Beer and Cheese Pairings August 9


Sunday was a fun day to pair beer and cheese at Westside Market East Village. For one, customer traffic was busy enough to sustain tastings all shift (it really sucks to pause with a beer half way done because it’s slowed to a crawl and find that the beer has gone flat when traffic picks up). For another the cheese people gave me two alpines, a versatile Italian cheese, and a soft ripened goat cheese to work with—all good pairing partners. Finally, the beer geeks were in the house and buying. On my first pass through the beer aisle I saw big holes in the Crooked Stave, Maine Beer Company and Evil Twin segments of the case and they just got deeper as the day wore on.

I started with one of the alpines, Affineur Walo, it’s like Gruyere but older, sweeter and earthier while retaining a solid backbone of nuttiness albeit roasted almonds rather fresh ones. I used that nutty flavor to justify pairing it with the Evil Twin Femme Fatale Kobosu, an India Pale Ale, brewed with wild yeast and Japanese citrus fruit. Yes, to quote an old Cornershop song, it was funkee with the double e at the end; the beer started grassy the segued in fairly distinct order into a burst of tropical fruit flavors, some bready notes and a strong lemony finish. I think it’s bliss in a bottle and the clientele thought so too; six of the seven bottles on the shelf sold.

When the Affineur Walo ran out, we continued with the Affineur Walo Starnachas, a younger version of the same cheese with a creamier texture, and more of a fresh almond flavor. It went well with the rest of the Evil Twin, and it’s nutty notes paired well with the Mahr’s Ungespundet Hefetrub, a fanastic Bamberg Lager. I’ve really enjoyed watching people hear the word lager then respond to the distinctive vegetal notes and crisp delivery in the Mahr’s. No, Toto we’re not in Stella Artois anymore.

The cheese finished before the beer but I had a small piece of Tramonto Rosso, a northern Italian cow’s milk cheese rubbed with must from red wine production. I’d love to say that it’s rubbed in the must from Barolo production just to keep that ridiculously delicious wine in mind, but that might make the cheese a disappointment. Also I’d be lying. I have no idea what must its rubbed in, could be Sangiovese or even Dolcetto; I’m not one to look down on Italian red wines in general. The must gave the cheese a nice grape-y finish and that sweetness paired well with the savory overtones of the Mahr’s.

I finished with something called Triple Cream Goat Brie. It didn’t have the look or texture of a triple cream, but after walking around hawking cheese and beer for five and half hours, I wasn’t in a mood to quibble. It was gooey and runny and seductive—really what else mattered? I paired it with the Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde, a Belgian farmhouse ale, which is bright, yeasty and just slightly bitter in the finish. The herbal overtones of the cheese paired nicely with the beer.

After that I punched out and found myself some beer that I didn’t have to talk about.

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Beer and Cheese Pairings August 7


Eight years ago or so, when I did my first cheese and beer class I paired all of the goat’s milk cheeses with wheat beers. What I did Friday night illustrated how much more I know about cheese and especially about beer.

The cheese people gave me several small pieces of Tomme de Bordeaux to sample. It’s a firm French goat’s milk cheese that is rubbed in herbs as it ripens and has a crust of herbs and juniper berries. It’s from the aging caves of the French affineur, a master of aging cheese, Jean D’Alos. I was thrilled; it’s one of the best cheeses in the case at Westside Market, East Village, and I now know that it would pair with several different beers.

We led off by pairing the cheese with Good Juju, a light ale from Left Hand Brewing that infuses the beer with ginger. The peppery spice of the ginger contrasted nicely with the smooth herbal effect of the cheese. Next up was Debutante, the Stillwater/Brewer’s Art Bierre De Garde which is brewed with hyssop, heather, and honeysuckle. The floral sweetness in the finish of the beer was a good match for the texture of the cheese. Finally, we finished with Ryan and the Beaster Bunny from Evil Twin; it’s a saison that I think is brewed with honey and it has a nice grapefruit overtone in the finish.

I figured I’d spend a good bit of time discussing affineurs and the difference they make in a cheese’s flavor, but the beers stole the show. Also, usually on a slow Friday afternoon, I’m lucky to make it through one bottle. This Friday we sampled three. Looking back, I see similarities between the beers. I think if there’s more Tomme de Bordeaux to sample on Sunday (and there might be the herbs mold quickly), then I’ll put with a Brett IPA or something a tad more ambitious.

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Beer and Cheese Pairings August 2 and August 3


Sunday at Westside Market East Village was insufferably slow. I endured the ignominy of pouring out several ounces of beer that had gone flat in its sample cups. OTOH, Monday was crazy busy, but sane. Unlike some Mondays where customers come just short of exchanging blows as they bull through the aisles, the vibe was relatively chill. On Monday I went with similar pairings both days, partly because I’m stubborn, and in part because I wanted Sunday’s run to get exposure to a bigger crowd.

I continued to celebrate the arrival of Mahr’s lagers to our shelves by sampling them each day. On Sunday, I paired it with a the very nutty French alpine cheese Beaufort. On Monday, I put it with Old Bruges, an aged gouda. In both cases I thought the sweetness of the cheeses would balance the lean, crisp, vegetal flavors of the beers.

I also sampled the Stillwater/Hof Ten Dormaal Arcana, a Belgian Stout, on both days. On Sunday I paired it with Midnight Moon, the aged goat gouda that is very smooth and sweet. On Monday I let it roll with Beaufort. The stout has a dry dark chocolate overtone so I thought the sweet elements would pair well.

