For anyone out there that likes beer and/or social history, I can’t recommend this book I’m reading highly enough. I know I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. Not only does Mosher cover all the nitty-gritty details, he conveys the pure, blissful wonderment of beer as a human institution. Pure, blissful wonderment. Sounds nice, right? I’m starting to think that’s what’s most appealing to me about all this.
While beer has been different things to different civilizations – a nutrition supplement, a method of quelling social unrest, etc. – it’s always been a source of regional pride, shared community, and good feelings. In fact, because the modernized world depends on fermentation much less for things like resource preservation, beer’s role in makin’ people happy has really become its raison d’être. It exists as a luxury that, due to its price point and social connotations, still remains completely democratic. It’s meant to be enjoyed, period. And to the King of Belgium or some kid in a dumpy apartment, beer’s complex flavor, sparkling bubbles, and rich history are no less thrilling.
Pure, blissful wonderment.
Now on to the beer.
This week was all about finding nice, local seasonal beers for the restaurant. There were some hits and some misses, but all in all an impressive New York showing. Stand-outs were Southern Tier’s Old Man and Brooklyn’s Dark Chocolate Stout and Cuvee Noire.
I had the Old Man in a bottle last week, but this week I found that it’s really made for draft. The flavors – deep butterscotch malts, aged leather, old cigar boxes – benefit from the softer, less zippy format. Rather than the usual big, rich winter beers I’ve been having, Old Man is more of a reverent winter memory – made that much more complex and compelling from the subtlety. One of the most charactered beers I’ve had. Definitely try it.
The Brooklyn beers were mysterious and delicious, both very different from their Winter Ale. The Dark Chocolate Stout is a big beer at 10% abv. Still, it’s highly attenuated (all the sugar as been turned to alcohol) so it remains dry and somewhat light. While the big-time chocolate and caramel malts are a natural fit with rich, chocolaty desserts, I think I stumbled upon the absolute perfect pairing for this beer: goat cheese yogurt with fresh pomegranate. The tart, tangy sweetness of the yogurt and pomegranate match so well with the deep, smooth chocolate. Trust me, it’s killer.
Speaking of desserts, I had the Founder’s IPA with a delicious quince and lemon shortcake at Tabla on Monday. I read about pairing big, hoppy IPAs with rich desserts in my book, and it was awesome. I would never have thought to do it, but the beer’s bitterness really made the sweet, tangy fruit shine. Try it.
Lastly, the Cuvee Noire was the happy result of an unfortunate circumstance. I’ve been looking for Chelsea Brewery’s Hoppy Holidays Ale at bars around the city for a few days. Last night I thought I found it online at The Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn, but when I got there the bartender said they haven’t had it for a couple weeks. I was bummed. The guy was really nice though, and led me to pick the Cuvee Noire – a black, toasty Belgian Strong Ale. It’s one of Garrett Oliver’s Brewer’s Reserve beers at Brooklyn, and you can tell some serious care was put into it. 8.7%, deep dark coffee aromas, but still incredible smooth and delicate. The big flavors and alcohol were balanced by a body that was crisp and dry – a perfect match for food. Look for it at the restaurant.
Speaking of which, I guess I’ll tell you where I work: Bar Stuzzichini at 928 Broadway. Come match your winter ale with some delicious Southern Italian food. Or with the gelato… switch things up.