Beer + Fine Dining

I figure this beer isn’t targeted at me and I am sure there are people who are excited about these beers including the people behind them but there’s a lot about this concept that sits awkwardly alongside the things I love about beer so here’s my thoughts on these beers in what is basically an extended version of my Facebook post.

With a reach of almost 2,400 people, my Facebook post on Sunday morning about the new James Boag Epicurean beers had more than the average number of eyes look over it –

Sometimes I don’t comment on stories like this, sometimes I just don’t click on it because I know it’s not for me but sometimes I give in and after seeing several sponsored Facebook posts for these beers, I finally clicked.

I figure this beer isn’t targeted at me and I am sure there are people who are excited about these beers including the people behind them but there’s a lot about this concept that sits awkwardly alongside the things I love about beer so here’s my thoughts on these beers in what is basically an extended version of my Facebook post.

“A fine drop for fine dining”

There’s a subtle implication here, and I am not sure if it’s intended or not, that until now beer has not belonged at the fine dining table. Yet here I sit, at my desk at home, with empty bottles around me of beers I’ve had, not all tonight of course, with incredible flavours inside and stunning label and design on the outside. None of these beers would look out of place on white linen.

With the sheer range of flavour beer can offer, no one can say beer doesn’t have a place at a fine dining restaurant.  The right beer isn’t missing from the equation, the education and knowledge to serve it is what’s missing but we are seeing and experiencing a change in places like Wildflower where there has been considerable thought put into their beer offering to reflect the personality and style of the restaurant, at least that’s my impression of Wildflower. A flick through this years Good Beer Week program offers a host of examples, testament to beers ability to sit side by side fine food, including An Evening with Michelin Star Chef Daniel Burns (NYC) who will be presenting his food paired with Stomping Ground (Victoria, Australia) and Evil Twin (Denmark) beers.

For me, fine dining is a luxury, it’s a total experience starting from when you walk in the door and finishing when you leave. It’s about the food of course but it’s also about the service, atmosphere, drinks and the way you feel when you are there. These things are pretty hard to replicate in a home cooking environment so whilst I like that Boag’s have provided the recipes for their recommended food pairings,  I do feel like it also misses the point slightly about why we indulge in fine dining experiences. Specially paired dishes in the venues where the Epicurean beers will be featured would be great; laying out the ideal Epicurean experience just leaves the punter having to book the table and the rest is done.

Photo from James Boag’s website

Making beer feel like wine

It feels almost like they needed some justification for beer to be at the dinner table at all, like one of those 90s sitcoms where a guest who’s rocked up from out of town, not aware of the dress code at a fancy restaurant, has a crappy tie forced on them before they’re allowed to take a seat.

The Epicurean “range”, which is actually a pair, consists of  ‘Red’ and a ‘White’, a clear call out to wine. Again, why do we have to make a beer for fine dining feel like wine? The labels themselves look like wine labels too, something I’d imagine was part of the design brief.

The website recommends serving these beers in a wine glass. Not a specialty beer glass? Nope, again beer is being dressed up in what are considered appropriate clothes. Now, I’ll be the first to say I’ve enjoyed many a beer from a wine glass at home and out at venues but in this case it’s the brewery’s recommendation, it should be the ideal way they want the beer to be served and that, surely, should be in the right beer glass. It’s hard to say what beer glass exactly because there’s almost no information on the beers themselves.

It’s a BEER

Of the three guys to create these beers – a chef, sommelier and a master brewer – there’s no cicerone, someone who is pretty much a sommelier of beer. Surely this would have been a welcome chance to work with one of Australia’s cicerone’s, we have a few now!

The beers are still in green bottles, an inferior bottle to keep out UV light from damaging the beer, compared to brown glass. In some ways they treat this beer like a wine and yet in others still mistreat it as a beer.

There is also very little information on the beers themselves, from the website I could find out that the Epicurean Red is brewed with Super Pride and Helga hops whilst the Epicurean White uses Super Pride and Enigma hops. All hops are from Tasmania and that’s it, nothing about the style, the other ingredients, nothing at all.

Photo from James Boag’s website

The story is a marketing strategy

For me, reading through the website feels more like a marketing strategy than someone telling me a great story. A genuine story is one of the things I love about beer, you’ll catch me saying this time and time again. It is why I love talking to beer people because there’s almost always a great story behind the brewery, behind the person and behind the beer. What makes a great story is its authenticity and this, to me, doesn’t have that.

It’s all about Tasmania

There is one great overarching story in these beers and that’s how proud they are about Tasmanian produce and ingredients. Personally, that’s the story I think should be told here. Brew a kick ass beer that’s a showcase of Tasmanian ingredients and local producers, collaborate with them and make all us here on “the mainland” start Googling flights to Tassie because it sounds so amazing.

This beer isn’t even coming to Perth so maybe I should even bother staying up until almost midnight to write this post and Lion Nathan, under which the Boag’s portfolio of beers sit, have been really good to me, sending samples of Little Creatures and White Rabbit beers but these beers have some heart and a story to tell. Epicurean doesn’t tell me a story, at least not one that I want to read.