First and foremost, there truly is just something about a burger and a brew. Take a classic, unpolished cheddar burger doused with ketchup and a Budweiser by your side, or an organic blend of brisket and chuck from a grass-fed, free-range cow with a rich, malty Belgian Tripel. Either way, there is little wrong to do.
But while there may arguably be a wider margin for error, a glass of wine, as though I had almost forgotten, can extract a melange of flavors from that half-pound burger that will leave you in a muddled state of disbelief and euphoria both at once.
Aside from the obvious empty calories beer has to offer, especially when coupled with a burger that has the potential to satisfy an appetite for days, there are many other factors unrelated to health that lead to me often choosing wine over beer with a burger. Perhaps as someone who rarely indulges in soda, I may be a bit biased but content to say that the carbonation of beer takes away from the mouthfeel acquired with the wine and meat. The velvety sensation that occurs when drinking a California Red Zinfandel with a perfectly cooked, medium-rare burger (condolences to those who favor a “well done” piece of meat in any fashion) only occurs because of the consistencies and textures of the wine and the burger, respectively. The sort of melt-in-your-mouth burger with just enough fat and not an obscene amount of leanness yearns for the sort of companion capable of showcasing the flavors of the burger that may never otherwise be experienced. The bold, luscious fruit and pleasing zest characteristic of Zinfandel that’s obtained from ancient vines exemplifies countless flavor profiles, especially after even just one bite of the burger, and adds to the number of basic tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, tart, umami) that you’re absorbing all in one set of ‘drink, eat, drink.’
The Zinfandel example is just one of virtually infinite others. Certain wine grapes possess certain characteristics, and when you take into consideration how many different paths there are to choose from when making or ordering a burger, the options become limitless. I love the idea of a wine that can indisputably hold its own, and in particular against the likes of an intimidating burger. But even a refined, delicate Pinot Noir can be of great elegance when matched with a modest burger showing finesse and earthy flavors. If you were able to provide me with a beer that could compliment a burger topped with sautéed mushrooms more perfectly and effortlessly than a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France, I would have a much more difficult time trying to persuade you.
Bottom line: there’s no more enjoyable vice to immerse yourself in than chasing a juicy burger with alcohol. If you ‘re looking splurge on a $35 burger topped with foie gras, making homemade patties stuffed with bacon and cheese, or making an emergency Five Guys stop on your way home, I have a strong feeling you’ll be satisfied with the inarguable remarkability that is beer. But you just might be surprised how satisfied you’d be with the glass of wine that fits the occasion like a glove.