Michael Gorton Jr. is a funeral director who writes about his “love affair” with wine at his aptly named blog, Undertaking Wine. Love affair or not, Michael decided to play the field and have a summer romance with craft beer. Unfortunately, this summer of love came to an abrupt end when he saw something at his local bottle shop that drove him right back into wine’s vinous embrace: A display of pumpkin beers.
To quote Michael:
I loath pumpkin beer. There is just not one I have tried that I like and I really cannot see spending money on such ales. But it’s not just Pumpkin beers, it’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin, cookies, pumpkin candles — just about anything that has the combination of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter.
While Michael will still drink an occasional stout or porter, it sounds like those pumpkin brews flipped his skeeve switch for good and he’ll mostly be steering clear of the beer aisle moving forward.
Michael’s flight from the craft beer world makes me wonder – are true wine geeks cut out for the world of craft beer? Or is there a purity of tradition that attracts folks like Michael to wine that makes it difficult for them to appreciate the crazy stuff craft brewers get up to? I honestly don’t have an answer here, as I have no interest in wine.
But I suspect that if you’re serious about wine, then you probably enjoy exploring the nuances found within a tight set of vinting parameters as opposed to the unbridled creativity found in craft beer. You want an interesting expression of the chardonnay style, not a vanilla bean coffee merlot or a bourbon barrel aged Shiraz (both of which I just made up and sound fabulous to me). Color however you like as long as it’s inside the lines, sort of like the wine version of the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law from the fifteenth century.
I think the Reinheitsgebot is awful, an outdated set of handcuffs fashioned to keep brewers from driving up the prices of wheat and rye by making it illegal to brew with anything but barley (which bakers didn’t need for bread), hops and water. While it helped keep beer’s bloodlines pure, it’s boring as hell.
America is a land of mutts, and this is reflected in our approach to craft beer. Our brewers mash up styles and experiment with ingredients with a rock ‘n roll, mad scientist ethos. This is one of the things I love about craft beer (besides, you know, the beer). Some of the beers produced here are amazing, and some of them are repellent (looking at you, sours), but all of the crazier ones embrace a spirit of creativity and a desire to explore the limits that I think is one of the best modern day embodiments of the American spirit you can find. If you don’t enjoy a certain type of beer (like pumpkin) there are several others you’re bound to love.
But then again, I’m a beer geek, not a wine nerd. The idea that any one variety of beer (or cheese, or wine, or chocolate, or gummy bears) would have me writing off an entire category of foodstuffs is crazy talk. I’ll write off a brewery that doesn’t brew to my tastes, but only after trying several of their beers…and invariably changing my mind after I finally have something I like from them, usually after writing a post about how much they suck – I know the nuances of crow like Ralphie knew the nuances of soap in A Christmas Story.
And for the record, Michael, they make pumpkin wine and, if we’re keeping score, it’s sparkling to boot! I hope you don’t see a display of these at Wine World. But if you do, hit up Don and he’ll introduce you to the world of whiskey – ain’t no pumpkins in that!