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Beer-Loving Hockey Fans, Lindsay Czarniak and the Park View H.S. Football Team Sample Our Cheese of the Week

Admit it, that's a great headline. This will be a long entry but, in my humble, cheese-centric opinion, worth the investment, especially if you're at work. If you're at home, go outside and enjoy the weather.

Ok, so Saturday, I loaded the car with two blocks of Grafton two-year Classic Reserve cheddar and a six-pack of Brooklyn Brown Ale in honor of last week's beer and cheese tailgating picks. I figured we'd sample one block during the Caps pre-game bar crawl, and one block during D.C. United tailgating.

(Btw, I love the little handout you get with the map to various bars before the Caps bar crawl. First of all, the brochure reminds fans to "TIP YOUR BARTENDERS!!" Second of all, it reminds fans to "be careful and obey all local laws," which is often a good idea. Third, it reminds fans to "either finish [drinks] or spill [them] out before leaving" the various bars. Fourth, it reminds fans that "participation in this event is understood to be at your own risk." Lastly, it asks fans to "try to visit every bar to complete the tour," while noting that "we are not suggesting you drink at every bar." No, I never would have gotten that idea. Seriously, how great are hockey fans?)

Anyhow, at RFD I encountered a group of four young persons who had consumed a combined 20 bottles of $2 Budweiser products, plus a combined four shots of Southern Comfort, in about an hour. They thought that was good, but the people at my table were making fun of them for being lightweights.

I encountered a guy named Russ Johnson who had a Caps jersey with the name "Angry Polack" on the back. (I asked him what that meant; "pretty much what it says," he said. "I'm Polish and I tend to get angry." Right on.)

I encountered the first of several Jagr-jersey wearing fans; "if I kept up to the minute with every jersey, I'd be going bankrupt," Will Whitted said in his own defense. "I mean, these jerseys aren't cheap."

The people at my table, whom I didn't know, convinced me that I should go interview a couple of Caps fans who seemed to be slightly older than the typical bar-crawling fan, and so I encountered Bill and Nancy McCloskey.

"We're certainly not 20-something," admitted Nancy, when I asked.

"But we understand $2 beer," Bill said. "That's a very easy concept, even at our age."

"Well, we understood it at 20, too, but then it was quarter glasses," Nancy said. Seriously, how great are hockey fans?

The people at my table, whom I didn't know, weren't into tasting the cheese out of my backpack, but there was this guy at the bar named Danny who works for the U.S. Dairy Export Council and is thus fairly knowledgeable about cheese, and also happens to be the commissioner of a fantasy hockey league that I joined via this Bog, making him close to the center of my universe. His friends were all beer snobs--they were drinking St. Louis Framboise and Arrogant Bastard Ale and Leffe Brune and Rogue Monk Madness, which I highly, highly recommend, although I certainly wasn't drinking any Saturday when I was on the clock. So the beer snob thing was good for my tasting purposes, but the fact that they were sitting next to a huge bunch of shrieking Michigan fans was not.

("I'll tell you what, Michigan does a better job of exporting fans these days than industrial products," a wag noted amid shrieks. We get it, your team is better than Michigan State. Congratulations. That's a great accomplishment.)

Anyhow, we ordered some Brooklyn Brown and got to work tasting the Grafton Classic Reserve. Still not sure if you're really allowed to bring a hunk of cheese into a restaurant and start eating it, but no one said anything.

Danny Ingram (on the cheese): "Burnt almonds and sour milk, but that's a good thing. It smells like a newborn scalp, but that's a good thing."

Steve Felder: "I like crumbly cheddar. This is a little soft for me."

Me: "Well, it's been in my backpack."

Danny Ingram: "This would go really well with a nice dessert wine, like [???] from the Loire Valley."

Nathan Strejcek: "This would make a great grilled cheese sandwich. It needs crackers. Beer and cheese, they need the proper cracker."

Me: "Good for tailgating?"

Danny Ingram: "If you're tailgating at Tysons Corner 2, maybe."

Nathan Strejcek: "Caps tailgating is Ritz crackers and Cheez Whiz."

Jamie Prime: "The Brown really complements an aged cheddar. I thought [the cheese] was kind of lacking, because I like a good cheddar sharper, but the Brown really fills in nicely. It's a nice pairing."

