Sunday, 18 July 2010

Now it's El Bullshit beer

In a town not far from me there is a rather ridiculous restaurant whose windows are not-all-that-discreetly etched with what the menu has to offer: Steak ... Champagne ... Oysters ... Seafood. Get the picture? You come here to show off how much money you've got.

It's the kind of place I suspect must be the target market for Inedit. That's the "innovative" *cough* beer made by Barcelona brewery Damm which has as its main selling point its association with celebrated food technologist Ferran Adrià.

It's being pushed as a beer to go with food, innovative and unique, as if people hadn't been consuming beer with food for thousands of years. The marketing concept has hence, reasonably enough, already been roundly trashed on the beer blogs over a year ago – see here and here and here.

But now the apparently imminent launch in the UK gives the Guardian's commissioning editors an excuse to indulge their schoolgirlish crush on Adrià once more, and we get this article the other day from Melissa Cole. I appreciate that journalists don't always get to write the precise article they would like to. But that's not going to stop me saying articles like this are bad for beer. This piece diminishes Melissa's reputation, and the Grauniad's, and Ferran Adrià's for that matter, and gives credibility to a product that's created with unsustainable hype on a fraudulent premise.

Essentially, the marketers behind it appear to believe that to make beer as prestigious (in the minds of snobs) as wine, you spend long years educating consumers about beer and you give talented brewers free rein to produce a truly outstanding beer. No, only joking. What you do is put a mediocre beer in a fancy bottle and jack up the price.

So we get the gimmicky black bottle, which Melissa calls elegant and minimalist and I call tacky and 1983-ish; the champagne-aping ice-bucket nonsense, the ridiculous price-tag, all suggesting that the point of this beer is to sell it to cash-rich, clue-poor consumers.

Only the ignorant would order this beer in a restaurant in preference to the other splendid beers that go well with food; only the ignorant would stock it in a restaurant, and I don't want to go to a restaurant run by the ignorant.

Fundamentally, I don't believe such a product deserves any coverage, except that ridiculing it, and it actually makes me quite angry. Even angrier than having to repeat the same points that Beer Nut and Pivní Filosof have already made a year ago.

If you were a restaurateur with a serious reputation and the boss of a large poultry processor approached you with a new range of frozen turkey twizzlers endorsed by a celebrity chef, and suggested that you could flog them to punters for four times the usual price, you'd tell him to fuck off, because you'd have more respect for food, for your customers, for your reputation and for yourself as a human being.

Why should we accept the same trash where the product is a, by all accounts, average-to-fair beer where the bottle is more important than the contents?

Isn't this insulting to the chefs and restaurateurs who do understand beer, and have made an effort to create a decent beer list to complement their menus? Shouldn't we be writing about them instead of buying into marketing-agency hype?


  1. Great stuff. There is more of this kind of tosh on Martin Cornell's blog - albeit with much better beer.

  2. There appear to be two of these Inedit beers and both, for some resaon, will be appearing at this year's Bruges Beer Festival. I will be interesting to see what they are like without having to pay the ridiculous price they seem to be charging for bottles of the stuff. I'm not holding my breath.

  3. Tandleman, that's the opposite of what I'm complaining about. Meantime have tried to give punters a beer that's arguably worth the high price charged for it. Inedit, on the other hand, are trying to get away with charging twice as much again for a beer that's by all accounts not even as good as Hoegaarden.

  4. I think we are nearer agreement than you think. Or maybe not if you are arguing we should pay top dollar to introduce people to good beer? Then I don't agree.

    If yours is simply a moan about crap beer being presented as something else and then charging the gullible for it, I do.

  5. Curiously, Adria is more commited to good beer than Inedit might suggest. I read somewhere that his flagship restaurant, El Bulli, had a pretty decent beer list (at least pretty decent for Spain, that is) with a heavy presence of local micros (or that was the case until the place closed for a few months recently).

    On the other hand, Damm seems to be quite a lover of the fine art of marketing bollocks, there's Saaz a beer for those who don't like beer, and, more recently, Damm Weiss, a wheat beer brewed in Germany that is touted as the most innovative thing in the history of Spanish brewing.

    But anyway, all this is possible because most restaurant owners don't know the first thing about beer, and care even less.

  6. I just bought some, out of curiosity. I have to say that I didn't have high hopes, even before I read your post, but I still am curious.

  7. Y'know, I try to be open minded, I'll try any beer, but if the estimated probability of something being crap is very high, I'm very reluctant to spend actual money on it.

    I did have a think about whether I should write this post without having tasted the beer. I decided it was OK, because I'm not criticising the beer itself; it's pretty irrelevant what it tastes like. Unless it were exceptionally, mind-bogglingly good, of course, but nobody outside the brewery has claimed that. Even Melissa is hardly raving about it.

  8. As your tag notes, you can't polish a turd (although you can roll it in glitter)

  9. Great post. I agree with you, but I will hold out a definite verdict until I try it (although I won't pay that much for it). A beer designed for food is a little insulting, to be honest. Are there wines designed for food?!

    The restaurant is seemingly not doing so well either, losing money I hear, currently in a hiatus I believe, no longer best restaurant in the world... However, Ben McFarland's Worlds Best Beers has a few pages from Adria in it and that's pretty interesting, so there's possibly some awareness of beer there. Ultimately it seems like a gimmick which is unlikely to do any good to beer's reputation - here's a beer by one of the best chefs in the world and is it going to turn a non-beer-drinker onto beer?

  10. Laughed at the mention of liquorice in the beer, which was frequently listed in recipes for porter in the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. So not so new. The price seems much the same as for Deus (indeed, less than Deus costs in London restaurants), and Deus is certainly better than any sparkling wine you'd pay the same price for, but I'd need a taste of this before I could comment further.