Trip to Northern Africa Inspires Chef to Create a Moroccan Influenced Porter

In the spring, David Olson, a chef and finance consultant for the food & beverage industry who calls Caledonia home, traveled through Northern Africa, spending much of his time touring soup and spice markets and gathering inspiration for his own recipes. While you might expect Olson’s trip to garner fabulous food concoctions, it’s his Moroccan spice porter that has Grand Rapids salivating.

Olson submitted his recipe to the American Culinary Federation (of which he’s been involved with for years) and Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s joint competition to create a beer for the ArtPrize season, and he won. He said the judges were looking for creativity in their winning selection and the “first of its kind” beer, named Bab Bou Jeloud, met that criteria.

“The inspiration behind this beer was really from those experiences in Morocco,” he said. “It’s a porter, so you have your traditional coffee and chocolate-y types of notes, but then think about adding in spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg.”

Bab Bou Jeloudalso also contains Ferris ground coffee. “So there is a roasted coffee inside of this, so it’s a touch sweet but not overwhelming. It’s drinkable.”

Olson said making a “drinkable” beer was key. “A porter is a darker beer. You have ones that taste like milkshakes, they can be thicker, rich and chocolate-y, I wouldn’t necessarily think of it as a drinkable beer. And that is really one of the things we were motivated by here, creating a beer that is drinkable. You could have two or three of them and not feel like you’ve had a full buffet dinner.”

The Bab Bou Jeloud creators.
The Bab Bou Jeloud creators.

After winning the competition with his recipe, Olson worked with Bobby Edgcomb and Ernie Richards, head brewers at the Grand Rapids Brewing Co., to perfect his porter.

“They are my counterparts in crafting this beer–from the hard labor of stirring the mash and creating the recipe balance,” he said.

The beer is available as a limited release at Grand Rapids Brewing Co. It’s available on tap and for purchase in bottles. Olson said those interested in trying the beer should know that the proceeds are going to the American Culinary Federation and will be used for student scholarships.

While Olson spends the majority of his time cooking up recipes based around his love of live fire cooking, he also said craft beer has been a passion and he has a book’s worth of recipes compiled. He hopes to continue collaborating with breweries on new craft beer and thinks other chefs should do the same.

“I think, conceptually, this is an industry that is going to be growing in a very significant way and there’s an opportunity for chefs and brewers alike to harness their creativity in a way they haven’t before,” he said. “As I talk to other chefs and brewers, they see this partnership as something that could be creative and really fun, and potentially meaningful to a city like ours.

“We have one of the finest craft beer communities in the world and we have a burgeoning culinary scene, with so many talented people. And the opportunity to work and create together, I think continues to be an opportunity to set ourselves apart here in West Michigan.”

*Photos courtesy of Grand Rapids Brewing Co.

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