A few days ago, I was at Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co., a new smoked meat place near me and while chatting with one of the guys on the counter I told him that I co-manage the beer program at Westside Market East Village, the fancy grocery store down the block. And he exclaimed “wow, you get to order all of your favorites!”
“Not exactly,” I responded and explained that I can carry them if they sell. There have been several beers that I adored but they didn’t move quickly enough to warrant their shelf space (Stillwater Surround, a smoked stout, for instance). Anyway, that conversation resonated in the back of my mind during many of today’s pairings.
I knew that I would be expected to sample the Dogfish Head Aprihop aggressively, but to my surprise, most of my agenda was preset by the time I arrived. The beer stock guy wanted me to sample some of the Hof Ten Dormaal as those Belgian Farmhouse ales weren’t moving. HTD is makes some of my favorite brews, but at $6.99 for a 12.7 oz bottle, I have to concede that it’s a beer that people like but don’t buy. Then to my surprise, when I arrived at the cheese station my coworker pulled out a bunch of cheese, a La Tur, four tiny pieces of brie with shaving of black truffles, and last week’s roasted red bell pepper spread for me to sample. With so much of my script set in advance, the rebellious side of me decided I’d sneak in a bottle of Crooked Stave Hop Savant, an IPA with wild yeast at some point during the day.
I started out pairing La Tur with Hof Ten Dormaal Amber. I expected the buttery complexity of the cheese, which is made from a blend of goat, sheep and cow’s milk in northern Italy, to pair well with the yeasty mouthfeel and savory overtones of the beer. It did and hot damn, someone bought a bottle, which made me happy albeit wistfully. I will be bringing in HTD again later in the year, but it will be their large format boxed beers with the holidays in mind. Until then, I’ll have to go elsewhere for my fix.
The second pairing featured the Dogfish Head and the brie. It was an interesting pairing from a theoretical point of view. Good brie has some fungal notes in the finish and those were exaggerated by the presence of the truffles with gave the cheese and densely aromatic and sweet finish. The Dogfish Head is a sessionalble pale ale and many of those have stone fruit overtones in their delivery. The Aprihop is brewed with fresh apricots which again accentuates a natural flavor. It worked empirically too.
The store was remarkably slow during the mid-afternoon, so I had plenty of time to converse but little in the way of sales. I rolled through two bottles of Aprihop and had some brie leftover when the late afternoon rush began to kick into gear so I decided now was the time for Hop Savant. It too is a favorite and I suspect a mere 72 hours after we put it on the shelf, it’s justified its presence; we’ve sold a case. The Hop Savant is an IPA with wild yeast and it’s absolutely delicious, the pine notes happen early followed by a nice clean sour lemon finish. It’s pricey, $10 a bottle and worth every penny. I thought the sweet, fungal notes of the brie would work well, and…well I don’t know if it did. People either went for one or the other. The zealot in me is all too ready to drench people in information and I wonder if “an IPA from Colorado brewed with wild yeast which yields a tart lemon finish” was TMI for casual beer drinkers. The ones that did try it were ecstatic and some engaged me in conversations about wild yeast and its effect on beer. We sold some bottles and interestingly some six packs of Westbrook Gose for people who wanted a sixer with that kind of finish.
By the time that pairing was done, it was pushing 7:30 and I was weary (I’d made my first visit to the gym in 18 months on Saturday and yeah), but the store was still at full tilt busy and I’d barely touched the spread, so I loaded the board with the savory red bell pepper spread and grabbed a Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde and charged back into action. The spread was received appropriately as a munchie, but several people took an interest in the beer, which offers a more delicate sweetness and yeastiness than Belgian standard bearers like Chimay and Duvel. Who knows, maybe I won’t have to discontinue it after all. And maybe that guy at Harry & Ida’s was right.