Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #41- Wine

It’s only fair, after touting the benefits of craft beer, that I include wine as a reason for happiness.  After all, I’ve been drinking wine for over 30 years and still enjoy stopping at wineries for tasting.

Wine has been produced for thousands of years. According to Wikipedia, the earliest evidence of wine is from ancient Georgia (6000 BC), Persia (5000 BC), and Italy (4000 BC).  New World wine has some connection to alcoholic beverages made by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but is mainly connected to the later Viking area of Vinland and Spanish traditions in New Spain.  We can thank Europeans for developing wine and the industry to what it is today, but it is produced in most countries in the world.

Like the world, the United States has also had a bit of a wine producing explosion, with states that don’t grow grapes well simply importing from those that do.  I was fortunate to live in the midst of the Washington State wine country when I first started to imbibe.  Back in the ‘80s there were almost 100 wineries in the Yakima Valley Wine Country, and let’s just say my home was Wine-Country-adjacent. I found most winery owners more than pleased to talk to visitors and many insisted on giving personal tours of their facilities.

Similar to most wine novices, I started drinking sweet wines, such as Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and blushes.  Over time, my taste changed and these began to taste as sweet as Kool-Aid.  I was ready to go dry.  Two years later, I was heavily into Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for whites and started delving into some red wines.  Soon I was drinking Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. I can no longer drink anything remotely sweet. And blends!  Those glorious red blends from Spain and Italy are wine nirvana.

What makes wine different from hard alcohol is the process and alcohol content.  Both use fermentation to convert sugar or starch to alcohol, but hard spirits like vodka, whiskey and rum add a distillery process.  Wine typically has a 9-16 percent alcohol content, while hard spirits are normally 28-60 percent, depending on the product.  Compare that to beer at 3-9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), and it is easy to see that beer and wine allow more beverage to be enjoyed before inebriation (if you can say “inebriation” aloud without stumbling over it, you probably aren’t experiencing it).

The medical and health benefits of drinking wine are numerous.  Studies have shown that compounds found in red wine tannins help promote cardiovascular health, and occupants of those regions of the world in which wine is part of the normal diet tend to live longer. Researchers in Spain found that adults who drank two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

Modest wine consumption, meaning one glass a day, may decrease the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  Wine’s antimicrobial effects on the skin also helps reduce bacteria on our teeth.  There are many studies suggesting that the risks of various cancers are reduced by consuming red wine.

Aside from wine’s health benefits, it also provides you with various social benefits.  It can boost one’s confidence and help overcome shyness.  Being drunk is an anti-social behavior, so I am discussing wine in moderation.  Similarly, drinking wine in social settings can help you connect with others and expose you to different people and places than you are used to.  Wine itself can be a conversation starter and many friendships have developed over the love of wine.

What candlelit dinner is complete without wine or a celebration without champaign?  Wine has been used in romance and ceremony for as long as wine has been produced.  Wine and nature go hand-in-hand, just as wine and travel enhance each other.

Another great thing about wine is its effect on the taste of food.  There is a reason there are suggested wine pairings for most of the meals you enjoy.  Red wine tends to cleanse the palate between bites of beef or pasta, while tones of white wines can enhance the flavor of poultry and pork dishes.  For every food offering, a perfect wine variety can be found to maximize the enjoyment of its consumption.

The advent of craft beer has crept into what was once wine’s sole environment, but it is not a total social replacement.  There are times I want beer, for example, in long nights of sports viewing or playing, since the alcohol content can dictate the duration of the entertainment.  But wine is still my go-to drink for feast and cheer.  I rarely drink hard alcohol, which usually makes for short nights, and sipping my wine is much more pleasurable than downing shots.

All told, wine is a luxury in which everyone can indulge, and with the wide range of flavors and sweetness, there is a wine for almost everybody and every occasion.


To complete the discussion, I’ll include the shortest quote I’ve used thus far.  Nineteenth-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Wine is bottled poetry.”  I just can’t argue the point.

Read Full Post »

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #10- Craft Beer

They used to call me a wine snob, but I didn’t think of myself that way.  There weren’t many wines I wouldn’t drink, only the sweetest whites or dessert wines.  I had spent considerable time in wine country, both in Washington State and New York State, and I picked up a few things, right?  I never liked beer and it even took a while for me to acquire a taste for wine.

