Understanding Wine and Beer
Understanding Wine and Beer is an advanced course offered by Cornell University. The course covers all manner of
topics from the history of viticulture, the microbiology of fermentation, the neurobiology of taste, together with
lectures on chemistry, color and tasting methods. Without a doubt, the two most popular alcoholic beverages have
The long-established view is that women drink more wine than beer, and men more beer than wine and statistical
studies bear that out. However, the numbers show the figures are rapidly drawing close. For the first time in ten
years, Gallup polls show a tie between wine and beer as the alcoholic beverage that adults consume most often,
regardless of gender.
Wine has lost much of its snob index as even good wines have come down in price and unacceptable table wines
have lost market share. Blogs aplenty are writing furiously to assure those on the fence that wine is for
everybody, a fact that the French and Italians have known for centuries. Home wine making kits can now be had for
less than the cost of a good camera and, with practice, can be used to make acceptable wine.
At the same time, beer, thanks to the rise of microbreweries and effective marketing, has elevated its once
lowly status to that of rivalling good wine, if not the $1,000 vintage. No longer viewed as the sole province of
the barbarian, specialist brewed beer has become the new fine wine. Soon it will have its own snob index.
Home brew equipment is only slightly more expensive than winemaking kits, but the quality produced can be as
good as the pros. One Northwest home hobbyist recently went from manufacturing in his basement to leasing a 50,000
square foot building stocked with brewing and bottling equipment and fronted by a beer tasting bar. He is using
exactly the same recipe and business is booming.
Even the medical researchers are getting into the act by proclaiming that many of the health benefits asserted
for red wine can be had by drinking beer. In November 1999, The New England Journal of Medicine stated that
moderate beer consumption decreased the odds of suffering a stroke by 20 percent. A study at the University of
Texas South-western Medical Center reported that consuming moderate amounts of beer lowered the chance of coronary
heart disease by thirty to forty percent.
It may be that the alcohol alone produces much of the desired effects, apart from the unique ingredients of red
wine. Others speculate that since beer contains a similar amount of polyphenols, which are anti-oxidants, as red
wine (and 4-5 times as much as white) similar health benefits are to be expected. In addition, like wine, beer is
fat-free and cholesterol free.
Therefore, whether your preference is for the Cabernet Sauvignon '96 or the Laughing Dog lager '06, you can set
aside any considerations of social status and just drink, knowing you are doing nothing more than attending to your
After all, if Cornell University is willing to devote a professor's time for an entire semester to the science
of wine and beer, you can always claim your choice has been validated by the finest minds around.