When I arrived at Westside Market East Village on Friday, I immediately got word from two other supervisors that Mark, the store manager and the person with whom I co-manage our beer program, wanted me to demo the Dogfish Head Aprihop that evening. Being asked to demo a Sam Calagione beer is not my idea of a problem, but the urgency of the request piqued my curiosity. I went downstairs to the stock room and found ten cases of Aprihop. Yep, we’d done a deal. I’m usually looped on the bulk purchases but this was a pleasant surprise and not because I’m a fan of the beer (I’m not not a fan, but if I’m taking a Dogfish Head brew to a desert island then I’m taking Raison D’Etre, Palo Santo or of course the 120 Minute IPA). The sales rep handling Dogfish Head is a beer geek and an avid supporter of the NYC beer scene. You’d be surprised how rare that is. Most of the sales reps I deal with might as well be selling paper clips for all the enthusiasm that they invest into the beer. Their complacency always exasperates me, and it shocks me coming from a specialty cheese background where everyone is a zealot. So yeah, put a feather in the hat of the DFH rep.
Regular readers of this blog know that I’m on a campaign to demonstrate the versatility of sessionable IPAs with food and another chapter occurred on Friday. The Aprihop has a clean direct flavor with just a little pine in the background and the apricot overtones come in the finish. To pair with it, I chose Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, a soft ripened sheep cheese from Chatham NY. Sheep’s milk is richer and more buttery than cow or goat’s milk and that comes across nicely in the Nancy’s. I was counting on the butteriness to pair well with the apricot finish and judging from the enthusiastic reception to the board, it did.
The concept behind the first pairing went so well that I decided to stick with the Aprihop and try it with a firm sheep cheese. I chose the Abbaye De Belloc, a deliciously nuanced Basque cheese with a buttery start, and herbal middle and just a hint of salt in the finish. I cut up the cheese and opened the bottle of beer and began to pour and realized that something was amiss. It was nearly white, not the amber shade of the Aprihop. I looked at the bottle, it was Dogfish Head Namaste, their wheat beer, brewed with lemongrass, orange peel, coriander and peppercorns. I was initially dismayed. We’ve set up a shelf for single 12 ounce bottles so that the stock guy doesn’t have to shotgun marry four packs and six packs but he does it anyway, evidently unaware that we actually get returns from people who discover that their four pack of saison is half stout and whatnot. Anyway, this wasn’t a disaster. I figured that sweet balance of the cheese would offset the spiky complexity of the beer, and I was right. And the Namaste won bragging rights for the evening. We sold 12 bottles to only 9 of the Aprihop. Lots of cheese moved too. In the end, I certainly couldn’t complain.