The Gourmet Q + A: Charles Bamforth

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JMB: What are new developments in brewing?

CB: We’re devising newer, more efficient methods of extracting malt from barely, and we’re working on minimizing oxygen exposure throughout the process. That’s the biggest challenge.

JMB: Why?

CB: Most beers are best when they’re first bottled, after which they deteriorate due to oxygen’s presence. To maximize shelf life, keeping the oxygen level low is very important. Using stabilizers like sulfites is the easy solution, but some brewers are reluctant to use stabilizers. They’re keen on the product’s purity.

JMB: Can beer pairings compete with wine pairings at restaurants?

CB: I recently ordered a beer at a New Orleans restaurant, and it was delivered without a glass. It’s amazing how little servers know about beer. They’ll pour it gently to avoid foam—but beer drinkers want foam! (How much is too much depends on where you are: If you’re in Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, chances are that half the beer glass comprises foam—which is too much for me, but they like it that way. If you’re in London drinking cask ale, you’re likely to get virtually no foam.) Wine’s theater is quite famous, but there’s an equal opportunity with beer. With foam, clarity and color, you can make beer a visual display. We need to ship restaurateurs over to Belgium so they can see the reverence in which beer is held.

JMB: What’s beer’s biggest public-relations problem?

CB: There’s been too much trivializing of beer, in the men-behaving-badly kind of way. Most beer advertising is targeted at that sector—men in the 21-to-30 age bracket who drink the most beer. I get it, and so I rejoice in ads like [Anheuser-Busch’s] Here’s to Beer campaign, where there is a broader celebration of beer for its provenance and all-round excellence. There are wonderful beers available, and I feel it’s up to the brewers, not just the beer drinkers, to celebrate them. Beer needs to be put on a higher pedestal and take itself with more respect.

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