Craft Beer / Eat, Drink, Blog / Uncategorized

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown: Chris Cuzme Tells How Beer Will Win!

This Wednesday is the first ever Beer Versus Wine Challenge (get your tickets here). New York City Homebrewers Guild president Chris Cuzme is weighing in on the event, with a healthy respect for irony. Nicole (DeCicco, of Upstate Wine Company), you’d better bring your A-game!

Art courtesy of Firestone Walker.

How did the beer versus wine challenge come about? What made you want to be involved?

Hmmm, “challenge”? I prefer to call it a comparison, or a reminder and reassurance of why beer is so freakin awesome! I’ve wanted to do a Wine vs. Beer event at Jimmy’s No. 43 in this regard for a very very long time, and meeting Nicole during a wine sampling knocked it all into gear. She’s fun, charismatic, and knows her stuff. Nicole also has a mind akin to mine (and Jimmy’s No. 43 on the whole) in so far as she supports locally made products. There’s the ole saying, “Great minds think alike,” and, well, so do ours! Her devotion to and appreciation of NY State wines particularly exemplifies this, and I can truly appreciate all the work of Upstate Wine Company. As beer enthusiasts and homebrewers, my partner Mary Izett and I have been hosting food and beer pairings as the NYC Degustation Advisory team at Jimmy’s No. 43 since 2007. And I for one am admittedly less educated in the world of wine; we’re extremely excited to learn from Nicole! I would be fascinated and happy to come out of this challenge liking wine more than beer for the pairings at hand. (THAT’LL NEVER HAPPEN! But if it were to, perhaps Nicole is the one to do it.)

How are you approaching the contest? Are you bringing your best brews or are you approaching each course and trying to pair what you feel goes best with each tasting?

We’ve approached this challenge quite simply: Nicole was sent a list of a variety of Jimmy’s No. 43’s signature dishes that will be available for us to use, and she chose four of them to go with four wines. I have no idea what beers will be on hand at Jimmy’s No. 43 the day of the tasting for me to use. One thing I do know: Jimmy’s No. 43’s constantly rotating draft and bottle list consistently has enough variety to find perfect pairings for any occasion. (Editor’s Note: No, we didn’t pay him to say that! His testimonial was unsolicited! Thanks, Chris.) I will decide these pairings on the Tuesday preceding the event, determining the best craft beer available specifically for each dish.

Why is beer preferable to wine as a meal complement?

In addition to beer’s inherent attribute of carbonation, which functions as a scrub-brush on the tongue, beer is preferable to wine for most meals because of its ability to both harmonize and contrast at the same time. There are no rules limiting the ingredients of what can go into beer (unless you adhere to the Reinheitsgebot German Purity Law of 1516). As a result, many beers feature fruits and spices that you will never see added to wine. But even at its basic level and made with the four ingredients (water, malted barley, hops, and yeast), beer is able to have the same chemical compounds in the beer as with certain foods—thus having the exact same flavor compounds as well. This is due to the malting process. In order to get barley to where a brewer can use it for beer, it must be kilned or “malted.” During this process of heating, a reaction occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars that is the same reaction that happens when you toast bread, roast coffee beans, roast cocoa beans, condense milk, brown steak, fry onions…  This is called the Maillard reaction and understanding it makes beer pairings easy and natural!

Do you ever venture over to the dark side and drink the competition’s beverage? When do you pick a wine over a beer?

Of course I drink wine! Just not that often. Usually when I personally order a wine, it is when a meal has concluded and I want a dessert wine. Alone and to sip. Quite often this happens when a restaurant doesn’t have a dessert beer (like an aged barleywine or imperial stout). C’mon restaurants! Git wit it! Oh, sometimes I’ll drink wine when the person I’m dating prefers it. Needless to say, those relationships don’t last long (and I’m fairly certain that I’ve remedied that situation)!

Do you have any strategy for wooing voters in the B v. W challenge (that you’re willing to share, that is)?

My strategy for winning this face off is to serve beer instead of wine and to me there’s a clear winner in this sentence!

What would you say to your opponent regarding game day (trash talk all you want <g>)?

Nicole, you might as well turn in your resignation paper today! I can’t see how you’ll be able to convincingly sell wine henceforth.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just remember, Nicole: it’s not whether you win or lose (especially since it’s a given that I will win), it’s how much sh!t you talk! Oh it’s on!!!!!