Last Sunday at the Commmonwealth Cafe and Pub in Oakland, Cicerone Nicole Erny held her British Isles beer and cheese pairing event. After a day at Triple Rock sampling sour beers amongst the crowds I was quite happy to get to this event. Seating was limited here and the ambiance was terrific, a great way to relax and get some focus towards pairings. Outside of this, it was also great to see some Bay Area Mashers there (AJ, Lee Shepard, and others) along with Nate Smith (part time masher!) and Chaz Lakip (traveled down from Juneau, AK).
After settling up on cost and enjoying some conversation with a pint of 21st Amendment’s very excellent Bitter American (way better than I imagined, can’t wait till it comes out in cans). We were promptly seated and the event began. I won’t go into too much detail but Nicole really does her homework for her events. Along with some history of both the beers and cheese we were tasting, she presented pairings that I wouldn’t have thought doable. You would think some of these cheeses would just overpower the beer but they didn’t. Amazing what the odiferous washed rind cheese brought out in the milk stout or how the stilton treated the Scotch Ale. None of the beers (and one cider) I’ve had before, certainly not the cheese. While I came to learn something, I also had a door opened up in terms of possibilities of what you can come up with. There is a lot going on with pairing beer and cheese, more so than I imagined. Thanks for the head start.
Trust me, you are doing a disservice by missing a Nicole event. Check out the few shots below and clicky on them for a bigger version.
Cheers and don’t forget the cheese with your next beer.
Archive for the ‘beer pairing’ Category
The Publick House was probably one of the first beer places to get jotted down on my “things to do in Boston” list. I believe it was about 2 years ago some important media thing listed this place as one of the top 5 beer bars in the country. Funny enough, while cruising around on yelp, many folks listed Publick House’s mac and cheese as the thing that can’t be missed. Besides loving beer, I love mac and cheese so off I went.
The Publick House if very accessible from the T (Boston’s “subway”). You get off at Washington Square and walk all of about a block. Its location in the Brookline area seems mellow in a Portland Oregon kind of way but that’s just a generalization for a guy who was there for all of one evening. At 7pm on a Tueday, the place was already filling up. It was just me so I was able to easily able to slot myself into a place.
My focus for the beer part of my trip was on local/regional beers so I ordered a bottle of Pretty Things Field Mouse’s Farewell. A “rustic golden ale” brewed with barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Of the Pretty Things I have tried in the past, I discovered they don’t worry much about keeping to style (not a bad thing). This beer was bright with orange and spice. A clean beer and interesting. Somewhere in here I put in my order for the mac and cheese. The beauty of the dish is you can customize it…so I added broccoli and bacon. The dish soon showed up in all of its steaming glory. They use eggshell pasta and they had put it in the oven to get that nice baked on surface. While I was waiting for it to cool down, I ordered a Brooklyn Brewing Brown Ale to go with my meal. The beer was a clean and classic brown. It supported the mac and cheese nicely but ultimately a brown’s roastiness is probably a hard too much for this dish. The mac and cheese? Wow! Completely worth the trip on that meal alone. Here I am in a “top beer bar” and I’m going on about the mac and cheese. That is the beauty of travel I guess.
For my final beer, I broke my own rules and I ordered a North Coast Old Rasputin on nitro. I couldn’t pass this up as I kept seeing this setup around Boston. Man, why haven’t I seen this on the west coast? Old Rasputin + nitro = brilliant. It smoothed out any high octane edginess that the standard version has and envelopes you in a bed of lush creaminess. Fantastic.
You can’t go to The Publick House without walking up the street to their bottle shop. The Publick House Provisions. A nice bottle shop with an incredible selection of glassware on top of it. After making a few laps, I purchased a bottle of Brooklyn Brewing Local 1 and DIPA that was under the Publick House name. Helping me with the latter beer was Josh, who was working the store that night. A very cool guy and we talked East coast beers and West coast beers and a few other beer things.
Worth the trip? Absolutely but if you are a beer person, you don’t need me to tell you that. What I can tell you is that you should definitely check out the mac and cheese!
