection.

    Peace Yo!

    • Don
      October 14, 2010 at 10:09 am #

      Well, G-Lo you bring up a good point about the refrigeration. However I think most people have thought about it as there was an unlimited supply of electricity, because Beer is in a serious lead. However I share your thoughts on whiskey too.

      Peace out.

  11. Mark S.
    October 14, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Beer all the way, just for the diversity and being able to drink several different varieties in one sitting (hard liquor hits me hard – yes, I’m turning into a lightweight in my old age).

    And given that I have yet to find a whiskey that doesn’t make my throat feel like it’s simultaneously burning and closing when I drink it, I’d again have to go with beer.

    So that’s two votes!


    • Don
      October 14, 2010 at 11:53 am #

      OK Mark, i buy the beer over whiskey. Cool. But this problem of burning throat might be two fold. One you might have not found the right whiskey and two you might be drinking it wrong. Whiskey is meant to be sipped. When you drink it you should take some into your mouth, swirl it around a little bit, let is coat your palate, then gently swallow it slowly. This allows the flavor to get out and into your palate, and should eliviate the burning sensation in your throat. You might also consider throwing in an ice cube or two to cool the whiskey before you drink it.

      One other suggestion is trying a different whiskey. I would suggest Old Weller Antique. This whiskey is made with wheat which makes it softer and it has a more subtle finish to it. It is very sweet and palatable. Give that a try too. I’m confident we can fix this drinking problem of yours. Give this a try and report back.

  12. October 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    I go with beer because my experience with whiskey is limited to Crown Royal. So, my simple question for you is, if you had to recommend one whiskey in the $20-$30 range for a newbie to try, what would it be and why? I know a little about scotch, but haven’t ventured into the realm of distilled spirits because if I go nuts for spirits like I go nuts for craft beer then I’ll be homeless and single.

    • October 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

      Here’s my 2 cents…

      Good Single Malt Scotch in the $20-30 range is tough to come by.Stepping up to the $30-40 range will get you a 12 year old Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. Both are an excellent value. Bourbon and other American whiskies will be more readily available in the $20-30 range. Eagle Rare 10, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel, and a few others would be great choices. If you want to try something really different, go for Bernheim’s Wheat Whisky. Very smooth and flavorful!

    • Don
      October 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

      OK Matt, two recommendations. First is Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star. It is a 90 proof bourbon and it is only $14 a fifth here in Idaho. Very affordable and very good! It is a Rye style bourbon and has a great flavor profile. Make sure you get the 10 Star version. The Ancient Ancient Age (without the 10 stars) is an 80 proof mediocre spirit. Then get a bottle of Old Weller Antique. It is a 107 proof bourbon but instead of Rye it is made from Wheat. This makes for a softer more supple finish and even though it is high proof it is very smooth and easy to drink. This one will run you about $24. Both are great and both are very accessible.

      • October 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

        Thanks! Can I crash with you when I’m homeless and single?

        • Don
          October 15, 2010 at 10:21 am #

          Well Matt, if you were on the east coast, I’d say sure…because I understand the likelihood of that ever happening is minute. However, Living in Sacramento, you are a reasonable one day drive from me in Boise, and even closer to my home in Marsing…so I’m gonna say “Moderation” is your friend! Embrace it and enjoy some whiskey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: