Friday afternoons during the summer are often slow in retail specialty food but that makes it an ideal time to sample beer and cheese. The store, Westside Market East Village, flows at a more relaxed pace and people are less harried; it makes them more open to new things and spying the goodies around them. It makes for a good environment to hawk cheese and beer.
When I scanned the beer case at 6, nothing really jumped out at me as candidates for the board. We have two new beers, Grimm Psychokinesis, a dry hopped sour, and the Lost Nation Gose, but—and I say this with great pride—Grimm is a brand that sells really well. I don’t need to push it. And the Lost Nation is only sold in four packs right now. So I decided to let the cheese dictate the beer that went on the board. What resulted was a night of the usual suspects in a lot of ways.
The first pairing was the brie with truffles (I imagine the buyer is regretting throwing down for a cheese that retails at $50/lb; we’re mostly giving it away on the beer and cheese board). I paired it with the Dogfish Head Aprihop, mostly because we’re having trouble moving it too. The creaminess of the brie and it’s pronounced sweet fungal overtones went well with the hop character of the Aprihop. People liked the Aprihop and we actually sold some of the brie.
I had a lot of that brie to work with so I next paired it with Stillwater Debutante, a Biere de Garde brewed in collaboration with Brewer’s Art, that has hyssop, honeysuckle and heather in mix. I thought the floral notes would pair well with the fungal overtones from the brie. Each sample board usually lasts about 20-25 minutes, this one was done in 10.
The second cheese to the board was Vermont Creamery Cremont, a wonderfully soft and tangy goat cheese. Debutante would have been a logical pairing but there’s only so often I can roll the words heather, hyssop and honeysuckle off of my tongue, so I went in a different direction and chose Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin just to see if its sweetness would offset the tang. Several people specifically praised the pairing. We moved a few pieces of cheese and a lot of beer, but we move a lot of Grapefruit Sculpin anyway, so I’m reluctant to take credit.
In the two weeks that my carpal tunnel flare up made typing hard, I was able to make significant inroads with the non beer drinking part of the clientele. More and more of them are willing to sample. One woman today said after trying the Debutante that she’d add Stillwater to the brand list of beers that she actually likes (Crooked Stave and Almanac saisons are the others). Also I did a demo for Brooklyn Brewery at a Pathmark across the street from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. It was great hawking beer to a more middle class and more African American constituency. I was thrilled that everyone knew the brand and many knew of Garrett Oliver, but I was shocked that few knew of their beers other than the Lager. We wound up selling nearly eight six packs of Summer Ale in just over an hour. To me it just illustrated that beer programs need to be ambitious regardless of their market. Yeah, my upscale crowd digs it, but offered a chance so will everyone else.