At The Beer Geeks TV Show blog on Gose

A new home from my scribbles.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, gourmet, news, thoughts and musings, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairing Highlights July 20-24

coupoleI didn’t blog much about the beer and cheese pairings this week because a lot of it was tried and true stuff. Yes, the sweet florals of the Stillwater Debutante went nicely with the light farmhouse funk of La Tur. And yes, the triple cream brie was creamy enough and had a good presence of fungal and root vegetable flavors to pair with the malty character and floral hops of the Apostelbrau Bavarian Pale Ale.

But there were two pairings that stood out. Monday night, it was around 7:30, just enough time for one more pairing when I saw my coworker grimacing behind the cheese counter. I looked more closely and realized he was trimming pieces of Grayson. He absolutely hated the barnyard aromas from the cheese. I love that stuff, and fondly recall another time he was grimacing trying to put Epoisses out for taste. I grabbed the cheese, put it on the board with a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and watched ecstatic mayhem break out. Grayson isn’t as soft as Epoisses but I figured the clientele would be up for it. I put it on the board with Off Color Troublesome as had some leftover from a previous pairing. With one exception, a guy who picked it up brought it close to his mouth and said “no thanks” and disposed of the cheese, everyone loved it and my coworker was furthered dismayed. We sold the other pieces of Grayson meaning he’d have to cut a new wheel. Well, you’ll note I don’t call him the other cheesemonger.

Friday evenings are always fun. The tempo is slower and the clientele have typically shifted into weekend mode. We’ve brought in a lot of new beers and ciders and knowing that I had a Vermont Creamery Coupole to sample, I chose the newest cider, Slyboro Black Currant, an apple cider from Northern Spy apples with black currant juice added. I had tried the cider at a tasting of other ciders and it seemed a tad sweet. OTOH, we brought in Slyboro’s Hidden Star cider a few months ago and it moves really well. I figured the tang of the cheese and the sweetness of the cider would go well. As it turned out the cider didn’t taste so sweet on its own (in a sequence with European ciders is a different matter). And it’s color made it look like a sparkling rose, which segued perfectly into the talking point that cider is essentially wine made from apples. Too many of our clientele still think of cider as something their children drink. The pairing went well and even though both items were a lot for an impulse purchase (the cider is $17.99 and the cheese is $15.99), several units of each left the building.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings July 19

Crooked Stave Hop SavantI’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.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, news, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings July 17

Almanac-Golden-Gate-GoseI made a big mistake on Friday. I not only planned on a certain beer, but I announced to the brewery that I was using that beer and embarking on a campaign to increase that beer’s visibility. The beer in question is Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace, a wonderfully zesty saison with enough fizz and citrusy overtones to make you think that the brewery was trying to create a Cava. These intentions were motivated by an interview I read on Thursday night with Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy. During the interview, he noted that Brooklyn Lager generates 50% of the brewery’s sales. There’s nothing wrong with that but I like a lot of their other beers better. Also earlier this month, I did a demo for the brewery at a Pathmark across the street from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn and people were genuinely stunned at the Summer Ale; most didn’t know that Brooklyn brewed anything other than the Lager. On the one hand, I wonder if Sierra Nevada and Anchor have parallel problems with their Pale Ale and Steam beers respectively swamping the rest of their portfolio; OTOH, it’s a nice problem to have.

So what was the mistake? I presumed that we had inventory of the Sorachi Ace at West Side Market, East Village. After getting my cheese from my coworker, a French triple cream and a camembert like cheese, both perfect for the Sorachi, I rushed into the beer aisle and discovered that we had only two `12 oz bottles and one bomber of Sorachi. That’s a far cry from the healthy inventory levels I saw on Wednesday. Maybe our shoppers are already up on the delights of the Sorachi. I could have sampled one of the 12 oz bottles, but I’ve gone down that road before unhappily. Several months ago, I sampled the Parallel 49 Toques of Hazard, an IPA/Wheat Beer hybrid from Vancouver and it went over very well. Too well in fact, we sold out midway through the bottle and several people were disappointed. The disappointment continued when I learned that the Toques is a seasonal and wouldn’t be available again for months. We have other pale wheat beers that sell well, but I don’t like letting people down.

