Rusty Sly: Interpretations of Alcohol (Next Grape of the Night – GOTN – is tonight at Valencia Wine Co., 7pm)

I have heard many comments on my passion over the years and would like to get comments from our readers.  It is no secret that I truly enjoy fine wines, beer, scotch, etc.  The caveat for me personally is the word “fine”.  I think that we can all agree that there are different types of drinkers when we talk about alcohol.  Those that drink for effect and those that drink for true enjoyment or appreciation.

I have been questioned and even teased by friends and colleagues on the fact that I have no problem spending what they consider too much for a bottle of wine.  My passion is trying new and unique wines independent of the price.  Yes, there are some that are expensive but not all.  

My passion for learning and trying many wines was one of the reasons for starting Grape of the Night (GOTN).  Here is what I consider a wine lovers ultimate wine flight.  Multiple bottles of wines chosen with care and passion by various attendees to share and discuss.  

The last GOTN was very interesting as it allowed me to see what people really like and enjoy.  The topic was for everyone to bring their favorite wine or varietal and tell the group why it’s their favorite.  To my surprise, it was not dominated by Cabs.  There was a wide variety which even included a wine brought  from Four Brix Winery by the vintners themselves.  What a treat!  This was a great two hours of people sharing  their special wines and providing explanations on why it was special and unique to them.

Let’s look at the other side of alcohol enjoyment.  I have a very good friend who likes the flavor of micro brewed beers, but because of the higher alcohol content and filling effect chooses to drink only commercial beers such as Coors and Miller.  She says that she can drink a lot of these with little effect because of the low alcohol content.  This is one view.  This persons approach is to drink a very low alcoholic beverage to allow her to drink and socialize for many hours without  the immediate effect that would result if she were consuming drinks with higher alcohol content.  This is social drinking.

Then there are others that only drink to escape for a multitude of reasons.  These people generally do not have quality in mind and keep expense to a minimum.  They are looking for immediate effect cheaply.

However, for the people that are looking for an alcoholic drink that does not inebriate them after drinking many, there are great alcoholic beverages that have been designed for this purpose.  For example, look at French and Italian wines with their low alcohol content. The French and Italians are known for having a glass of wine during most of their meals.  This can only be done with low alcohol wines.  

What about the Belgians and their farmhouse ales?  The Belgians produced these beers for the farm hands.  They were low in alcohol and were designed to quench the thirst of the workers without intoxicating them to the point that they could not work.  

Unfortunately, microbrewers have taken these beers to a much higher alcohol level than originally intended.  The English also produce a very flavorful low alcohol beer known as “Milds”.  These were malty beers with great body but without the high alcohol content.  Many are less than 4% ABV.  These types of low alcoholic beers are known as “Session Beers”.

Beer Advocate defines a Session Beer as, “Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yes, you can drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk.).”

As most of us know, there are different ways of enjoying alcoholic beverages.  For me, I love to sip and savor my wines, beers, etc taking note of the fine aromatics and changes in taste over time.  Yes, I may finish only one glass of wine or beer to someone else’s two, but that’s fine.  

For people that want to consume a lot of alcoholic beverages, there are wines and beers that are specifically designed for them and still provide a phenomenal taste.  I doubt that I could ever get where my choice would be a Coors or a Miller, but if that’s what you enjoy then I raise my glass to you.  The key word here is to ENJOY.


Rusty Sly