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A Holistic Approach to Food and Beverages

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

I'm a "beer guy". I brew beer at home, became an Advanced Cicerone®, host beer dinners, and have solidified myself amongst my friends, family, and coworkers as that guy that likes beer way too much. Everyone has their thing, and my thing is beer. When I was studying for my Cicerone exam, I worked at a popular bottle shop in Atlanta and became good friends with the shop's wine guy, a dude that had an encyclopedic knowledge on wine but didn't know anything about beer. I thought "this is cool, I'm Mr. Beer, and he's Mr. Wine. We can learn a lot from each other". As we started talking about our preferred beverages of choice, I started to realize something - a lot (if not most) of the aspects of wine and beer overlapped. Mr. Wine knew about tannins, the different flavors from French vs American oak barrels, how fermentation temperature affects flavors, and even that Brettanomyces makes things taste like a horse. Turns out that my wine-buddy that proclaimed to know nothing about beer knew way more than the average Joe; he was just compartmentalizing it into a single beverage. That's when I started to think about flavor and how flavors and the experiences of food and beverages are universal.

Tannins are a good place to start to unpack what I mean. First off, a tannin is an organic compound that exists in woody plant matter. Anything from grains to trees to fruit has tannins, and tannins are important to the world of culinary arts because they make your mouth feel dry. So in the world of wine, tannins come from the barrels in which the wine ages. In really big and burly wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, tannins provide an exciting and welcomed mouthfeel - they're expected. So in this case, tannins equal good. Now let's look at beer. Tannins also exist in beer and mostly come from the malted barley used while brewing the beer. The vast majority of beer styles should not have any form of tannic mouthfeel, but some styles, like Lambics, can greatly benefit from it. So if a person that really enjoys that tannic aspect of wine was looking for a good beer, it would be easy to bring up Lambic in the discussion. The key to understanding what you like is the ability to break it down. Once you have your key elements, you can look for them in everything you eat and drink.

Let's also take a look at this holistic approach from the perspective of someone that works in the industry. As a brewer, winemaker, or bartender, knowing how to spot a tannin adds value to you skillset. You know that it's good in some wines and bad in most beers. If you can recognize this characteristic in wine, you should be able to find it in beer to help you find off-flavors, improve recipes, or sell the right product to the customer.

I'm creating Backcountry Draft to help you learn why you love what you love. We'll discuss how to pick apart your favorite food and beverages and how to find those flavors or experiences in other places that you may have never thought to explore. We are not divided by these different segments of wine or beer or tea or coffee; we are grouped by what we love, and there's no reason why we can't love it all.


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