Anyway, my Plan B was the Almanac Golden Gate Gose, a similarly light refreshing beer with so many citrus notes and so much effervesence that one might confuse it for a sparkling wine. The triple cream, Cremeux de Bourgougne charmed people, which rich buttery French cheeses are almost guaranteed to do. It’s richness paired perfectly with Gose; and illustrated the larger point that super creamy cheeses are ideal companions to all sparkling wines too. The Roucolouns was not as rich but more herbal and fungal, so I put it on a slices of a walnut raisin bread. This combination highlighted the lemony elements at the finish of the Gose.

As is often the case on Friday late afternoon/evening people were in weekend mode and slowed to taste and consider. I love sampling beer that isn’t stereotypical in that situation. It was great fun to watch people’s faces light up when I told them that Gose has roots in Germany. It’s so different from a Lager or Pilsner. It underscores the variety of flavors in the wide world of beer. Sunday I may have to focus on more conventional beers, however. As I made my final circle back down the beer aisle, I saw that we were down a single bottle of the Gose.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings July 15

htdamberOn a slow night for sampling at Westside Market East Village, all of the action was on the cheese side. 90 minutes of sampling required only one beer, a 12.7 oz bottle, and even some of that was poured out when the beer sat on the tray for more than seven minutes. Yes, it was the Hof Ten Dormaal Blond. At this point we’re just trying to get rid of the stuff. It’s a great beer but it’s been in stock for months. I heard that there had been a fire at the brewery and it might not be around for a while so I bought two cases each of four varieties, far overestimating demand. Now, there’s a waiting list for its shelf space.

The first cheese to pair with it a variation of Picandou, a fresh French goat cheese. My coworker in the cheese department gave me a box of Carr’s garlic and herb crackers to use with it. Given that he sometimes gives me Ritz crackers, I figured I’d be a good sport and reward the solid choice by using it for a round. Then I decided to get creative, perhaps there’s a latent Cheesemonger Invitational contestant still inside of me (I was going to compete in 2012 but staff shortages forced me out). I decided that since the Hof Ten Dormaal has a slightly bitter finish, something substantially sweet might work. So I took a big chocolate Smores cookie and cut it into several portions topping each with a dollop of the Picandou. That worked, though only a few customers chose to try both the cookie cheese combo and the beer.

The second cheese was Queso de Murcia al Vino, a higher brow version of a Spanish cheese called Drunken Goat. It’s a firm goat cheese that is rinsed in red wine as it ripens. It has a nice balance, some herbal sweetness at the start and a plummy finish. It paired well with the beer.

When that board finished, there was a half hour left, easily enough time to do another board, but traffic was slowing, so I devoted the time to straightening up the beer aisle and researching a cider order.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie | Leave a comment

Beer & Cheese Pairings July 13

Evil-Twin-Ron-and-the-Beast-Ryan-570x313Mondays are tough nights to predict at Westside Market East Village. They are always busy and sometimes the customers are chill and interested in the world around them. Other times they can be hardcore New York Nasties. Last week was a case of the latter, so I braced myself this week, but I didn’t need to, it was the former all the way. We did one pairing all evening but it was well received with many issues raised by the tasters.

The pairing was Evil Twin Ron and the Beast Ryan, a saison brewed with wild yeast and Cremont, the disc made of a mixture of cow and goat’s milk. I chose the beer because it is oddly displayed right now. Our bomber section has been decimated so to fill space, the stock guy did three facings of Ron and the Beast Ryan, which makes it look like a featured beer. That’s as it should be to my mind. The beer is deliciously light in texture full of zesty overtones with a distinct grapefruity finish. I wouldn’t put the beer with an especially ripe Cremont, which has a potent zing in the middle and a powerful finishing kick. But when young, and these Cremont were especially young, the cheese is gently balanced with subtle herbal elements (I got overtones of sorrel and thyme). It has an alluring texture and smooth balance. I thought they’d go well together.

The clientele agreed. Many tried to suss out what the herbal overtones in the cheese said to them. Others were eager to discuss the relationship between the grapefruit finish in the beer versus the similar finish in some IPAs. It was a stimulating set of dialogues.

