“It Takes a Lot of Good Beer to Make Great Wine”


You may have heard the saying before: “It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine.” There are other variations to that statement like, “It takes a lot of beer to make good wine,” but I prefer the first one. After hearing this statement recently, I decided to find out if it was true in the state of Texas by asking some noted winemakers and viticulturists.

Update: Kim McPherson from McPherson Cellars sent his beer preferences.

The questions I decided to ask were simply:

  1. Do you drink beer?
  2. If you drink beer, which ones do you drink?
  3. When is the best time to enjoy a beer?

I received replies from the following 12 13 experts in their field (listed alphabetically by last name):

I did ask one additional question which I soon learned what the correct answer should be because of the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) and now I know more about the winery business. The question was if they drank beer while making wine. Raymond Haak answered, “Absolutely not! It is against state law to have any alcohol on a bonded winery premise other than wine alcohol.”

There were some interesting replies instead of a simple “yes” to the first question if they drank beer. Don Pullum didn’t really say yes or no, but implied it by saying, “Beer is a fine beverage.” Todd Webster did reply directly by saying, “Yes and lots of it.” Jim Evans had the most original reply with, “I do drink beer, but only on days that end in ‘y’.”

Now that we know there are beer drinkers in the Texas wine industry, the question is what kind of beer do they drink. Here are the brands and types that were mentioned:

  • Paul Bonarrigo: “I do not drink any alcoholic beverage on a regular basis except for wine.   The occasional beer is a Porter.”
  • Jason Centanni: “I steer towards craft brews and/or locally made brews. Shiner and Saint Arnold are my go-to but lately I’ve been really liking Redhook Ale, especially their lager.”
  • Les Constable: “Ales and stouts. Boddingtons Pub Ale.”
  • Jim Evans: “I like Coors Original, Coors Light, Shiner Bock, Shiner Ruby Redbird, Bud Light Lime, Corona, Negra Modelo, Tecate, etc. But I do NOT like Root Beer.”
  • Gary Gilstrap: “Light beers of any kind. Michelob Ultra is my favorite.”
  • Raymond Haak: “I like light beer, low calories, yet occasionally I like Shiner Bock, which is a big bracing beer! I guess you can call it a need for change on occasion.”
  • Jim Johnson: “Shiner Bock, Firemans #4 Blonde Ale, Miller Lite, Montana Trout Slayer, and whatever else I can find that looks interesting. I’m not that fond of beers with the ‘over the top hop’ treatment with Trout Slayer being about as aggressively hopped a beer as I really like. I like that malty creaminess and just like wines, I look for a balance of hop and malt.”
  • David Kuhlken: “Independence Stash IPA, Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA, (512) IPA, and anything from Austin Beerworks.  If I had to go for a favorite, it would probably be Buckethead.”
  • Seth Martin: “Usually Dos Equis when I do imbibe. Also craft beers from time to time.”
  • Don Pullum: “Like wine, I drink many different kinds of beer, from pale lager to imperial stout. I tend to look for small producers or small product lines from larger producers. Of course, I like to drink local, so I’ll drop in on Fredericksburg Brewing Company for an Enchanted Rock Red Ale.”
  • John Rivenburgh: “I have several, but during harvest time I enjoy one of two beers. Bohemia being my first choice and Lone Star being my second and most consumed.”
  • Todd Webster: “I would say I drink Miller Lite the most, but I will alternate with Texas beers, mainly Shiner Bock, but it just depends on the selection where I am buying. I will try any beer once. A new brewery is being built not too far from my house, Revolver Brewing, so I can’t wait to be drinking some of theirs.”
  • Kim McPherson: “The boys and I both drink beer. Favorites are Modelo, Tecate, and Dos Equis.”

Shiner Beer

So when is the best time to enjoy a beer? They said:

  • Jason Centanni: “After a hard day’s work at my favorite establishment!”
  • Les Constable: “When you want it.”
  • Jim Evans: “The best time to enjoy a beer is when you’ve worked up a sweat working in the yard, or even thought about working up a sweat. Also watching the sun set with a bag of chips and some homemade hot sauce. Thinking about all the logistics of harvest makes me thirsty for a beer. Standing around a cookfire with a bunch of friends telling a new variation of the same story you’ve told a hundred times is another good time. When harvest is over, it’s time to celebrate with a beer (or 2, or 3…).”
  • Gary Gilstrap: “At the end of work load after cleaning up, but not in the winery.”
  • Raymond Haak: “Sporting events, either live or watching on TV.”
  • Jim Johnson: “When I did my first crush at Iron Horse Vineyards in 1990, the tradition was that we could have a keg available as long as we were receiving grapes and it was understood that after the last shipment of grapes was received we lost our keg privileges.  Thus the day before the last shipment, our challenge was to finish the keg we had and get a fresh one on the last day and to make that one last a while. Beer of choice at Iron Horse was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it was consumed only at the end of the working day (off the clock) as a reward for all our hard work. We cellar rats had standards and did not abuse the privilege in any way.”
  • David Kuhlken: “After a day of making wine of course.”
  • Seth Martin: “In the mountains after skiing and also after mowing the lawn. Lastly, after a day of bird netting.”
  • Don Pullum: “‘Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” (Sung in a chesty bosso profondo voice.) Some really great limited production beer, like wheat and fruit beer show up in the summertime. This summer, I’m drinking Shiner Ruby Redbird or Shiner Hefeweizen.”
  • John Rivenburgh: “I would say when work is done. I’m a firm believer in work first, play second. Dropping, spilling, or killing someone or some wine are not on my to-do list during harvest.”
  • Todd Webster: “I would love to have one ASAP once we are done at the winery. I commute 75 miles (1.5 hours) each way so I don’t open a beer until I get home.”
  • Kim McPherson: “After work and we have cleaned up the winery, but not at the winery.”

I also told them they could include any other comments about beer they thought Texas wine consumers would enjoy reading. Gary Gilstrap added, “I do enjoy wine, but when it’s hot, a cold beer is refreshing.” Les Constable said, “Texas wineries would like to be able to serve beer and make it for that matter, but that is not currently legal.”

So there we have it. I think we can conclude that “it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine” especially in Texas. And like lovers of wine enjoying Texas wine, the majority of those in the wine industry also drink Texas beer.

David Kuhlken finished with the definitive statement, “Drink local. Not because you should, but because it’s good!”


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