Is there anything as satisfying as when you walk into the grocery store and an array of amazing samplers have just been put out? Fresh, exciting new foodstuff for you to test at no risk: at worst, you just got some free empty calories, and at best, you have a new go-to comfort food to add to your cart. The truly talented (and desperate?) can make a meal working the Whole Foods aisles. This Monday night I struck bubbling gold as I walked into the store for some
Ben & Jerry’s fruits & veggies and was greeted with a spectacular beer and food pairing: Flying Dog with crab cakes, Ommegang with chocolate, Chimay with cheese.
Beer pairing is a specialty on the rise, and honestly I’m surprised it took this long. Brewing has long been a tradition in New York, and though the 80′s and 90′s might have heralded international brands like the Coors and Budweisers of the industry, specialty brewing and even home brewing are gaining market share, buoyed by a preference for local goods and a reinvigorated support for small business. Brooklyn Brewery, which moved its operations to Williamsburg (from upstate) in 1996, has a projected $40 million sales for 2012 and is still gaining popularity in its home town as well as across the country.
As the presence of the microbrew grows, as does the role of the beer sommelier. Every college student’s dream job, beer somms are flavor experts. A slightly less rigorous ranking that its oenological counterpart, beer somms still endure rigorous training and tasting (though I hardly pity them) and are knowledgeable about food and wine as well. Gianni Cavicchi, the beer sommelier at Cafe d’Alsace, advises “The best way to learn beer is also coming to bars, hanging out, talking about beer and finding sommeliers that will take you through it. Also – you gotta home brew – it’s all about experimentation.”
There are certainly many places around the city that are equipped and ready to help you on your journey, here’s a few to get you started:
Beer Table: One of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the country, it maintains a rotating list of 25 bottled beers from around the world as well as select and rare cellared brews. 427B 7th Ave between 14th and 15th, Brooklyn
Blind Tiger: Making TimeOut NY’s list of Best Craft-Beer Bars, this West Village classic hosts tasting events and a free Murray’s cheese pairing every Wednesday. 281 Bleecker St at Jones St
DBGB: What better to pair with a good ale than one of the 14 house-cured sausages at Daniel Boulud’s casual downtown outpost of his empire? Their beer sommelier recommends a Belgian Saison as one of the most versatile pairings. 299 Bowery at Houston
Image Credit: Beer Table, Blind Tiger, thedapperdude.com