by Louis Petrocelli
Hello Bob! I just had to write to work off some of my anger over the
fact that craft beer still is the Rodney Dangerfield of beverages. You
remember Rodney, don't you? Rodney: " When I was a kid I got no
respect. The time I was kidnapped, and the kidnappers sent my
parents a note they said, "We want five thousand dollars or you'll see
your kid again." Another Rodney: "With my dog I don't get no
respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He don't want to go out.
He wants me to leave."
Well, recently famed chef David Chang, he of the Momofuku
restaurants and your television, penned an article for GQ titled, “My
Name Is David Chang, and I Hate Fancy Beer.” Chang, who is credited
for elevating Asian cuisine to culinary heights didn’t hold back on his
criticism of craft (or as he says "expensive" beer.
Chang writes, “95 percent of the time, I don’t want something that
tastes delicious. I want a Bud Light. I am not being falsely contrarian or
ironic in a hipsterish way. This is something that I genuinely feel: I do
not want a tasty beer.” Huh? This from person with such a supposed
educated palate who allegedly is dedicated to giving his customers the
best dining experience?
At another point in the piece, Chang digs deeply into the hearts of we
craft beer enthusiasts, writing, “Beer snobs are the worst of the bunch.
You know the old joke about cheap beer being like having sex in a
canoe? I will take a beer that’s ‘[expletive] near water’ every night of
the week over combing out my neck beard while arguing about hop
Sadly Chang is not alone in his arrogance as many of his ilk still look
down their noses at craft beer. One champion of craft quickly
responded - Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver, as famous in his
discipline as Chang is in his. Writing in the pages of GQ brewmaster
Oliver cried foul on the chef’s critique of craft beer culture, pointing out
that the snobs Chang despises are one and the same with those who
frequent his restaurant. “We don’t come telling you how we love pink
slime more than your Berkshire pork, or Cup O’ Soup more than your
ramen, or a foil packet of carcinogens more than your tonkotsu,”
Oliver writes. “Why? Because that would be boring, that’s why.”
Bob, I'm sure you and your readers agree with me that there is good
beer and there is bad beer. This is not subjective, not up to the whims
of celebrity chefs or brewers. There’s no valid argument that National
Bohemian, one of Chang’s favorites, is in any way better than say
Chang went on to say: “When a waiter asks me what I want to drink, I
respond, ‘What is your lightest, crappiest beer?’ I’m very direct about
my preference.” That is actually hilarious, but sadly he wasn't joking.
And while he says he has one “iron-clad argument for shitty beer: It
pairs really well with food,” I’d argue that all the adjuncts and
sweeteners make macro-lagers too cloying for a lot of foods.
Moreover, the fact that ice-cold lagers go great with spicy dishes has
everything to do with the fact that capsaicin is alcohol-soluble and
your palate is already blown, not any other mystical virtues of the
brew. Sorry, that might be too logical for Mr. Chang.
To be very clear, I’m of the firm believe that Dave Chang can do
whatever he wants, and I’m not offended by him preferring Miller to
Mikkeller. But his whole anti-”fancy beer” rant is a reminder of the
broader disinterest in craft beer that I see time and again from the
food world. Countless restaurants with high-minded cocktail lists and
deep wine cellars drop the ball when it comes to picking a handful of
interesting beers in different styles. And that's disheartening.
The frustrating part is that craft beer can provide all the so-called
virtues of macro-brewed beer. I completely agree that there’s a time
and a place for bourbon barrel-aged stouts and Double IPAs, and it’s
almost never at a restaurant. But diversity of styles is what makes beer
The best thing Mr. Chang can do to enlighten himself is to get a copy
of Mr. Oliver's book, The Brewmaster's Table and lean how great craft
beer can truly enhance food.
Bob, thanks for proving this wonderful forum for all of us who love,
enjoy, and respect the magic of the brewer's art.
Great article Louis! You speak for many of us who are frankly tired of
the negative attitude some foodies have toward craft beer. Hopefully
your spirited response to David Chang will give them something to think
about. Thanks and write again!
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer just as Dan did. I select the best and publish them here.
So join in and get writing!
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