So you’re a beer drinker. It’s in your DNA. Then it’s likely you are a whiskey drinker too. And there is a good bet that if you like a good dram of the whiskey that you enjoy a nice drought of the ale or lager. Why does the enjoyment of one coincide with a favored taste of the other? It might not only be in your DNA to like both liquors but also in beers’ and whiskeys’ as well.
Beer and whiskey are more closely related to one another than to any other liquor. Their DNA is so similar, the way they are made so closely parallel that they could be step-brothers, or steep-brothers if you would.
The relationship between beer and whiskey begins with their ingredients – cereal grains and water (hot) that are combined and steeped together in order to extract sugars from the grains. This sugar water is called wort and it is the foundation for every drop of beer and whiskey produced. Of course, most beers and many whiskeys use malted barley as their cereal grain of choice, but other grains may be used, from oats to wheat and from corn to rice.
Where beer and whiskey diverge is in the kettle during the second step in the brewing process. In this stage, water is added to the wort and mixture is boiled for a considerable time. This is the stage when brewers of beer add hops – and they can add hops at any time during the boil. Whiskey makers do not add hops during the boil – or ever. In whiskey terms this stage is called the wash and they like their wash clean of botanicals like hops – or of anything.
Once the boil is finished for both whiskey and beer, the wort (it is still wort, even though it is watered down and hopped up) is cooled so yeast can be added for fermentation. After the necessary fermenting time has elapsed both liquids are still technically beer and they go through one final, common stage: filtration. Most beer is filtered before kegging, bottling or canning; whiskey is always filtered before distillation. After filtration, beer and whiskey go their separate ways..
For the brewer, their beer is done, with some exceptions and it is on to the next batch of beer, the next filtration, or the next 4 hour nap until another brewing day begins. At this point, the work of the distiller has just begun. After filtration comes the distillation process; two or three (or more) times the ‘beer’ is distilled in accordance to style and preference. After distillation is complete, the white whiskey is transferred to age in wooden barrels for a minimum of two years and for as long as a couple of decades – for that really high-end hooch.
So, is this the reason beer and whiskey pair so well together; that beer drinkers are often whiskey drinkers and the vice of versa. Perhaps. One other test is to look at the foods you prefer to eat. Is your preference cereal grains as a food staple: bread, rice, pasta, oats? In any case, when you’re wandering through your liquor store or bellying up to the bar, thinking about which beer to order, which whiskey to sip, think of its step-brother and steep yourself into a nice beer and whiskey pairing.