Possibly the Coolest Cheese Tasting Ever

And I’ve held a lot of them. Here are the details.Andante Minuet

September 18 and December 4:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown:  Beer vs. Wine

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller (beer expert) and Michael Whidden (wine authority)

Which beverage pairs better with cheese, beer or wine?  Join us as we explore the issue by pairing five cheeses with a beer and a wine and vote on the winner. For tickets, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/The-Cheese-Pairing-Wine-vs-Beer.aspx

Posted in Fromage of the Day FoD, Upcoming Events, news, cheese, food, culinary, gourmet, beer, wine, whiskey, foodie | Leave a comment

Upcoming! The Fall Cheese and Beer/Wine/Whiskey Classes at the 92nd St. Y

doddington_cutSeptember 18:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown:  Beer vs. Wine

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller (beer expert) and Michael Whidden (wine authority)

Which beverage pairs better with cheese, beer or wine?  Join us as we explore the issue by pairing five cheeses with a beer and a wine and vote on the winner. For tickets, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/The-Cheese-Pairing-Wine-vs-Beer.aspx

 

October 23: Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles and cheese.

Martin Johnson with Michael Whidden

Sparkling wines go wonderfully with rich creamy cheeses.  Please join us as we explore six pairings.

For tickets, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/Bubbles-Bubbles-Bubbles-Cheese

 

 October 30: Cheese and Whiskey

Martin Johnson with Dave Herman

Please join us for a sampling of whiskeys with a wide range of flavors and cheeses chose to match.

For tickets, please visit http://www.92y.org/Uptown/Event/Cheese-and-Whiskey-Pairing

November 6:  Only the Strong Survive: Beers with high ABV and cheeses to match

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller

Is it a post mid term election celebration or a salve?  Either way, this class will pair several of the most exotic and yes, strong beers, with cheeses to match.  For tickets, please visit http://www.92y.org/Event/Beers-with-High-ABV-and-Cheese

November 13: The All-American

Martin Johnson with Dave Herman

There’s a lot more to American spirits than bourbon and there’s a lot more to American cheesemaking than Pleasant Ridge Reserve.  Please join us as we showcase the new delights. For tickets, please visit http://www.92y.org/Event/The-All-American

 December 4:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown:  Beer vs. Wine

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller (beer expert) and Michael Whidden (wine authority)

Which beverage pairs better with cheese, beer or wine?  Join us as we explore the issue by pairing five cheeses with a beer and a wine and vote on the winner. For tickets, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/The-Cheese-Pairing-Wine-vs-Beer.aspx

December 11:  How Sweet It Is!

Martin Johnson with Michael Whidden

Moscato, Amabile Lambrusco, dessert wines, off dry Rieslings and Grüners highlight this survey of wines on the sweet side with potent cheeses to match. For tickets, please visit http://www.92y.org/Event/How-Sweet-It-Is

 

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, Fromage of the Day FoD, news, Upcoming Events, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

At Wall Street Journal on new Barrel Aged Beers

This was fun to report, fun to write and fun to edit.

Barrel-Aged Beer Is Making a Comeback

A growing cadre of brew masters is aging beer in casks that once held bourbon, brandy or wine.

 
 
By
Martin Johnson
Aug. 18, 2014 4:45 p.m. ET

Owner Matthias Neidhart holds a glass of Zymatore beer and a glass of the beer in its original format. Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

With its barn, greenhouse and bucolic fields of camomile and berries, B United International Inc., from the outside, doesn’t look like a typical warehouse beer distributorship.

And inside the Oxford, Conn., facility, there is another anomaly: a room where beer is being aged not in huge industrial steel tanks, but in hundreds of hand-me-down wooden barrels. That is where B United, which distributes aficionado brands like Germany’s Schneider Weisse and Japan’s Hitachino, is giving some of its clients’ brew a secondary round of aging—in containers that formerly held wine, whiskey and other alcoholic beverages.

The Zymatore room at B.United International. Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

“Select beers can actually soak up the flavors and aromas of the spirit previously housed in the wooden barrel in a way that…makes it highly interesting,” said Matthias Neidhart, founder and owner of B United.

Mr. Neidhart is among a small, but growing cadre of respected artisan brewers using pre-used wooden barrels, in the belief that the residual flavors and lingering microflora from whatever liquid they previously held can enhance a beer’s aroma and taste.

Those elements don’t transfer from wood to beer automatically, brewers said, but are teased out during a secondary fermentation process involving wild yeast.

“Barrels that once stored a Syrah or Chardonnay to maturity can bring out so many more complexities in flavor,” said Zach Mack, co-owner of the Alphabet City Beer Co., an East Village bar that offers more than 350 varieties of craft brew.

