Beer & Wine?
November 10, 2008 by Tara Dezao
By Tara Dezao
It is an age old question: wine or beer? If you’re a wine lover, surely there isn’t enough room in your heart to love beer also. If you’re a beer lover, can wine really ever hit the spot? I recently visited two of Seattle’s most loved specialty beer shops and found out that there is something to be had by both wine and beer lovers alike at these malt meccas. Not only can you find hundreds of beer selections at Seattle area boutique beer shops like Full Throttle Bottles, Pike Street Beer and Wine, Bottleworks, and Malt and Vine, but the wine is abundant as well.
You may wonder why beer shops would want to carry wine in addition to beer, or where the crossover lies. What I found, across the board, was that the proprietors of these shops are dedicated to carrying the hard to find.
First Hill’s Pike Street Beer and Wine owner Anthony Yap is severe in his dedication to the obscure, stating “I am trying to focus on hard to find wines; I want to stay away from anything that you can find in the grocery store.” In addition to the 800 different varieties of beer that Pike Street carries, you will find local wines like Edmonds and Cougar Crest on their shelves next to wines from Eastern Europe and Russia. I even caught a glimpse of a wine from Lithuania, which is something I haven’t seen in the local wine shops.
It’s also about variety. Anyone can go to the grocery store to pick up a case of Bud Lite, but you aren’t going to find eight different varieties of Rogue on the shelf at Safeway. It’s the same with wine; you can walk into just about any convenience store or grocery store and pick up a bottle of Yellow Tail, but you aren’t going to find a 2005 DeLille D2 at your local market. The commitment to uncommon products means a totally new shopping experience; instead of standing in the freezing cold beer isle in between the dairy and cookies, you are free to experiment with the unknown and maybe even find a new favorite. Just tell the beer expert what you usually like, and they can steer you in the direction of something similar, maybe better.
Another area of crossover for beer and wine shops is the dedication to local artisans. Throughout my Wino travels in both the boutique beer and wine shops, I have seen each shop designate a section dedicated to the Pacific Northwest. Erica Cowan, owner of Georgetown’s Full Throttle Bottles, says about the local beer in her shop, “In most cases, if it’s bottled in Washington, I try to carry it.” Full Throttle carries a slew of locals: Scuttlebutt, Snoqualmie, Baron, Laughing Buddha, Port Townsend, Elysian and Dick’s Danger among others. Full Throttle takes “regional” to the next level. In addition to carrying the best of the best in beers, Cowan says, “I carry Rainer, Olympia and PBR. After all, that is what people want here, it’s Georgetown.”
Cowan considers Full Throttle a shop that specializes in beer, yet has an amazing selection of wine as well. The combination appeals to a variety of customers. Among her growing customer base is a contingent of chefs who both drink and cook with her products; they will come in for a six pack of beer to drink and pick up some wine to throw in a sauce or vice versa. Like Pike Street , she is committed to harder to find wines from smaller vineyards that you wouldn’t be able to find just anywhere. Tailoring to the needs of her customers, Cowan will special order if necessary, and even carries gluten-free beer for her customers who are allergic to wheat.
It isn’t just the beer shops crossing over; three out of the five wine shops I have visited in the last couple months carried craft beers, Chimays, Lambics or Trappist Ales. Some wine shops are even offering beer tastings and select beers on tap to capture the beer lover among the winos. I also realized the genius of this cross-marketing when I visited Pike Street—it was impossible to resist a unique bottle of Banana Bread Ale, and I’m typically a wine drinker. Wine drinkers certainly appreciate the notion of trying something before you buy a bottle of it, and both specialty shops offer beer tastings on a regular basis. Fall is a great time to taste both wine and beer; this time of year brings seasonal releases for beers such as Pumpkin Ale and fall releases from most local vineyards.
So you see, whether you are a beer or a wine, a hop or a berry, a lager or a chardonnay, there is a specialty shop full of variety and distinction awaiting you in Seattle. And this is the perfect season to
round up some friends, hit the city streets and try something new.