But okay, enough of the taunting. I told the press-release-sender that I would happily try the beer and review it, and so she obliged by sending me a bottle. My lovely and talented wife helped out in the experiment by making a delicious meal, an appropriate trial for a beer the brewery says
"... is a unique coupage of barley malt and wheat with spices to provide an intense and complex aroma. It aims to complement food once thought to be a challenge in terms of culinary pairings, including salads, vinegar-based sauces, bitter notes such as asparagus and artichokes, fatty and oily fish, and citrus."(The less we ponder the "once thought difficult" phrase, the easier this review becomes. So moving briskly along....)
Sally's meal was fairly designed for this beer: tandoori chicken, made on the grill, along with grilled asparagus, brushed with a vinegar sauce. On the side, a string bean salad with chopped hazelnuts. Good stuff.
The beer, it turns out, is a wit. A pretty traditional one, too--coriander, orange peel, wheat malt. The one innovation is licorice. (My guess is probably a strait addition of the root rather than a derivative; there's a nice, earthy quality to it.) As wits go, it's gentle and subtle. The spicing is soft and floral, the yeast benign and without much character. I give it pretty high marks for drinkability, if not originality.
It goes well with food--as of course many Belgian ales do and have done for centuries. It was a nice pairing with both the tangy tandoori chicken, which it complemented, and the bitter/sour asparagus, which it contrasted. The salad--eh, it was fine. But hey, two out of three's good.
Ultimately, this is a slight beer with a massive ad campaign. A bit of a shame, too. Anyone in town who shells out $10 for this supposedly transcendent beer will almost certainly feel let down. On the other hand, if I served you a glass--with or without food--you'd probably find it quite nice. It's even worth the ten bucks. It will not, however, revolutionize gastronomy.
There may ultimately be an up-side to this incident, however. I really should be writing more about food and beer pairings. Maybe this will serve as inspiration.