Beer and Cheese Pairings May 24
We did fewer pairings today than a usual Sunday. In part that reflects the slow pace of business on the middle day of a holiday weekend, and it reflects that some of my time and attention were gobbled by other parts of my job. Nonetheless, it was an interesting day of meeting the Gotham public armed with artisanal cheese and craft beer.
The Cheese Manager left me a request to push our mixed milk Manchego (or “Manchego” if you will as the D.O. rules specify only sheep’s milk) as we bought a ton of it to get a great price. Not a problem, it’s a wonderfully balanced, versatile and appealing cheese, so there’s plenty I can pair with it. The first beverage to the board was the Slyboro Hidden Star cider, an effervescent, smooth and dry cider. The cider’s sophisticated rendering of the apples paired nicely with the touch of salt in the finish of the “Manchego.“ I was thrilled that people grasped the idea that the cider was the equivalent of a Cava made with apples rather than a grown up version of a children’s drink.
I continued with the “Manchego” for the second pairing, this time matching it with Stillwater Cellar Door, a saison brewed with white sage. Saisons are lighter zestier beers than Pilsners or Lagers or even most ales and the white sage gives it a nice floral finish. I think the zesty flavors of the saison connected with some of the citrusy overtones from the cheese to create a good match.
I’ve long been fascinated by the demographics of the samplers. For instance young women are very enthusiastic and eager to discuss the pairing strategy and back stories of the beer and cheese. Only about a third of young men share their passion. On the other hand, get into middle age and the gender split flips. Guys are very receptive but most women brush it off saying “I don’t like beer.” Ever since I let Helen Mirren get away with that, I’ve wanted to challenge someone with that philosophy, but there’s usually too much hustle and bustle in the store to engage a beer refuser. Not today, I told the first woman to refuse the Cellar Door that it was likely to be very different than any beer she’d had, and it was free. She tried it, and thoughtfully said she liked the tone and flavor overtones but that it was like other beers too bitter in the finish for her. She promised to inquire about future beers, though.
To my slight surprise, I still had some of the Manchego left over; evidently the beer/cider was moving faster than the cheese. So, I chose another beer for the remainder of it. This time I hit the board with Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde, a Belgian farmhouse ale that is light yeasty and full of gently sweet overtones I don’t think I had that woman in mind, but perhaps subconsciously I did. The Hof Ten Dormaal is wonderful but not cheap. We sell it at $6.99 for 12.7 oz bottle and that was just beyond the range of two guys who took a big interest in it. Funny, it’s all a matter of timing; the Slyboro is $17.99 for a 750ml bottle and we sold five or six of those.
We finished the day with a piece of another new addition to the case, Tomme Bordeaux, a sublime firm goat’s milk cheese rubbed in fresh herbs from the aging caves of French superstar affineur Jean D’Alos. I like to finish with an IPA, but I feared that the hops would simply overwhelm the subtlety of this cheese, so I went back to the Stillwater section of the beer aisle and chose a bottle of Debutante, a collaboration with The Brewer’s Art that resulted in a Biere de Garde brewed with honeysuckle, hyssop and heather. The floral notes of the beer connected perfectly with herbal essence of the cheese (if you’re my age you might remember herbal essence as a shampoo).
Monday will be my first big summer holiday working the cheese and beer board. I have no idea what to expect.