The first customer to the last board, a young African American man with two brainy looking kids in tow, tried the pairing and positively cooed, then announced that it was spectacular and told everyone within earshot that they needed to try the beer. That board finished in record time (probably under a minute). As I circled down the beer aisle, I saw him happily with one in hand and we stopped and chatted about our favorites from Evil Twin. It was his first time to the beer aisle but it won’t be his last. The beer program is rocking and we’re still just finding our crowd.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment

Beer and Cheese Pairings July 12

ManchesterThe Westside Market East Village is  a big store with 18,000 square feet and probably 75 employees. There’s a fair amount of turnover which often results a new person asking me what do I do. It’s not obvious since I don’t cover a station (unless you consider the beer aisle a station). The short answer, I co-manage the beer program—usually works, but in a way, a better answer is that I’m the in house advocate of connoisseurship. For instance we have a variety of hams, but the deli guys rarely recommend the small batch smoked ham on the bone over the Boar’s Head. The latter is easier to cut and it gets the customer on his or her way. I’m the person at least implicitly via my beer and cheese samples is here to encourage customers to explore what they don’t know. There is culinary gold in them thar hills.

Sunday’s beer and cheese pairings began with Rosso di Langhe, a wonderful soft cheese from northern Italy. We carry a nifty selection of Taleggios, Robiola and the like, but they are off in the corner of the cheese case, so I feel like they risk getting overlooked. I put it on the board with Off Color Troublesome, a Gose from Chicago. It was hot and somewhat humid, so that seemed like a natural. Also I expected the light texture and fruity finish of the beer to go well with the texture of the cheese, and it did. The cheese disappeared quickly. So to finish the cheese I looked at the pile of cheeses my coworker was cutting for passive sampling and chose the Grafton Village 2 year old cheddar. I did it for convenience as I can prep a firm cheese faster and I’m always wary of letting the beer go flat. Still the creamy mouthfeel of the cheddar worked with the fizziness of the Gose.

When I returned to the cheese station, I noticed that my coworker had a piece of the Marcel Petite Comte out for cleaning and trimming. I grabbed it, trimmed the mold off and put it on the board with Evil Twin Falco. It was the middle of Sunday afternoon and the pace of the shopping was relaxed enough that I knew I’d be able to tell customers the backstories of both the cheese and the beer. In addition the gentle nuttiness and delicately fruity flavor of the cheese balanced the hop character of the Falco, which is an IPA made with Falconers Hops.

Ordinarily, I’d take a quick break to check on my fantasy baseball team or somesuch, but the late afternoon rush had begun early and everyone on the floor was scrambling, so I went to the beer aisle to choose another. Ordinarily, this is the time I’d break out a bomber, but you know what, our big bottle shelf had been decimated. It’s one thing to sell out of big bottles of white IPAs or Saisons during the summer, but we were even low or out of bombers of 11% ABV Imperial Stouts. Yes, it’s a great beer program, but a lot of that is because we have a great clientele. I had sampled an IPA and a Gose, so I made a saison, the Stillwater Cellar Door, next to the board. I was curious to see another cheddar, the Prarie Breeze would fare with it. The balance of the cheese highlighted the floral elements of the saison, which is brewed with white sage.

The cheese finished before the beer so the final round of Cellar Door, I paired it with Red Leicester. We have one from Neal’s Yard and I’m on a mission to keep my coworker from trimming the mold on it. On a cheese like this, mold makes it better, more earthy. When I worked at Bedford Cheese Shop, we often had two or three Neal’s Yard cheddars on display and customers would often ask for the moldiest. The clientele dug the cheese and the backstory on its color. It worked well with the sweetness of the Cellar Door.

I still had some Leicester left when the Cellar Door finished so I paired that with Arcana, a Belgian stout produced by Stillwater in tandem with Hof Ten Dormaal. The rich coffee notes of the stout paired wonderfully with lean, earthy sharpness of the cheese. Of coourse, the cheese finished halfway through the beer so since I was on a earthy kick, I put some Tomme De Savoie on the board and let the buttery earthniness work with the dark sweetness of the stout.

There was just enough time for one more beer, so I took the easy route and chose the Hof Ten Dormaal Blond. The HTD’s are great beers but at $6.99 for a 12/7 ounce bottle they are pricey for my crowd. The blond has a sugarcane sweetness and a big yeasty mouthfeel that screams BELGIUM in the very best way possible. I paired it with Conundrum, a cider washed cheese from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont. The cheese has a slight funk to it which was balanced by sweetness of the beer. It occurred to me later that a board of Conundrum and Troublesome would set off giggles through the store. Maybe Friday.

Posted in beer, cheese, culinary, food, foodie, Fromage of the Day FoD, whiskey, wine | Leave a comment