If you enjoy a jack & coke after a long hard day at the office, a glass of red wine with a juicy porterhouse steak, and an ice cold beer at a summer barbeque, then you are a cross-drinker and you’re in good company.
According to Julia Herz, spokesperson for the American Brewers Association, “a majority of fermented beverage appreciators are cross-drinkers. Two-thirds of beer drinkers drink wine and two-thirds of wine drinkers drink beer, mostly higher end beer.”
Cross-drinkers, a new label for an emerging and acceptable market group, can be defined as consumers with a palate mature enough to appreciate a variety of fermented beverages—whether it is wine, beer, or spirits.
It wasn’t all that long ago that one’s knowledge of wine was linked to pedigree and associated with cultural refinement, and ordering a beer as a meal accompaniment would make a sommelier tremble. Now, as consumers become more educated, they are becoming more experimental, even promiscuous, when pairing food and drink. Cross-drinkers are making deliberate choices. They are making their beverage selection based on personal preference and what their educated palate dictates to be the best drink to enjoy with the meal before them.
When challenged to find what would make the best pairing for a given recipe, beer or wine, the July 2008 issue of Food & Wine reported that a panel of judges “ate, drank and debated” finally admitting that “ales and lagers can be as good with food as wine—sometimes even better.” With many acidic, heavy or spicy dishes for which wine is simply not suited, the culinary world seems to have accepted the fact that beer not only makes an acceptable pairing, but at times a superior one, going against conventional wisdom.
The explosive growth and popularity of craft beer has helped to create a new breed of cross-drinkers as wine devotees are introduced to micro-brewed beer. Since craft brewers make beer in small batches they can experiment with different ingredients and flavors, creating extraordinary custom-crafted beers. Cross-drinkers, on a quest for information, are uniting at local food and beverage tasting events in cities across the country.
Beer with brisket, saki with sushi, and pinot with pasta—cross-drinkers take comfort in adapting their choice of beverage to the occasion and meal at hand. Using experience and personal preference, they are confident in their ability to break “the rules” and achieve the ultimate gastronomic experience.
It was Benjamin Franklin, known to enjoy a pint or two in his day, who said “there can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.” So drink what you like, drink responsibly, and drink what enhances the flavor of your food. Bon appétit.