I could've named this one "Wine Snobs, Beer Slobs." A general misconception about beer is that it's unsophisticated and therefore so are its consumers. Beer guzzling frat boys, slobs scratching their distended beer guts, and, oh yeah, Homer Simpson. Of course, there's also such a misconception in the other direction about wine. The sophisticated elite inserting their refined noses into wine glasses to take a sniff and using words from an atmospheric lexicon to describe what they smell, the Crane brothers from Frasier, and, oh yeah, the French. For beer vs. wine, it's the boorish vs. the cultured, the working class in stained t-shirts vs. the upper class in tailored suits and formal wear, guzzling vs. sipping. These stereotypes for beer and wine are unfair, although I think in general the dismissal of beer is more damaging to its image. It can be easily dismissed as something not worth savoring, something not to be paired with sophisticated food, or something you don't want to be seen drinking when you're decked out in formal wear.
One critical positive for beer is that you can get a world class product at an inexpensive price. Beers such as Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and just about anything from Samuel Smith are highly regarded and light on the wallet. While a common misconception about wine is the higher the price, the better the wine, overall, for wine, world class quality and price are inextricably tied together.
The following are some beers that I believe are good examples that defy the various misconceptions about beer yet are still distinctly beers. While I love hoppy IPAs, I'm generally leaving them out of this discussion. For what's listed, my feeling is that wine drinkers should be able to appreciate the sophistication and subtleties in taste (though these aren’t beers that mimic wines). Heck, they may even like them. So, yes, why not beer?
Burley Oak Rude Boy: An amber/red proclaimed by Burley Oak as "the wine of beers." You can't find it in stores, but it's increasingly appearing on tap in Maryland's Eastern Shore area. My wife Kathy, a wine drinker, likes this one.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack: Okay, this one is technically a black IPA, but it's also malty and floral with chocolate, rye, coffee, caramel, pepper and even some slight ginger coming through. Firestone Walker is based in Paso Robles, CA--in the heart of wine country.
Unibroue La Fin Du Monde: A great example of a tripel, coming from…Quebec? Smooth flavors of bananas, cloves, and a good mix of spiciness and sweetness mask the fact that this is 9% ABV. A widely available beer that comes together quite well on the palate.
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron: Dogfish Head has a knack for defying expectations, even if they don’t always exactly hit the mark. With Palo Santo, though, they do. This beer is billed as a brown ale, but has many characteristics of a stout. Vanilla, coffee, and wood flavorings are in abundance.
Trappistes Rochefort 10: I'd be remiss if I didn't include my favorite here. This Belgian ale, a product of a Trappist monastery, is rich with flavor. As it comes up to temperature, nuances of flavors appear, making each sip a different tasting experience.
Others misconception-defiant beers to try: Dogfish Head Birra Etrusca, Brewer’s Art Resurrection, Erdinger Hefe-Weizen Dark.