The enthusiasm for barrel aging was first rekindled nearly a decade ago, when brewers discovered that aging beer in bourbon barrels could add tasty vanilla overtones to their porters and stouts. More recently, some have begun expanding their container repertoire, using barrels that have held everything from Sauternes and Scotch to brandy and rum, seeking flavor notes that range from sour to tannic.

New York area brewers are among the leading-edge wood-barrel users.

Garrett Oliver, brew master of the Brooklyn Brewery and editor of “The Oxford Companion to Beer,” said he is partial to bourbon barrels, which are typically made of virgin American oak and used only once before being sold. His brewery’s facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard currently houses more than 2,000 wooden barrels for aging beer.

“Bourbon wood is quintessentially American, and that’s a big appeal for me,” said Mr. Oliver.

Brewmaster Ben Neidhart in the Zymatore room with barrels used to age beer. Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

Matt Monahan, co-owner of Other Half Brewing Co., which opened in January in Gowanus, prefers wine barrels. “If you age a beer in a bourbon barrel, it tastes like bourbon,” he said. Other Half is currently using barrels that once housed Zinfandel, Sauternes and even the cult California Cabernet Opus One.

Wooden barrels aren’t exactly new; for centuries, beer was stored and aged in them. But after Prohibition, the American brewery industry dramatically consolidated, and growing companies seeking larger-capacity storage with greater sterility turned to massive stainless steel tanks.

The return to wood-barrel use comes at a time of greater experimentation among craft brewers with more traditional, less industrialized materials and techniques. Some Pale Ale makers, for example, are using techniques like “dry hopping,” popular in the 19th century as a way to stabilize beer and enhance its flavor, by adding hops during the beer’s secondary fermentation.

Wooden barrels usually slow down the aging process. Basil Lee, co-owner of Finback Brewery, which opened in January in Queens, said his company ages beer in both bourbon and wine barrels and chose its 13,000-square-foot space because it had room for longer-term brewing projects.

“I have tasted beers where you wished that they had aged more,” he said. “We sought out a space that would enable us the freedom to age beers for a year or two if necessary.”

Many large-production commercial beers typically age for one month; some lagers take up to four, experts say.

Mr. Neidhart of B United said slower barrel aging allows natural processes to take their course, rather than artificially helping them along with, say, rigorous climate control.

“Conventional brewing is all about controlling the process,” said Mr. Neidhart. “We are trying to return the control to nature.” He ages some of his clients’ beers for two or three years.

“Clients ask us when their beer will be ready and we tell them we don’t know,” he said.

Owner Matthias Neidhart holds two bottles of Zymatore beer. Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

For all the effort, Mr. Neidhart said his barrel-aging program accounts for just 2% of his business, moving over 400,000 case-equivalents of beer annually.

And to be sure, barrel-aged beers are still a niche part of the $14.3 billion annual U.S. craft beer market. But their influence is spreading nationally. California craft breweries like The Bruery and Firestone Walker Brewing Co., for example, have recently launched extensive barrel-aging programs.

In New York, drinkers can find them in beer bars like Proletariat, Terroir and Owl Farm.

And some are beginning to show up in local restaurants. Other Half, for example, is brewing several barrel-aged beers exclusively for Roberta’s, a popular Williamsburg eatery. That is because barrel aging not only adds to overall complexity, said Mr. Monahan, but also tends to soften a beer’s finish over time, helping raise its food-friendly quotient.

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That NY Times Story

It came up three times today, so those of you just tuning into the narrative, here’s that NY Times story, a story about me rather than by me, but happily a story about writinhg that I’ve done, albeit on cheese signs.

This is the story, http://nyti.ms/WfyzRv.  Jeff Gordinier did a fine job encapsulating the phenomenon.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, Fromage of the Day FoD, gourmet, news, Upcoming Events, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

On The Utterly Weird Experience of Being Refused Service

buon  Yeah, I didn’t think THAT happened anymore.

I run the cheese, cured meats and beer program for an upscale retail market and cafe on the Upper West Side called Gastronomie 491.  My boss loves the Buon Italia bresaola, and suggested I try it too, especially since my preferred variety Larchmont was unavailable and I didn’t like the suggested substitute brand, Creminelli.

I went to the Chelsea Market and after visiting some of my fave shops, Fat Witch, Dickston’s Farmstead Meats, and Lucy’s Whey, I went to Buon Italia.

When asked at the counter what i’d like, I explained that I was from a wholesale client and I’d like to taste the Bresaola as my boss thinks it’s divine, but I run the cured meat and we like operating from consensus.

This brought about a blank stare from counterperson.

I explained further that if I get on board with the Bresaola, then we’ll probably order lots of it.

This turned the stare into a glare.

I was mystified, and said, you’re looking at me as if you don’t think this is a good idea.

