My apologies for the infrequency of these dispatches, they have become a casualty of my success both with the beer program and with the writing phase of my professional life. In other words, the beer program’s success began to involve extra time maintaining the Instagram account and of course much more time in the store putting beer on the shelf. Yes, we have a stock clerk, but here’s one key difference between cheese and beer and a grocery store and a boutique. The people I worked with in cheese had an eye toward higher stations in the culinary world; they had a passion for food and of course cheese. The people I work with in grocery stores and especially in grocery beer sections are there to do a job and go home; even though craft beer is a 20 billion dollar a year business, it’s not something that my stock clerks see as a bright future. They are great people and I love my coworkers, but I can’t expect them to parse the difference between Maine Beer Company Lunch and MO or Founders Backwoods Bastard and Breakfast Stout. And I mean in the bottle, not in the glass. Thus I spent two-three hours a day taking care of the shelves in addition to handling the social media marketing, merchandising and much of the purchasing. In store promotion, the fancy term I use for sampling beer and cheese often gets pushed to the back burner, and these days when I get home journalism awaits.
But I did do some in store promotion in December, some where I work at Westside Market East Village and some at three different Whole Foods. Most of it involved trying to break the general public’s resistance to darker beers. During the warmer months, I sought to demonstrate that not all lighter craft beers are India Pale Ales, and that the best india Pale Ales are not just a mouthful of bitter. To that end I frequently introduced the public to Saisons, Helles Lagers, Sours and the like. In December I sought to acquaint the public with the joys of scotch ales, doppelbocks, schwarzbiers, milk stouts, and a few others. The idea was to demonstrate that not all dark beers and the malt and hops equivalent of black coffee.
At Westside I used a mix of classic brews like Schneider Weisse Aventinus, with recently arrived seasonal dark beers like barrel aged Wulver, Evil Twin Christmas Eve in a New York City Hotel Room, Stillwater Surround, The Bruery’s Eight Maids-A-Milking, Stillwater Folklore. At Whole Foods, I was on the clock for Brooklyn Brewery introducing their new Insulated, a dark lager. The WF gigs were a pairing with Flagship, a remarkable cheddar from Beecher’s Handmade. Flagship is a cheddar made with a bit of Gruyere cheese culture so there’s a sweet and nutty component to its flavor profile. Since I often sample Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, I was ready and eager to explain the cheesemaking process, much to the delight of the Beecher’s people. At Westside I used cheddars like Prairie Breeze Milton, the aforementioned Cabot Clothbound, and the occasional dose of Basque Sheep or Marcel Petite Comte as pairing companions.
It has been effective. People are delighted that cheddar is proving to be much more than they originally anticipated, and that not all dark beers finish like black coffee. In January, I’m going to press my campaign into blue cheeses. Ports and Stilton, no! Porters and Stilton, that’s the ticket. Now if only I could persuade the cheese buyer to get me some Stichelton.