Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now  a regular feature of
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Vince's  Adventures in Beerland
                        Hold the Food, Please
                                   by Vince Capano        

Now don’t get me wrong, I really can appreciate how matching an appropriate
beverage with food can work magic on the taste buds.  It’s the abracadabra factor
that helped to create wealthy vintners and pretentious oenophiles.    And now
they’re trying to do it with beer.  Beer writers produce column after column about
the correct pairings of food and beer.  Garret Oliver’s  book The Brewmaster’s
Table has become the bible of every restaurant jumping on the craft beer
bandwagon.  While I’m all for anything that gives great beer it’s proper place at the
top of the alcoholic beverage tree, I don’t feel a need to change its taste in any
way.   So, I hereby go on record as casting my official vote for drinking
beer with ….. beer.  

Frankly I don’t really care if my double IPA will enhance the flavor of that spicy
Mexican dish I just ordered or if a pint of imperial stout will bring out the soy in my
veggie burger.  I want to taste my beer for what it is, all by itself.  While a pilsner
may be great with a hot dog, the mustard will say bye-bye to the subtleties the
brewer worked so hard to weave into his creation.  

If, for example, you decide to match a beer with Epoisses de Bourgogne, a
cheese so smelly it is reputedly banned from public transport in France, you can
forget about even knowing, without looking of course, that you’re even drinking
beer.  Beer may enhance the food but the food can ruin the beer.  Why not trust in
the wisdom of the greats in beer history.   Schafter said it’s the “one beer to have
when you’re having more than one”.  Notice they didn’t add with BBQ or Quaker
oatmeal.   Carling always said “Hey Mable, Black Label” and never asked for food
with it.  Hamm’s came “from the Land of sky blue waters and from the land of
pines, lofty balsam” not from the kitchen where the chef was cooking all that food
that overpowers your beer’s flavors.  Rainier beer told us that it had “mountain
fresh taste since 1878” so who are we to deny over 130 years of fresh tasting
history?  Indeed, it doesn’t get any clearer or more direct that the teachings of
Double Diamond, “I'm only here for the beer".

Some pubs have taken the Double Diamond slogan to heart.  They serve beer
and nothing else.  Th-th-th-that's all folks.  No kitchen, no chef, no microwave; not
even a campfire.   These establishments are just right for those of you fearful that
the temptation to eat while you’re drinking great craft beer would be too strong to
resist.   It’s all about the taps; trust in them.  In fact, according to “Barking” Tom, a
guy I talked to just before he was cut off at my regular pub last week, several
Malaysian sects and the leading Tibetan gurus believe beer taps are  powerful
talismans against evil food desires and stomach grumblings.

Here in New Jersey at least two of these beer only places are destination stops
for any dedicated drinker.  Andy’s Corner Bar in Bogota rightfully boasts that it
was a favorite of the beer hunter Michael Jackson so its credentials for serving
great beer are beyond reproach.  Also beyond reproach is the fact that Andy’s
does not serve food.  It’s that simple.  However, just to show you that no one is
perfect, Andy’s allow you to bring in your own victuals and, even worse,
management, on occasion, will actually supply complementary pizza delivered
from the place next door.  Shocking.

Perhaps the best no food beer haven in the Garden State is The Copper Mine
Pub in North Arlington.  Taps 20, food 0.  That’s a winning score in my book.  
Diabolically they have a non-functioning open kitchen just sitting at the rear of the
bar.  Don’t worry, it’s just a facade.  At the Copper Mine the talk is beer, the
atmosphere is beer, and the menu is beer.  And there’s no pizzeria next door; it’s
a floral shop.   My guess is that one day soon their kitchen will actually be
functioning so I’m recommending you get there as soon as possible to beat the
food Armageddon.

Sadly I think my viewpoint on this issue is a lost cause.  Just google “beer
sommelier” and you will get over 3 million sites that fit the bill including more than a
few that offer “official” certifications (only after you complete their $2,000 program
of course) in matching beer with food.  On a personal level, even I have several
friends who make me sign a pre-activity agreement that we will eat food at least
once during our beer hunting treks.  There’s also some fine print in there that
excludes popcorn, pretzels, and bar nuts (no, not those two people sitting across
from you) as counting as food.  

It’s easy to understand why some beerphiles insist on endlessly promoting the
substituting of beer for wine in pairing with food.  Their unspoken belief is that they
think our favorite beverage is inferior to wine.  They hope to somehow rehabilitate
beer from its working class image. They see wine as speaking to a higher quality
life.  That makes little sense to me.  Beer is more consistent, it’s produced with
more devotion and care, it has more varieties and it’s at least as healthy.  As an
added bonus, human feet are conspicuously absent from beer making.

I wonder if those nay sayers realize that many people define beer as “liquid
bread”? Ancient Egyptians made a beer by fermenting bread and Russians often
brewed an  alcoholic beverage called Kvass by fermenting rye bread.  Like bread,
a litre of beer will supply ten per cent of your daily protein needs; wine has none.
Beer has absolutely no cholesterol or fat and has useful quantities of soluble fiber.
Even bread can’t say all of that.

It’s a fact that monks used to have nothing but beer for 40 days while fasting
during Lent.  While their reasons for drinking beer independent of food might be
different from mine we do share one thing – we both get to enjoy the intricate and
luscious flavors of our beer on its own, unadulterated.  

Besides it’s easier just to order a coke with dinner than figuring out which beer is
Hold The Food, Please
Vince Capano