The counterwoman responded “I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I can’t just give taste to anyone who walks in here.”

Oooohhhh, I haven’t risen above the “just anyone” yet.  I figure I’ve been in the business long enough that I don’t have to prove it.  And for another anyone asking about bresaola knows more than a thing or two about cured meats. They ought be taken seriously without presenting credentials.

 
Frankly I was flustered so I left.  I’m more than willing to fight for my principles but for a taste of bresaola, eh, I’ll save my ammunition for something more important (like protesting the current wave of police brutality).  My distributor tells me that the Larchmont will be back in stock soon.  I’ll wait.
Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, gourmet, news, rosters, thoughts and musings, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Rosters: Rieslings and Cheese, 92Y 07.31.14

EtudeCheeses and Rieslings

92Y July 31, 2014

Instructors: Martin Johnson (Gastronomie 491 & The Joy of Cheese) and Michael Whidden (AI Selections)

 

Cheese: Berkswell (raw sheep’s milk, England): a buttery, nutty sheep’s milk cheese that splits the difference between the Italian and the Basque traditions.

Wine: Katharina Wechsler Trocken Riesling 2013 (Rheinhessen)

An intense nose of peach with hints of brioche. Crisp green apple and wet pebbles on the palate.

 

Cheese: Etude (raw goat’s milk, California), a firm, sweet cheese from America’s best cheesemaker.

Dr Wehrheim “Buntstuck” Riesling 2013 (Pralz)

Overtones include citrus, lime zest and green apple.

 

Cheese : Alpe Lach, (raw cow’s milk, Austria), a classic Alpine cheese.

Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2011

The palate is dry with lovely mineral, citrus, pear and baked apple character. Very precise with a a spicy, mineral core.  It’s generous and ripe but with good acidity and a dry finish.

 

Cheese: Brebirousse D’Agrental (raw sheep’s milk, France), a washed rind sheep cheese from the Auvergne.

Bellwether “A&D” Riesling 2012 (Finger Lakes)

Kaffir lime, green apple, wet slate and gun flint on the nose carrying onto the textured palate with brioche and chalky minerality.

 

Cheese: Blauschimmel, (raw cow’s milk, Germany) a super buttery blue.

Mac Forbes RS16 Riesling 2013 (Yarra Valley, Australia)

The nose offers intense thistle, white/green melon with kaffir lime leaf, basil, citrus pith and white blossom. Distinct hoppy undertones on the palate, plush but focused with driving purity and length. The palate is almost gravelly, reflecting the fine granitic soils, tightening the finish and carrying the residual sugar. Lime and sulphur combine with herbs of basil and kaffir lime with fresh lemon juice on the finish

 

The cheeses are available at Bedford Cheese Shop, 67 Irving Place.

Ask Michael about the availability of the wines, but I’m a fan of www.wine-searcher.com

Next Class:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown: Beer v. Wine.  09.18

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, Fromage of the Day FoD, gourmet, Upcoming Events, whiskey | Leave a comment

Fall Preview: Cheese and Alcoholic Beverage Classes This Autumn at the 92nd St. Y

Yes, it's Rogue River Blue!

Yes, it’s Rogue River Blue!

September 18:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown:  Beer vs. Wine

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller (beer expert) and Michael Whidden (wine authority)

Which beverage pairs better with cheese, beer or wine?  Join us as we explore the issue by pairing five cheeses with a beer and a wine and vote on the winner.

 

October 23: Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles and cheese.

Martin Johnson with Michael Whidden

Sparkling wines go wonderfully with rich creamy cheeses.  Please join us as we explore six pairings.

 

 October 30: Cheese and Whiskey

Martin Johnson with Dave Herman

Please join us for a sampling of whiskeys with a wide range of flavors and cheeses chose to match.

November 6:  Only the Strong Survive: Beers with high ABV and cheeses to match

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller

Is it a post mid term election celebration or a salve?  Either way, this class will pair several of the most exotic and yes, strong beers, with cheeses to match.

 

November 13: The All-American

Martin Johnson with Dave Herman

There’s a lot more to American spirits than bourbon and there’s a lot more to American cheesemaking than Pleasant Ridge Reserve.  Please join us as we showcase the new delights.

 December 4:  The Cheese Pairing Showdown:  Beer vs. Wine

Martin Johnson with Maggie Fuller (beer expert) and Michael Whidden (wine authority)

Which beverage pairs better with cheese, beer or wine?  Join us as we explore the issue by pairing five cheeses with a beer and a wine and vote on the winner.

December 11:  How Sweet It Is!

Martin Johnson with Michael Whidden

Moscato, Amabile Lambrusco, dessert wines, off dry Rieslings and Grüners highlight this survey of wines on the sweet side with potent cheeses to match.

 

 

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, news, Upcoming Events, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment