Friday at the store (Westside Market, East Village) was unusually slow. So slow that I was reluctant to crack open a 750 ml bottle for fear of it going flat. This concern defeated my plan to showcase the Brooklyn Brewery K is for Kriek, lambic. It was a limited edition release during the winter but we never gave it much of the spotlight (and a beer at $27 per bottle usually needs some help though Brooklyn Black Ops, their limited edition bourbon barrel aged imperial stout doesn’t), and we were wrapped up in the cult beers like Bell’s HopSlam, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Founder’s KBS and to a lesser degree Troegg’s Nectar Nugget and Maine Beer Company Lunch.
Instead of sampling a beer that confounds conventional notions of it having a pronounced malt, barley and hop flavor, I went the opposite route, choosing Maine Beer Company Beer 2. This is the latest brew from this fantastic set of beer wizards, and it’s a great example of how a well-made beer can transcend convention too. Beer 2 is a crisp pale ale with a clear grainy start, and a distinctive grapefruit and lime zest flavor in the finish. To pair with it first I chose Gran Caccio, a Tuscan pecorino with a buttery and earthy flavor. The pace of customer traffic enabled several nice encounters and a few that were not so nice. A few people heard the word “pecorino” and immediately assumed it was Pecorino Romano, a far saltier cheese best off used in cooking (it’s ideal for pesto sauces). Yet despite my energetic assurances that the Gran Caccio was indeed a table cheese, just the sort of thing that Italians might pair with a Sangiovese wine, I got several condescending stares and a couple of people assured me that they’ve been to Italy so they *know* Italian cheeses. While I’m out on the sales floor, I tend to forget two crucial things: 1. I’m not always seen as an authority presenting carefully chosen pairings I’m just a presenter (this despite the fact that as a fat middle aged black man, I don’t—as several potential employers told me last summer—fit the profile) and 2. It’s New York City, (everyone is a know-it-all).
Those encounters stick in my craw the day after, but in the moment out of necessity I brushed aside my chagrin and loaded the board for the second pairing. The Beer 2 was going over well but I had plenty left, and my coworker wanted me to sample a couple of pieces of Sottocenere Al Tartufo. It’s a cow’s milk cheese with shavings of black truffles and a variety of confection spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, etc.) and not one of my favorites. My feelings about cheese with stuff in it is similar my rejection of most beers with stuff in it. OTOH, I liked the idea of standing around announcing Sottocenere with a bit of exaggerated Italian accent, and the fungal sweetness made it a good match for the beer. It was well received. When the board was done, I had to go downstairs and restock the Beer 2 supply on the shelf; meanwhile my cheese colleague had to stand in the aisle pointing people toward the Sottocenere.
Hopefully I’ll get to K is for Kriek on Sunday.