My hopes to spend the Wednesday rush hour at the store sampling Evil Twin Ron the Beast Ryan, a saison brewed with wild yeast, came to a crashing halt that afternoon when I discovered that the stock clerk had decided not to move it to the sales floor. We have some big bottles that aren’t moving and they would be a better choice to “stash,” but that’s a conversation for another time and place, I guess. Anyway, I charged forward with my second choice, Knee Deep, Belgo Hoptologist, a double India Pale Ale brewed with Belgian yeast, right up until I was about to open it. Then I realized its IBU (International Bitterness Units) was 105. That seemed a little extreme for a Wednesday afternoon general public escaping a late afternoon spring shower. So, I changed course and chose the Almanac Golden Gate Gose.
I like watching people’s reactions to the Gose, it’s so different than any other beer. The Gose is light and especially effervescent with a soft note of sour cherries in the finish. It’s as if a cava had been fermented with a touch of wild yeast. The cheese to match was our mixed milk “Manchego,” which I’ve been hawking for nearly a week now (and yes, I’m getting tired of hearing myself announce “Our Cheese and Beer Board currently features a delicious mixed milk Manchego!”), but it’s a telling aspect of the cheese’s versatility that it would match such contrasting beverages as the IPA or the Gose.
The Almanac Gose is a big bottle, so by the time it finished, there were only 30 minutes left on my shift. Working the sales floor of a fancy grocery store with high end beer and cheese is wearying; I get tired of the condescending and contemptuous looks from my neighbors and just as bad are the people who try some of the offerings and look at me and exclaim “oh, it’s good.” It takes a lot of energy to thank them as if it were a compliment. If I was tired I might have packed it in and done some merchandising work till the end, but I wasn’t so I packed the board with old reliable, which in this case means an IPA and an aged gouda.
I’m always mystified when I see published articles on cheese and beer pairings suggesting that India Pale Ales pair well with aggressive blues. I think that’s too much pepper, earth and bitterness together. I’ve long believed that most blues need a sweet element (a chocolate stout or a floral saison for instance) to balance their pepper and earth while the hoppy bitterness of India Pale Ales benefits from something soothing to balance. Many aged goudas have butterscotch, vanilla and caramel overtones, which make them a perfect foil for IPAs. I chose the Pinner from Oskar Blues as I think it gets overlooked in that company’s fine portfolio of brews, and the Noord Hollander for the cheese. The pairing went well and was gobbled up fast enough to enable me to leave close to the scheduled time.
One last takeaway from the two hours of sampling: only one person tried to dip their cheese into the beer as if it were a condiment. The New Yorkers may have been wet, but at least they were listening.