I wasn’t sure what to expect from Memorial Day as I approached the store on Monday. I brought my computer in case, it turned out to be a routine Monday where I did purchasing and merchandising until 6 then sampled beer and cheese after that, and that turned out to be the gameplan. It was busier in the early and mid-afternoon, but not enough to sustain breaking out the sample board.
Management has wanted me to focus extra attention on a mixed milk Manchego-like cheese that we have in large quantity from Spain, and Monday I was happy to do so. I hadn’t paired it with an IPA yet, but I felt that the cheese’s balance, smooth mouthfeel, gentle sweetness and hints of citrus would pair well with one. I matched it with a new bottle to the case, Knee Deep’s Breaking Bud (yes someone in Auburn California has an excellent sense of humor). The west coast IPA is big in flavor and aroma, but surprisingly easygoing at 6.7% ABV and an IBU (International Bitterness Units) of 50. The pairing worked very well, both in warm reception and in terms of sales.
Breaking Bud is a 22oz bottle and I’ve tried to focus special attention on the “bomber” segment of the beer aisle. I think people grasp that these are the best beers in the case but don’t know what to expect from them, and since they run at a higher price point, there’s some wariness. Certain big bottles move really well, especially the limited edition cult beers, and our latest winner is the Westbrook Mexican Cake, an imperial stout brewed with cocoa, cinnamon and habanero peppers. We sold three bottles during the afternoon, so before he left I had the stock guy put out four more. Ordinarily, I’d think the summer in general and an 80 degree day in particular might not be the best time for a big stout but the clientele seemed to be saying otherwise. On several occasions this weekend, I was asked for a recommendation on a big dark beer.
With those things in mind, I decided that the second beer to the board would be the Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please with a Cherry on the Top, an imperial stout brewed with sour cherries. I paired it with Langres, a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Champagne. The cheese was creamy and slightly funky which I figured would pair well with the sweet complexity of the beer. I think it did; most of the clientele decided not to try. Fewer than 10 people chose to sample the beer and several who did simply grabbed a cup and walked off without hearing the details. The few who did sample the beer thoughtfully enjoyed it immensely and may have put it on their agenda for future shopping. Still, it was the biggest board failure since I buckled to external pressure and tried to sample a gluten-free bierre de garde that went flat in a matter of seconds.
I wish I had a better grasp on the general public’s bias against dark beer. They sell well. For instance the four bottles of Mexican Cake sold while I was sampling the Evil Twin. We sell Founder’s KBS (a barrel aged version of their popular Breakfast Stout) purely on request only and go through quite a bit and other scotch ales, porters and stouts without the cult cachet move well.
Whatever, I’ve already chosen my beers for Wednesday: Evil Twin Ron and the Beast Ryan, a saison brewed with wild yeast, and Knee Deep Belgo Hoptologist, a Belgian double IPA (a Parallel 49 of similar style, Toques of Hazard, sold very well earlier this year). I don’t know what cheeses I’ll pair with them, but a lot of new high end cheese is arriving every day.