A Wine Lover Learns Beer

    How one oenophile dove into the local craft beer scene to discover there’s a lot to love—and how you can too.

    wine lover sips Colorado Springs craft beer
    Writer JL Fields sipping on Red Swingline from Trinity Brewing. Photo by Lou Graf, Milo Creative Studios

    In my 20s I was a Budweiser gal. What can I say? It was the beer of choice for my Monsignor Murphy’s dart team, and I’m a team player. In my 30s, I decided it was time to cultivate my adult beverage palate and learn to like—hopefully love—wine. Starting with spritzers (the Bud of vino?) I moved onward and upward. I learned how to pair food with wine. I discovered how to determine what grape delivered a warmth in the winter and which bubbly cooled the most flavorfully in the summer. I took wine trips, from Napa and Sonoma Valley in California to the Finger Lakes in New York. It was a love affair. Beer didn’t just take a back seat, it was over.

    Then we moved from New York to Colorado, the land of craft beer, so I exclaimed on our moving day, “I’m going to learn to love beer!” Nearly seven years later, it just hadn’t happened. I would enter breweries asking for a wine list and get a look of disdain—hey, I didn’t know there’s a difference between a taproom and a brewpub. I just quit going to breweries.

    But the longer I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the more I see the creativity and art of brewing beer, so this year I proclaimed, “2019 is the year I will learn to love beer!”

    I’ve become a dedicated and enthusiastic student. My teachers have been the local breweries and beer enthusiasts right here in the Pikes Peak region. I joined the COS Craft Beer Facebook group to lurk and occasionally query local breweries about how to get started. And then I just began to belly up to the bars of local taprooms and request the best option for a wine lover; most beertenders and brewers have been very helpful. With their guidance I try flights, collections of small 3- to 5-ounce pours, perfect for sampling various brews.

    Here’s what I’ve learned:

    1. Wine barrel-aged beer got me going. From chardonnay to zinfandel barrels, and sometimes with grapes thrown in as well, I found hints of sweetness, vanilla notes and flavor that was familiar.

    2. Sours and gose are great gateway beers. Ranging from tart to fruity (sour) to somewhat savory (gose—pronounced gos-uh), these styles share a process similar to winemaking as they can be blended and oak barrel aged to strike balance between sweet and acidic. Sours deliver hints of salt and savory spices.

    3. Bubbly wine fans may fall for saisons. Generally spicy and refreshing, I’ve experienced a variety of flavors from citrus to pepper to chocolate, cherries and more.

    By exploring and experimenting with beer, I’ve fallen into a whole new world in my fair city, taking pleasure-palate trips around town to experience the art and craft of our local brewers. It worked. I’m a local craft beer fan.


    How to Read the Beer Menu

    Want to keep your beer exploration simple? Just watch for these words when scanning a local beer menu:

    • barrel-aged
    • effervescent
    • farmhouse ale
    • saison
    • sour
    • funky

    colorado springs beer from Paradox Beer Company, Storybook Brewing, Trinity Brewing's Red Swingline
    Paradox Beer Company’s Future Knowledge, Storybook Brewing’s Pinky the Raspberry Gose, Trinity Brewing’s Red Swingline

    This Wine Lover’s Favorite Local Beers

    Future Knowledge
    Paradox Beer Company (Divide)

    This tart farmhouse ale is refreshing and bright with fruit notes. The bottled Koji Bros, brewed in a sake barrel, is worth a try too.

    Pinky the Raspberry Gose
    Storybook Brewing

    Perky and tart, you won’t even think you’re drinking beer. Ask the beertender to combine Pinky with the Winey Farmer for something pretty special.

    Red Swingline
    Trinity Brewing

    This “sweet and sour session,” aged in oak chardonnay barrels, is citrusy, hoppy and sweet. And if you’re lucky, you might find a bottle of Some Weird Sin, a robust red zinfandel take on beer.


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    JL Fields is the founder and director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy and the author of several cookbooks, including Vegan Pressure Cooking and the forthcoming The Vegan Air Fryer. Fields is on the culinary arts faculty at the University of New Mexico-Taos, a newspaper dining critic, and host of a weekly radio program.