"I've always thought it was strange that chefs and brewers don't work together more often," Great Raft Brewing president Andrew Nations says. "There's a tremendous amount of overlap and common ground."
Nations and his business partner and wife Lindsay began by reaching out to the John Besh Foundation. "I wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and talk beer with a chef, and see what grew out of it organically," he adds. Not wanting to limit the collaboration to just a beer-food pairing or a "house beer," Great Raft and the Foundation decided to create a series of special release beers, each conceived in partnership with one the executive chefs in the Besh Restaurant Group-managed restaurants.
The first collaboration, to be released this weekend at the Foundation's Fêtes des Chefs afterparty, was with Borgne's Brian Landry. "We just sat down, tried some beers, and had an open conversation about what we wanted to brew," Nations recalls. Landry and Great Raft head brewer Harvey Kenney decided, during what Landry describes as a "comfortable conversation" over several beers, to brew a Kolsch style of beer, but it was important in the scope of the project to give it a culinary and local twist.
The final recipe included 300 pounds of Louisiana rice in the mash as well as salt sourced from Avery Island to mimic the greater salinity of the water of Cologne, Germany, where the Kolsch beer style was created. The light-bodied German-style beer was also hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo.
According to Landry, "Since we're getting into festival season, I wanted a beer that people could walk around with all day. What Harvey created was really well balanced and really delicious."
The resulting beer, Provisions and Traditions, was also formulated to complement Landry's seafood-driven menu at Borgne. "We carefully considered the kind of beer you would pair from that delicious sweetness of the food that comes from the Gulf." The salinity of the water, the lightness in the body of the beer from the rice, the clean finishing German yeast, and even the sauvignon blanc and citrus notes from the hops, all combine into a beer that won't overwhelm the food on Landry's menu.
Provisions and Traditions will be available in limited quantities in retail outlets and bars, and of course at Borgne. Great Raft will be donating a dollar from each 750-ml bottle sold to the John Besh Foundation.
Just in time for the steamy summer weather, the next collaboration will be a gose style beer, with Miles Landrem, executive chef of Johnny Sánchez. A gose is a tart, bright, slightly salty, light-bodied, refreshing low alcohol beer perfect for the heat. After this beer, there will be two more collaborations in 2015, but the chefs and styles are still to be announced.
Landry cheerfully reflects, "The more beer you drink, the better the collaboration is going to be - and we don't have any problem on that end with our little restaurant group."