Beer and Cheese Pairings June 1

14_shelf_Local1-Bottle-HR_originalMonday like Sunday was rainy, which brought music to mind. No, not “Rainy Days and Mondays Always Bring Me Down,” it was “Stormy Monday,” purely as a corny excuse to put some blues on the sample board at Westside Market East Village. I had planned on sampling Brooklyn Local 2, a dark Belgian style ale brewed with honey as the counterpart to whatever blue cheeses seemed appropriate, but we were down to a single bottle of it. We had lots of Local 1, a lighter, crisper ale with a little citrusy sweetness, so I went with it. The blue was chosen haphazardly; my cheese department colleague had two small milk crates of cheese to trim and at the top of one of them was a piece of Point Reyes Blue. Voila! Away we went.

The Point Reyes is a light blue as far as the spectrum goes, more akin to gorgonzola than those palate deadening Spanish blues like Valdeon, and it has undergone some changes since I first had it ten years ago. It used to have a very pronounced lemony follow through, now it’s just pepper and earth, blue cheese’s most intrinsic qualities. I hoped it might produce a breakthrough from someone who shied away from blues in general. If that happened, I wasn’t aware of it. The store was crazy busy (a combination of Monday in general, NYU summer session shifting into high gear, and the weather), and people enthusiastically gobbled up the cheese and savored the beer.

The breakthrough came on the second round of sampling. Since the store was packed and setting up a soft cheese is time consuming, I took the easy route and chose a couple of pieces of Midnight Moon from my colleague’s milk crates for the second cheese to put with the Local 1. Midnight Moon is an aged goat gouda produced by Cypress Grove Chevre, which is based in California. It has a smooth mouthfeel and a slightly sweet finish. I think smoothness of the cheese would offset the intense bubbles of the beer.

The breakthrough came when I encountered a young African American woman who enjoyed the cheese and—as do many customers—shrugged off the beer saying “I’m really not a beer person.” I decided to fight the response pointing out that for one, Local 1 didn’t taste like the conventional mainstream beers and for another the sample was free. She gave it a go and her eyes lit up with delight. I showed her the spot in the case where it’s sold and she was fascinated, there was Local 1, Local 2, this other bottle called Sorachi, another Brooklyn bottle with a K on it, and some other bottle fermented goodies from Ommegang and Chimay. She began planning a weekend get together with “the girls” where rather than wine she was going to spring the main Brooklyn big bottles on them and then go from there in her explorations. While she took cellphone photos of the beer, she told me she’d be back on Friday afternoon so that I could help her plan the cheese too.

Funnily enough the next customer to the board also professed to not liking beer but he said he liked ales. I chose not to explain(sometimes you just have to indulge people) as he fell head over heels for the Local 1 and bought two bottles. It was the ideal scenario. He’d seen the bottles before but was unaware of the pleasures that were contained within. The cheese had many fans too. My poor colleague had to stop his trimming and cut another half wheel of the Midnight Moon just to keep up with demand. By the time I hit the door at the end of my shift, I’d forgotten that it was raining.


About jmartin437

I've worked in and around the world of high end cheese for 27 years. I've been everything from a department manager who hired and fired and trained staffs to a weekend warrior who shows up ties on an apron the middle of a rush and talks to customers and cleans up the place. I enjoy it all, and I especially like my current situation conducting informal seminars about cheese at area bars and in class at the 92nd St. Y. The current schedule is always up at In addition I conduct private events that are perfect to lead off birthday parties for foodies and sommeliers and also they make great entertainment for corporate team building events and associates meetings at law firms. In addition, I've been a freelance journalist for 27 years. Currently my profiles of leading musicians and filmmakers appear in the Wall Street Journal and I also wrote about sports for the Root, and for five loooong years, which included the entirety of the Isiah Thomas Knicks era, I wrote about the NBA for the New York Sun. I enjoyed writing about basketball so much that I now do it here at rotations for free.
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