Sundays are usually the best days for sampling cheese and beer to New Yorkers at Westside Market, East Village. Fewer of them have the grind of work on their minds, and with a longer sample period, 2-8, rather than the usual 6:15-8ish, there are more risks that you can take.
With that thought in mind, the first bottle I chose our newest IPA, The Audacity of Hops from Cambridge Brewing Company. It’s a sessionable pale ale with distinctive overtones of grapefruit and lime in the finish. The pronounced citrusy flavors emboldened me to try a super creamy cheese as a match, rather than the usual aged gouda or nutty alpine cheese. The cheese, Delice de Cremiers is a luscious triple cream from France and I hoped the implicit sweetness of the texture would complement the citrusy finish of the beer. I don’t think that the pair synthesized well for most people. Indulgers either commented on the beverage or the cheese; only a few thought about the combination as a couple.
I reined things in a little for the second pairing, Evil Twin’s Ron and the Beast Ryan, a saison brewed with wild yeast was the choice for the beer. It’s light zesty tone and hint of sour lemon in the finish is sure to refresh (a good thing on a hot, humid day). To pair with it, I chose the Gold Reserve Goat Gouda, an aged gouda with big overtones of toffee in the finish. The sweet and sour combination is always a sure winner. The highlight of that round was a young man who proudly showed his ID. He’d just turned 21, but he had been a shopper at the store for months, so he was delighted to enjoy both halves of the pairing. Let’s just say that the beer was his first encounter with wild yeast and we spoke at some length about its impact on beer flavor. He was a fan and I think he bought a bottle.
When I returned to the cheese station to prep the third pairing, I received a surprise, my colleague had chosen a cheese for me, the Chatelain brie. Chatelain is a respected camembert producer and as expected their brie was full of dense fungal flavors, and this piece was nearing the end of its peak. I had to trim the rind to cut back on the bitterness. I had originally brought a Bronx Summer Pale Ale with me but I changed that for the Founder’s Rubaeus, their raspberry ale, figuring that sweetness would offset the strong flavors of the Chatelain. It did and many people detoured their shopping route to pursue both parts of the pairing.
My colleague made the suggestion because we have a lot of the Chatelain and if we don’t sell it in the next four or five days it will be garbage, so I decided to do another pairing with it. I had yet to do a darker beer, and the piquant fungal flavors of the cheese seemed well ripe for a Scotch Ale. So I paired it Old Chub from Oskar Blues. The Scotch Ale has prominent caramel notes which paired nicely with the big flavors and creamy texture of the cheese. There was one complaint about the pairing. One woman looped back to me and complained that the Old Chub tasted like a beer. I explained as gently as I could after five and half hours of dealing with Gotham public that I was announcing that it’s the cheese and beer board. What sort of beverage did she expect to find? “Oh I wasn’t listening,” she responded. “It was good but I’m not a beer drinker.” Ah, New Yorkers in a nutshell.