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Video: The Beer Nut: Equal rights movement

Norman Miller

One of my biggest pet peeves (at least, when it comes to alcohol) is how much time a restaurant will put into developing a wonderful wine list relative to the apparent neglect shown to its beer choices.

Like wine, beer can enhance the flavor of many foods and make your dining experience much more enjoyable.

However, when most restaurants limit your choices to the typical trio of Budweiser, Miller and Coors, with maybe a Guinness or Sam Adams for good measure, it's hard to argue that beer's not being treated as a second-class beverage.

This is not a rant against wine. I love wine. Malbecs are my favorite reds, while heavily oaked chardonnays are my favorite whites, but I think beer should be given equal billing on the dinner table.

So, this week I decided it was time to prove that beer and wine are both essential to culinary pleasure.

Inspired by a book I wrote a column about this spring, "He Said Beer, She Said Wine," by Sam Calagione and Marnie Old (find the story online at www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x2101591314), I decided to take part in a beer vs. wine dinner.

My friend former Daily News staffer and Dedham Selectman Sarah MacDonald hosted and prepared the meal, while I supplied the beer. Friend Karen Fish, who works as a wine consultant, selected the wine.

I asked Karen to participate because, as I'm a Beer Nut who likes wine, she's a wine connoisseur who likes beer.

Then, we had a group of nine to 10 people (one person showed up late), who were to taste each beverage with each dish, and vote on which drink went better with the dish.

The voters (Karen and I did not vote) were not to vote on whether they like wine or beer better, but strictly on the pairing.

The first course was a cheese plate. I knew this would be a wild card because I didn't know which cheeses were going to be sampled before I bought the beer.

The cheeses were sharp cheddar, Danish blue cheese, smoked gouda and brie.

For the beer, I selected Anchor Brewing's Old Foghorn, an English-style barley wine. I thought the malt sweetness would balance nicely with several different cheeses, and the slight hop bitterness would help with stronger cheeses, such as a cheddar. The slight fruity notes, I thought, would go well with a soft cheese, such as brie, if it was chosen.

Karen selected a 20 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon, which was my favorite wine of the day.

The wine won out, 5 votes to 4.

The next dish was salad made with romaine lettuce, spinach, bacon and eggs, and topped with a shallot vinaigrette.

My choice was a Weinhenstephaner Hefeweizen, a wheat beer from Germany (and my all-time favorite wheat beer). This was an easy choice for me. It's light, refreshing and the slight banana and clove notes produced by the yeast work well with salads, bacon and eggs. Mixing them together, I thought, would be perfect.

Karen, on the other hand, countered with a Spanish Dolcetto, a red wine that uses dolcetto grapes.

Once I tasted the wine, I knew I would win this one. It wasn't a good pairing, and Karen agreed.

The beer won, 5-3. Two ballots were missing, for some reason, proving this was not a perfect test.

I went in very confident for the main course: penne pasta with homemade spinach pesto and Italian sausages.

I chose Duvel, one of the most well-known beers from Belgium. Belgian brewers take beer and food seriously, and this strong golden ale, I knew, would have enough flavor to cut through the garlic of the pesto and go well with the spiciness of the sausage.

Karen countered with a white wine, a chenin blanc. Another solid choice, but I thought it was too sweet with the meal.

The voters agreed, giving the beer a 5-4 victory. Again, one ballot was missing.

The final course was the dessert carrot cake cupcakes with a sweet cream cheese frosting.

This is one dish I had no idea about. I haven't had carrot cake for years because I never liked it.

So, I chose the pairing blind, and I picked a Cape Ann Brewing Company's Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout. This Gloucester beer is one of my favorite Bay State beers, and I figured the spices used in the beer, plus the slight coffee-like roastiness and chocolate flavors would go well with dessert.

Karen picked a Riesling ice wine. I didn't have a chance to try this because of the limited amount, so I let the voters drink it. I am not a fan of ice wines, because I find them overly sweet.

Wine won this course, 6-3, surprising me. I actually thought the pumpkin stout went perfectly with the carrot cake, but the voters did not agree. Again, for some reason, a ballot was missing.

So, beer and wine each won two courses, and in total votes, Karen's wine beat my beer, 18-17, with four total ballots missing.

I call this a success this wasn't about proving which was better, but rather that beer and wine deserve equal respect. I think this little experiment proved that.

On a good note, no violence occurred, although both Karen and I shed blood by the end of the night. I slammed my finger in the door bringing in a box of beer, while she cut her hand on a broken beer bottle.

Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail nmiller@cnc.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog athttp://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.