If you follow the food scene, you’ll recognize these names, but if not, here’s a little background. Adrià and Soler are partners in elBulli – named for some French bulldogs, which is a restaurant in Catalonia, Spain, where the chef is known for his work with molecular gastronomy. The restaurant has been named the best in the world five times by Restaurant, holds 3 Michelin Stars and is next to impossible to get in to (2009 is fully-booked). Adrià’s put out many books and is also quite popular on the foodie lecture circuit.
Anthony Bourdain, on one of his No Reservation shows mused about Adrià’s techniques, “Pastry chefs everywhere—when they see this—will gape in fear, and awe, and wonder. I feel for them; like Eric Clapton seeing Jimi Hendrix for the first time, one imagines they will ask themselves ‘What do I do now?’”
Estrella Damm is an independent Spanish brewery established in 1876 and their pale lager is known as the “Beer of Barcelona”.
The NYC launch of Inedit was last week and there was a to-do at the River Café in Brooklyn, with Adrià himself in attendance. I couldn’t make it, so a friend picked up a bottle for me. Isn’t it pretty?
So, what is special about this beer? Well, first you’ll notice that it’s 750 ml – same as a standard wine bottle. They claim that it’s intended for sharing, which I did, reluctantly. Secondly, it’s a combination of barley malt and wheat, with coriander, orange peel and liquorice, that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
The seeming driver behind “never been done before” is that it’s been specially formulated to accompany food. I guess the Egyptians, Bavarians and Belgian monks didn’t eat. To be fair, they probably didn’t eat anything close to what comes out of Adrià’s kitchen.
When most people think of food and beverage pairings, I bet wine comes to mind. I even teach food and wine pairing classes, but there are times when a beer simply works better. Where wine can fall short: citrus and oil notes, like salads and vinegar-based sauces; bitter notes that you might find in asparagus, artichokes or arugula; oily textures in fattier fish such as salmon or tuna.
I decided to put this beer to the test with a meal full of tricky items: a bibb lettuce salad with apples and goat’s milk feta, topped with a dressing containing wine unfriendly things like apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and parsley; a warm sandwich with mozzarella and arugula; and spaghetti with broccoli and garlic oil.
I’ve never seen a beer come with so many instructions. The accompanying documents beseeched me to serve it in a white wine glass, which we did (shame on the man for spilling):
It was also recommended that we keep it chilled in an ice bucket as we were enjoying it. Getting ice out of the freezer seemed like a big chore, so we opted for the wine chiller instead:
Now, for the important part – yes, it was delicious and it worked with the menu I concocted. Bright gold and slightly opaque, it smelled of citrus, yeast, flowers and sweet spice. And it drank like a wine – it was lightly carbonated and had a rich, creamy texture with great acidity.
The finish went on and on, sadly outlasting its wine-sized bottle.
So, never been done? Perhaps not this tastefully.