There hasn’t been much time for either pairing or blogging this week. At the store, Westside Market East Village, we’re without our stock guy, who quit after calling out for two weeks. This means my boss and I have to do the job. This has two positives: for one the job gets done right and for another I slept soundly regardless of the ABV% of my post retail refreshment. Also, I was working on a rather lengthy piece profiling 20 Black winemakers for one of my regular outlets, so even when I did get home with energy, there was other writing to do.
Somewhere in the midst of it all I did organize some pairings of interest. We currently have the awesome amazing Marcel Petite Comte on special at the lowest price I’ve ever seen. On Sunday I decided to keep pairing it with beers until I got tired of saying Franco-Swiss border. That took awhile. First up to the pairing board was the Mikkeller Keeper, a beer with great talking points since its brewed by the twin brother of brewer behind Evil Twin (there was a great NY Times Magazine piece on them about eighteen months ago). Keeper is his American Pilsner; it’s maltier than a Bohemian or a German variety. I figured the maltiness would pair nicely with the nutty overtones from the cheese. It went quickly (I think the clintele is finally figuring out that I’m offering really great food and beverages; fewer folks treat me like a nuisance) and led to several sales of each.
The warm reception at the outset emboldened me. I’m accustommed to pouring out some of the opening beer on a Sunday afternoon, but both boards of Keeper disappeared in less than five minutes. So, I chose the Crooked Stave Vielle Saison, a farmhouse ale brewed with wild yeast, next. I figured its complexity and funky blend of fruity and grassy flavors would be offset by the gentle balance of the Comte. I also like to showcase an unusual beer or two on Sunday just to expand people’s conceptions. I think I blew some minds, which led to going further out with the next beer, Tilquin Geueze. The cherished blend of Lambics really got conversation going on the back aisle. It’s tart then sour then plummy then the cycle starts all over again. People were texting their friends to come and try it. And of course, I enjoyed a bit of it too. If you’re into sour beers and willing to dig a little deep financially, there’s simply no greater reward than Geueze. We didn’t sell any on the spot, but now it’s moving slowly but steadily.
The other noteworthy pairing came on Friday. I took a piece of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from the pile of cheeses my coworker was cleaning to rewrap. The Clothbound Cheddar is a crowd pleaser with great talking points about its production and flavor. There’s a sweet, nutty flavor in the middle of the usual cheddar sequence and I decided to draw on that to pair with a Berliner Weisse made with wild yeast, the Weizen Bam from Jolly Pumpkin (though I refrained from using the brewery name in my introduction for fear that people would expect an entirely different flavor). The beer is lean herbal and sour. The first person to sample it thought it was a sparkling Jura Chardonnay, an intriguing concept. In general people grasped the sour/sweet pairing, but toward 7:15, business was slowing down and my last board looked like a loser. I have only about seven minutes per board before the beer starts going flat. My time was almost up, when I spied a group of young people in the beer aisle so I approached them and announced that I had samples of the most unusual beer they had tasted this year. They jumped on the samples and one of the guys immediately said, “wow, this is just like a geuze.”
It turns out that they were recent college grads and four members of the group spent their summer on a beer drinking tour of Belgium. Yeah, if they hadn’t been shopping for beer, I would have carded them. But to have eight people chattering away about wild yeast and buying rare artisan beers was the latest data point that the craft beer rise is far from over.
Oh yeah, they liked the cheese a lot too.