I’ve been a good sport–you could say a team player–for much of the last month when it cones to what goes on the tasting board at Westside Market East Village. What you want that Shandy sampled? Sure, I’ll put it with some really bold cheese that’ll handle the sweetness. You want me to sample that brie that is about to turn, sure, there are saisons that will balance it. On Sunday, outside of a camembert to start, I was on my own. I’ve often joked that left to my own devices with our cheese selection right now, I’d do nothing but alpine cheeses. After all, they are versatile and appealing so why not?
But first the camembert, it looked so far gone that I thought about trashing it but it was okay, smooth even. I had to trim the rind, though, which I hate doing. I had often shied away from the Knee Deep Hopto Belgo due to its 102 International Bitterness Units (anything over 70 is pushing it with the general public in my book). My book got revised. The beer was a big hit, a bigger hit than the cheese which went over well. Creamy French cheeses, especially ones with lots of fungal and herbal notes are good matches for the stone fruit and citrus from an IPA, and the Belgo Hopto, Knee Deep’s Belgian IPA delivered those nicely.
The first alpine to the board with the Affineur Walo, a earthy, densely nutty Swiss cheese. To my thinking our dark beers have gotten neglected, so I started with Off Color Scurry, a dark ale brewed with honey, oats and molasses. The lean character and sweet finish of the beer was a big hit and it paired with earthy nutty overtones from the cheese.
Next up was the Marcel Petite Comte, it’s an extraordinarily smooth and delicate cheese with just enough nuttiness to hold its own against strong companions like an Islay single malt scotch or a bruisin’ California Cab. I decided to throw a curveball and pair it with Not Your Father’s Root Beer, an alcoholic root beer (5.9% ABV) from Wisconsin. It tastes like a well made slightly dry root beer.
People were open to it and crowd scenes formed around the board as people discussed it.
I let the Comte ride for another beer, the Hof Ten Dormaal/Stillwater Arcana. It’s a Belgian stout done in collaboration between the Tildonk based HTD and Stillwater, a Brroklyn based gypsy brewer. The Arcana has a pronounced coffee overtone at the finish and that paired nicely with the Comte’s nutty flavor and smooth character.
I assumed I was done but there was time for one more pairing, so I grabbed a piece of Hoch Ybrig (anyone who worked with me at Bedford Cheese Shop from 2008-’11 had to be expecting this; it feels like I recommended it to most customers. When I left I began carry Adelegger and Challerhocker so I lost my allegiance). Anyway, I chose something totally different for it, the Crooked Stave Hop Savant, an India Pale Ale brewed with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain. This meant that rather than overtones of pine there was a funky citrus flavor at the finish. It matched the Hoch Ybrig’s nutty to the point of being caramelized overtones.
So it was satisfying to sample a lot of my favorites and have them so well received. It was also fun to nibble a lot too.