Patricia Hurley: "I think it overwhelms the cheese. I don't feel like I taste the cheese any more."

Steve Felder: "Beer is beer, food is food. Like, everyone says beer with pizza is so good, but I like my pizza with a Coke, and the beer is separate. I just don't get it."

Reed something or other: "I would say they're both sweet and smooth, the cheese and the beer."

Danny Ingram: "It's as smooth as the transition to democracy in Iraq."

Reed something or other: [?]

Danny Ingram: "It's smoother than the transition to democracy in Iraq. And the beer has a pleasant bitterness, like the waning years of the Clinton presidency."

(Seriously, is there another city in the world where I could take cheese and beer to hockey fans inside a bar for tasting notes and wind up with a commentary on the Clinton presidency and the transition to democracy in Iraq?)

Anyhow, by this time fans were filtering out and going over to the game, and Maryland was in the process of losing to Georgia Tech, and the Angry Polack was angry about something (really), and then I got some people who were helping staff the event for the Caps to taste the cheese, and then we eventually landed in the Capitals press box where, between the first and second periods, I convinced some media members

to taste the remaining cheese, which I had been storing in my jacket pocket and which prompted one well-known reporter to accuse me of being like Napoleon Dynamite with the tater tots and all that. Anyhow,

NBC4's Lindsay Czarniak: This is a great cheese. It should be bright orange, it's that good.

WTOP's Craig Heist: It'd be great with a Ritz cracker. It definitely doesn't deserve to be eaten alone."

(I don't get it. If you have a great cheese, why would you want to overwhelm it with a mass-produced cracker? It's like going to see the National Symphony, and saying this would be great if only they were playing at the Black Cat.)

And then we headed down to section 423, where Washington Post columnist Mike Wise was watching the game as a spectator and dancing enthusiastically, of course, and where virtually the entire Park View H.S. football team was sitting. So I figured, heck, might as well see how the Patriots like the old Grafton cheese, straight out of the pocket and everything. I mean, who hasn't passed out cheese samples to high school football players at NHL games?

Linebacker Nash Cook: "Oh my gosh. It's a very nice blend of cheddar and dairy. It tastes like cheese. It's better at the beginning than the end. It's good until you swallow it, that's what I say. The aftertaste....I think it'd taste better on bread. It's a little weird."

Left tackle Edwin Guzman: "I'm not ever going to eat cheese plain, ever again. That was disgusting."

Park View Coach Andy Hill: "Edwin'll eat anything. It must not be very good."

Plus, Nash Cook told me all about his ska cover band No Clue, of which he's the drummer and, I believe, youngest member. He dislocated his elbow playing football and only has one good arm, but he's still drumming.

If you're wondering, Park View fell to 4-1 with a 14-7 loss to Martinsburg, WV on Friday night, dropping out of The Post's top 20, but they were in great spirits at the Caps game. A parent of a player works in an office that was offering free Caps tickets last week, and somehow the parent to managed to collect 99 tickets on Thursday afternoon, and so within a matter of hours Andy Hill decided what the heck, we'll make a group outing into D.C. on Saturday night. They came in nine cars, via Metro, and had about 60 people, including cheerleaders, coaches, players, managers, etc. scattered throughout the 400 section.

Andy, if you're wondering, is a 28-year-old Minnesotan in his first head coaching job. He also teaches history, and he must have one of the youngest football staffs in the area; three assistants are under the age of 30, including a 20-year-old linebackers coach who's a student at George Mason. Many of his kids had never been to a hockey game before, and he said he had to twist a lot of arms to get them to come--attendance was "highly encouraged"--but by the time I showed up in the second period they were chanting and stomping and, naturally, starting the wave. They also began heckling Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, whom they had never heard of, with chants of "Mi-chael, Mi-chael."

"I've never been around a team I honestly enjoyed being around as much," Andy Hill said. "We work our ass off at practice, but as soon as they get outside those doors they love to have fun together."

Needless to say, I'm now a big Park View supporter.

And needless to say, my second piece of Grafton Classic Reserve never got sampled.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 9, 2006; 5:24 PM ET
Categories:  Beer and Cheese  
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