We’re nearing the finish line on our journey to pair every base D&D class with a different beer. This week we’re taking a bit of a different approach. We’re going to be combining the sorcerer and wizard classes. It’s not simply because they’re both magic users, but rather because it allows us to talk about a pretty unique style of beer. As always, I’ve got licensed cicerone Jessica Clare with me to provide an expert’s perspective.
Me: Alright Jessica, I hadn’t heard of this type of beer before you pitched it to me. I’m really excited because it has an arcane sounding name, so I can’t wait to hear what the deal is.
Jessica: Wizards and sorcerers are notoriously very different kinds of magic users. Wizards gain power from study, pouring over books to add to their cache of spells, while sorcerers rely on charisma and natural talent. But there’s one beer style that both classes would be able to appreciate: Oenobeers.
This is a fairly new term, and one that’s not legally recognized yet so it could still change. It refers to beer / wine hybrids (oeno = wine), which are made by combining wine grapes with a good ‘ole barley-based beer.
Me: Wow, this sounds pretty wild. What made this come to mind?
Jessica: Wizards align pretty closely with beer makers. Brewers are fastidious, very clean (have to be to prevent infection from unwanted wild yeast and bacteria), and pretty precise. They tweak water profiles to get the right mineral content for the style they’re brewing, aim for repeatability and little variance between batches of the same beer, and carefully select yeast. Winemakers… don’t. It’s pretty well known within the industry that most wineries and winemakers are pretty filthy. Wine is way more seat-of-your-pants than beer. Crush up some grapes and let the wild yeast go to work. Variations year to year are embraced as part of the terroir. Wine spends months or years in barrels to smooth out the rough edges and is blended to taste, combined based on what feels right more than because of what a specific recipe dictates.
Neither approach is better or worse than the other, they just fit their respective disciplines.
Wizards will appreciate the forethought and deliberation that comes with brewing a beer–which could be anything from a sour saison to a pilsner–that will harmonize with the subtlety and complexity of wine grapes without totally overpowering, deciding if something like dry-hopping should be used to emphasize a particular wine character. And a lot of what makes oenobeers really spectacular is in the blending, in tasting and combining barrels in a way that hits the right balance between beer and wine. It’s easy to imagine a wizard and sorcerer collaborating to brew an oenobeer and secretly congratulating themselves for creating the best part of the finished product.
Me: Tell me a little more about the flavor. The concept makes sense to me, but I can’t really imagine what it would taste like.
Jessica: Oenobeers can be pretty varied, depending on the grapes and the base beer. My personal favorites land closer to white wine flavor profile, and I’m a big fan of the Sauvignon Blanc profile—little tropical, little grassy. So, think Sauvignon blanc but carbonated and with a bit more body.
Me: Okay, let’s go in the opposite direction of good taste. I’m trying to shoehorn in the wizard/sorcerer’s most iconic spell: Fireball. Are you aware of any Oenobeer and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey combo? Is this a bad idea?
Jessica: Oh god, Fireball and any beer sounds ROUGH. Cinnamon and Sauv Blanc sounds……. not good. There might be some luck in using a smoked beer for the base of an oenobeer, though. Maybe a porter with a bit of oak smoked malt combined with Zinfandel? I haven’t seen anyone go down this specific road yet, but smoked beer and fruit go surprisingly well together so it seems doable.
Me: Another classic wizard and sorcerer feature is their ability to summon a familiar. What would you say is the perfect brewer’s familiar?
Jessica: Cats are pretty long standing brewery companions—they keep away the mice that inevitably come with storing a shitload of grain. Some breweries still keep up this tradition today and have a brewery cat, though it’s more for pets than pet control.
Me: Were brewers ever looked upon as magic users? Did any society in history think of brewers as wizards/sorcerers for the seemingly magical process of turning mushed up wheat and barley into something drinkable?
Jessica: Funny enough, a lot of the iconography we associate with witches now is tied to the history of women brewing. In the Middle Ages, brewing was a way for women to make money—especially women who didn’t have husbands for one reason or another. They’d make beer at home and sell it within the village, and hang a broom outside to signal a batch was ready. That big cast iron pot we associate with witches was a brew kettle.
There isn’t the same association with wizards because brewing was women’s work until it became an industrial process. But witches are totally just medieval alewives.
Me: That’s really interesting. Wizard/sorcerer might be the class most tied to beer in a roundabout way.
As we always like to end, what would you recommend somebody playing an arcane caster pick up for their next game?
Jessica: Beer and wine hybrids have been steadily growing in availability and popularity, and most any brewery with a barrel program has at least dabbled in combining the two by now. Russian River released Intinction last year, a barrel-aged lager and Sauvignon Blanc hybrid. Almanac has White Label, a sour blonde barrel-aged on Muscat grapes. Rosé beers were popular for a hot minute, with Rosalie by Firestone Walker as one of the more readily available versions. And there are two Bay Area breweries that have oenobeers at the very core of their identity and beer programs: Woods and Califcraft. Both have an entire line of beer / wine combos regularly available.
If you wanna catch up on the rest of the series: