Beer from a Chef

The New York Times reports that Ferran Adrià has created a new beer “that behaves like wine.” A couple of thoughts came to my mind as I read the article:

First, I think it’s great that a famous chef is interested in elevating beer to the level that wine has held alone for so long. It’s my opinion that beer deserves a seat at the best tables in the world. Lots of beers pair wonderfully with food, from pale crisp lagers to deepest darkest stouts, and I think its fraternity reputation does not reflect the amazing range of beer
available in the world. In this regard, Ferran Adrià does the world of beer a service by his interest.

Second, though, I have to admit I was a little irritated by his choices (at least as they are described in the article). I was expecting something that really does behave like the best wine – something that, like the best Belgian Trappist beers, can be laid down for keeping over the years; something that has the complexity and depth of the best English Imperial Stouts; something that has the regional character of the amazing American IPAs. Instead, we get a blend of a Wit and a Pilsner.

Both Witbier and Pilsner are very fine beers in their best examples and both have long histories, but they are not the type of thing most diners in fine restaurants would expect to find on the menu. Pilsner (as interpreted by American megabreweries) is the basis of the myth that American beer is all weak and bad, and pale wheat beers are regarded by some as not much better than training-wheels beers one step removed from “Lite” beer.

On the whole, this smells more like an exercise of a chef’s ego or even a naked marketing exercise than a genuine attempt to create a beer that has the refinement of wine. The tasting notes in the article read to me like they were written by a wine person who has not had much experience with beer, but who is aware of the reputation of the chef responsible. This is not to say, though, that I won’t try it if I see it on the shelf at Whole Foods.

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