Back in my karaoke days, I became aware of how blood alcohol content testing can affect someone’s life.  I was naturally reticent to drink more than two glasses of wine in an evening before driving home, and shots of any hard alcohol were out of the question.  But I was still thirsty and was forced to drink water to finish out the night.  Water was not great for vocal cords, at least not mine, and wasn’t exactly tasty.

I began playing in traveling pool leagues where the beer was always flowing in whatever bar we were playing.  Wine, not so much.  I still had the issue of driving after drinking wine anyway, so I made the decision to try to attain a taste of beer, at least enough to drink with friends.  I planned my assault on the project, deciding to start with apple ales, then graduate to light beer with lime before tasting a wider variety.  The first couple of apple ales tasted good but were far too sweet and I quickly jumped to light beer, first with lime, then without.  After a few weeks of Bud Light, I was unsure how to widen my horizon.  Enter craft breweries.

I don’t remember which microbrewery I tried but I tasted a few brews with mixed success.  One weekend I was camping with our RV group in Colorado and my brother had joined us.  Paul has always enjoyed beer and was happy to join me in a local brewery for samples.  I obviously knew about flights of wines but had been unaware that beers could be ordered that way as well, at least at larger brewpubs and at breweries themselves.  I tasted my first flight and began my beer adventures, determining what kind of beers I enjoy and which I dislike.

Just like with wine, where a novice may begin with a sweeter white wine like a Riesling and over time their tastes change, I found this to be the case with beer as well.  I immediately disliked IPAs with their hoppy taste and any ales with citrus taste, especially sour.

Congregating to drink beer can be beneficial to one’s life, according to Time Magazine.  “A recent study … found that having a regular watering hole helps improve social skills, which increases overall life satisfaction.  According to the study, people who patronized a local or community-type pub or bar had a wider support system of close friends, which also meant that they were more trusting of others and more engaged with the community than those who did not support a local bar.”

Here’s a quick rundown on the various beer styles:  Pale Lager and Pilsner, Dark Lager, German Bock, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Belgian-Style Ale, Wheat Beer, Porter, Stout, Wild & Sour Ale and Specialty Beer.  Within each are sub-categories, and unconventional or playful brewmeisters may mix styles or add their own unique signature and make a beer their own.  Thus, even experienced beer connoisseurs can find new and exciting brews in any of the 8,000+ micro-breweries in the U.S.  Even the big boys have joined the party, with major labels gobbling up many of the most popular craft breweries for their own lines.

I know many people who enjoy going into a large-volume liquor store or specialty beer outlet and spend afternoons mixing and matching cans, bottles, crawlers or growlers of the various makers of their favorite styles.  There are brewery snobs who will only purchase beer from a single micro-brewery.  I myself like to mix it up and will buy six-packs of different craft beers to take home.  But, for me, draft beer (“draught” for the purists) is so superior to canned or bottled beer that I make sports bars or breweries a destination whenever I can.  I am especially disappointed when I go out for dinner and the restaurant doesn’t have draft, or the only drafts they have are light beers. Sadly, the pandemic made having draft beers next to impossible.

After a few years of sampling and drinking beer, I find myself drawn to Dark Lagers, red and brown Ales, Belgium-style Ales, Bocks, dry Irish Stouts and, in a pinch, Blond Ales.  The one problem with traveling the country and visiting micro-breweries is that I will sometimes find a beer I love and can’t buy anywhere else.  That happened the last time we were in Maine, where I was drawn by a street full of bright red umbrellas at every restaurant, all with the same brewery’s name, and found myself at their walk-up bar. Their dark lager was the best I’ve ever had, even to this day, and haven’t found it anywhere outside of Maine.  I’m looking forward to my return!

So, long story short, I had an aversion beer, I taught myself to drink the beverage and now I love certain styles of beer, especially when made by craft breweries.  Like wine, there are so many varieties that one may never get bored having to stick to a certain style.  In this way, beer can do many things to make someone happy.  And, I only consumed 17.3 oz. of the stuff while writing this…


I’ll leave this discussion with a very astute quote from American author W. Bruce Cameron, who wrote, “I’ve read that the ancient Chinese art of feng shui can bring a sense of peace, well-being, and positive energy to a home – same as beer.

Read Full Post »