Before I talk about Nathan Smith and Nicole Erny’s excellent beer school, let me talk about what the students brought to the table. Oakland is the quiet, un-pretentious melting pot that is usually over shadowed by SF, San Jose, or its own crime stats. What people miss in Oakland, and what could be found in the crowd at Beer School, were people of all ages, races, genders, and walks of life. They were there to learn and enjoy beer. There were old and young, people who knew beer already and those that didn’t. There were homebrewers and non-homebrewers. White collar and blue collar. Everyone shared an open mind and some of that wonderful Oakland non-pretentious nature. Needless to say, I enjoyed the crowd and it is what I always have envisioned as a great environment for getting to know a few things about beer.
This was the third Beer School event but the first to happen in the new back area of the Trappist. While I missed the first two Beer Schools, this new location seemed to be a relief to Nicole and others as there is more room. The space worked well for the upwards of 35 folks in attendance. Tables were prepped with bread, water, sheets on the two styles of beers, and a menu of what was being sampled that day (please click on the menu photo for a bigger shot). The class itself on the Belgian Dubbel and Tripel styles of beer. As a nice touch, there happened to be three folks that have gone to all three Beer Schools, so they received a Trappist goblet and a gold star for their perfect attendance.
So what is it about Nate and Nicole’s class? First off, they have an engaging style and obvious love of beer. They are certified BJCP judges and have a great depth of knowledge. Nicole, as a long time beer server at The Trappist, specializes in beer tasting, beer styles, flavors, proper storage and serving. Nate, a homebrewer who has medaled many times for his beer, has a lot of knowledge about ingredients, brewing process, beer history, along with the prerequisite beer tasting and beer styles. They had done research on the breweries and the beer we sampled. During the class, they were both at ease speaking in front of an audience. They had a good flow in presenting information in that while one was speaking the other would pick up to fill in some blanks and then back again. They always opened the floor for questions and they provided the answers. Something to note : during any beer class (or wine class for that matter) there seems to be a spot about ¾’s of the way through were people have had just enough alcohol that the crowd starts swaying towards small talk. Nicole wasn’t having it and she reeled the class back in to finish the discussion, hats off to that. I have been to more than one class where the instructor just lets it go. Both Nate and Nicole made a point to get through all of the material to make sure that folks got the education they came for.
All through the class, beers were being poured into fresh glassware and getting served promptly pretty much in sync with the lectures. Finished glassware were being cleared and water glasses were being filled, all by an excellent Trappist staff supporting the event. There were a couple times that we were asked to hold on to a sample to compare/contrast with the next one. This was not difficult as the staff were on beat (with support by Nicole) with their deliveries of the samples.
At the end of class, everyone received a full pour of any beer that the Trappist offered that day along with some plates of great cheese, meat, and bread. Folks hung out a socialized for a bit and both Nate and Nicole were available to answer any questions.
Needles to say, I am excited to attend the next Beer School so I’m going to make sure to get my reservation in early assuming that demand will continue to grow. See you there!
So we went camping for the 4th. It was my daughters first time out in a tent for the night and she loved it.
We had Damnation with our breakfast. A beer that I absolutely love, but I think with the food presented I should have gone with Duvel. Damnation has a pepper taste in the end that clashed with the fruit and pancakes….I should have broken it out when the bacon was served instead!
An anti-seasonal hit for the weekend:
I say anti-seasonal in reference to my session posting below. Russian River’s Dead Leaf Green is an excellent English Ale. The malt aromas and taste are spot on to the style with just enough bitterness to balance. Everyone thinks of Russian River Brewing as the home of Belgians and IPAs. In honor of the anti-season, I tried this beer and loved it. Good chance I’d get it again next time I’m at the pub.
Moylan’s Irish Red Ale. Stopped at the pub on my way back from Russian River. Moylan’s is a quality brew pub with great beers. The Irish Red was not a let down. I don’t have notes for this beer but everything seemed right from Yeast esters, to the malt, and just enough hops to balance.
Hey why pair a beer with your food when you should pair food with your beer!
One dish I love making is my italian sausage sandwich. Boil some italian sausages in budweiser, cut up some peppers and onions, fry them up, heat up some buns, and you’re golden. Add a thin strip of mustard and ketchup and start eating.
I was drinking my Irish Red homebrew when I decided to cook this up. The food paired nicely with the beer. My Irish Red is not that bitter which works out great with this meal since their aren’t any particular strong, overpowering flavors….mainly just sweetness. The sweetness of the sandwich marries nicely with the low bitter, malt forward ale.