I didn't put much thought into it when I reached into my fridge and started pouring a glass of beer that was created in collaboration with Ferran Adrià, mastermind behind el bulli, likely the most highly regarded restaurant in the world. It wasn't my intention to frame this review in the shadow of el bulli's shuttering; I only realized after the fact that I was, quite possibly, drinking this beer for the first time while el bulli was serving dinner for the last time.
It almost certainly comes as no surprise, but I never made it to el bulli. That's not an entirely accurate statement, though, because it implies that I made the attempt. I didn't even try. I never saw the point.
Estrella Damm Inedit, his beer collaboration with S.A. Damm, is another story altogether. It is readily available, affordable, and accessible. It is everything el bulli wasn't, yet it was designed with el bulli in mind. I think this tells us a few things about Adrià and el bulli, that perhaps it wasn't the place people thought it was. To me, this beer is a reminder that I, you as well, have had food that tastes the same as the food served at el bulli.
Before you start freaking out, give that a moment's thought. The beer, itself, gives some hints as to my meaning. Designed to pair well with difficult flavors, Inedit calls out citrus, bitter greens, and fatty flavors as its targets. These are flavors we eat every day, we just don't eat them manipulated into self-encapsulating orbs or shatteringly light shards of intensity. From what I can gather, Adrià's genius is not in a rethinking of flavors, but in everything else surrounding the experience of very familiar flavors.
With that in mind, I was curious to see if the same were true for Inedit. I drank this alongside a bowl of green curry, curious to see if the fatty coconut milk, bright lime, and bitter arugula would show off the brew's vaunted pairing ability. While I will say that the beer was amiable with all of the flavors involved, I must stop short of saying it was anything special.
Poured unceremoniously into a short tumbler, the straw-colored and slightly hazy beer produced a couple of fingers of fluffy white head, slowly fading to a persistent cap. Spritely carbonation created a sparkling appearance, despite the haze. The nose offered coriander, toasted bread, lemon peel, and a hint of grass. The aromas were fairly assertive, but clean.
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I was expecting much of the same when I took a sip, but was surprised to find everything on mute. While the beer was clean, crisp, and refreshing, it also lacked depth and conviction in its flavors. It's almost as if, in its quest to pair well with strongly flavored foods, it became malleable, bending itself to the whims of the meal. In that regard, it did a pretty good job. The bright, acidic lime juice in the curry picked up some of the deeper, malty flavors in the beer; lemony citrus flavors, sparking carbonation, and an overall crisp body cut through the fattiness of coconut milk; coriander and other spice notes served to round out the earthy bitterness of arugula.
Throughout, though, the beer kind of got lost. Rather than working together for an amplifying, synergistic effect, it was more like the beer played a neutralizing role, helping return the palate to a baseline after every sip. If that's what Adrià was going for, he hit his mark. I, for one, plan on bringing this beer along to my next session; it will make a fine palate cleanser between beers designed for drinking.