The beer that was mostly poured out was Troublesome, the Gose from Off Color in Chicago. Ironically, both days I had to stop the sampling and restock the case with four packs of the beer. People weren’t drinking it but they were buying it. I’d prefer both but if I had to choose…

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Beer and Cheese Pairings July 31


Usually by the time customers arrive at the Westside Market, East Village on Friday late afternoon/early evening, they are already in weekend mode. I’ve learned to take advantage of this chill by offering pairing with good talking points. Unlike Mondays when people roar through the shop on the dead run, Friday’s pace is closer to a saunter, and they have time to sample and listen.

I chose the Brooklyn Brewery Local 1 for the beer. It isn’t new, but I fear it’s getting overlooked amid the onslaught of bombers we’ve been bringing in. It’s also a great gateway brew for wine drinkers who think they don’t like beer. I was all ready to talk about the history of the leading local brewery or even explain secondary fermentation, but the cheese stole the attention. It was Brillat Savarin, the French triple cream with an extraordinary literary pedigree. It was named for the author of the Physiology of Taste by Pierre Androuet, the author of the Guide du Fromage (yes he was also a cheesemonger).

When the Brillat ran out, I switched to Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, a super buttery sheep cheese, and the talking points became about how the local-ness of the pairing. I told people what an easy drive it was to visit both producers in a weekend, though I wouldn’t want to be behind the wheel after a few glasses of Local 1.

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At the Beer Geeks TV Blog on My Beer and Cheese Pairing Strategies

Always a topic close to my heart.

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Beer and Cheese Pairings July 29


Ever since I got the keys to the proverbial car for the beer program at Westside Market East Village, I’ve been longing to bring in a real German—as in from Germany, not an American lager made with close fealty to the Reinheitsgebot—lager, something with a crisp lean flavor and distinctive overtones of celery, root vegetables and maybe toasted sweetbreads. In other words I wanted to bring in Mahr’s Ungespundet Hefetrub, the great Bamberg lager; it’s the sort of brew that demonstrates why Germany and beer are so closely and reverently linked. After many months of building toward it (big up to the beers of Weihenstphaner and Schneider-Weisse and yes, this is a big reason why it’s called a beer program), we got it this week. Mahr’s Ungespundet and just for good measure Mahr’s Mastodon. Of course, the first day it went into the case, it also went onto the sample board.

I would have sampled it no matter what the cheese people gave me to work with, but good fortune continued, I was given a massive piece of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, a cheddar with a bit of sweet and nutty flavor in its progression. In other words, I was pairing a beer that demonstrated what a lager should taste like with a cheddar that illustrated the lofty possibilities from what many consider a mundane cheese.

I wish I could have videotaped the responses. It was split 50/50 between “oh, so this is a lager,” (and a few people were more terse with an “f- man, that is good”) and on the cheese side “really, *this* is a cheddar?”

It was an ideal corrective in two ways.

The Mahr’s ran out before the cheddar did, so I finished it with Stillwater Existent and demonstrated to more than a few people that saisons come in dark varieties too without losing their supple texture.

The evening felt like a triumph, and since it was far too hot to cook, I rewarded myself with the best burger in the ‘hood.

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Rosters: Cheese and Riesling, 92Y July 30

Cheeses &


July 30, 2015; 92nd St. Y

Instructors: Martin Johnson (The Joy of Cheese and Westside Market, East Village) and Michael Whidden (Banville Wine Merchants)

Cheese: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (pasteurized cow’s milk, Vermont): the new gold standard for American cheddar.

Wine: Gehrs Riesling 2011 (Mosel): The residual sugar of 2½% comes across on the palate as more “fruity” than “sweet”, much as the taste of fresh, tree-ripe fruit does.

Cheese: Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert (pasteurized sheep’s milk, Chatham, NY): a rich, buttery delight.

Wine: Dr Lippold “Empress Josephine” Riesling 2013 (Mosel): This wine offers a rich mouthfeel with delicious tropical and stone fruit notes.

Cheese: Marcel Petite Comte (raw cow’s milk, France): delicate and fruity, this French classic is distinctly nutty.

Wine: Basserman-Jordan Feinherb 2012 (Pfalz); What a wonderfully balanced half-dry Riesling should be. Orchard fruits of apple and pear combine with citrus on the palate. The taste at the front and mid-palate is fruity, but the finish is dry without a hint of sweetness.

Cheese: Chevre du Haute Beran (raw goat’s milk, France), a firm, grassy goat’s milk cheese.

Wine: Basserman-Jordan Trocken 2014 (Pfalz); Flowers on the nose. Bright apples and pears on the palate with well-balanced acidity. Refreshing.

Cheese: Winnimere (raw cow’s milk cheese, Vermont): the best washed rind cheese in the U.S.

Wine: Moser “Gebling” 2013 (Kremstal); Aromas of intense stone fruits, fine honey, fresh mandarin peel, delicate herbs and spices such as sage, juniper and nutmeg. Well defined on the palate. Solid, crisp, a lighter-styled Riesling showing purity with a lively core. Tight minerality.

Cheese: Cayuga Blue (pasteurized goat’s milk, Interlaken, NY), a peppery, herbal goat blue.

Wine: Dr Lippold Sparkling Riesling 2011 (Mosel); There’s a little apple & grapefruit in the nose, it’s a touch on the dry side and has just enough acidity to make it a very food friendly wine.

Contact Martin at

Next class: October 15: Better Red Than Dead


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