Beer: It's what's for lunch

Beer isn’t just for frat parties anymore.

That was the message from the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) at a lunch Friday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

Although wine has traditionally held the title of the classier tipple, the trade association that represents some 2,750 beer distributors thinks a good brewskie can be gourmet, too.

“Don’t get me wrong, wine is great,” said Devin Arloski, a sales manager for Dogfish Head Beer. “But we have to push against this image of beer as a pedestrian beverage.”

One specialty Dogfish Head beer is made of ingredients from every continent, including ice water from Antarctica, and another is based on an ancient Aztec recipe.

Katie Coco, a brand manager for a D.C. beer distributor, showed the lunch group how to pick a beer to best complement a meal. “It’s really more complex than wine pairing,” she said.

The group of beer enthusiasts and journalists were treated to a three-course meal, and Coco selected a beer to pair with each course. Curried butternut squash soup accompanied a sweet Asian lager; Moroccan tangier chicken with fruit couscous and roasted squash was complemented by Bass Pale Ale — and for dessert, pumpkin cheesecake with pumpkin spice ale.

But knowing how to pick the right beer for a meal is about more than getting the best flavor possible. “You can really impress people at parties,” Coco said.

The anniversary lunch convened people who are passionate about their beer. Wes Davenport, a marketing manager for Anheuser-Busch Inc., insisted that one journalist at his table drink the pumpkin spice ale from a tall, thin glass, not a short, stout one, to properly appreciate the taste and aroma.

Asked to name his favorite beer, Davenport said, “I don’t know. It would be like naming a favorite child. I don’t think I could do that.”

For a lobbyist group like the NBWA, Congress banning your industry is just about the worst thing that could happen.

Wendy Yuengling Baker, of the family-owned Yuengling Brewery, said that when Prohibition ended, her great-grandfather sent a truckload of beer to the White House to show his appreciation to President Franklin Roosevelt.

The beer industry has come a long way since the days of Prohibition. Beer distribution today employs about 91,000 people, and as organization President Craig Purser put it, “Beer is America’s beverage.”

The 21st Amendment did more than just end Prohibition. Purser said, “It actually specifically allows the states to regulate alcoholic beverages. At the National Beer Wholesalers Association, we’re lifting a toast to 75 years of effective regulation.”