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Your Artisanal Cheese and Craft Beer Tailgating Picks of the Week

And I'm still trying to figure out whether these should be tasted during tomorrow's Caps pub crawl or during D.C. United tailgating at RFK. Maybe both. Anyhow, these are certainly not rare finds, but I think you'd be happy spending your weekend with some Grafton cheddar and Brooklyn Brown Ale, especially in combination. Trust me.

I called Grafton (in Vermont) because one of my favorite American cheeses is the Grafton Gold three-year aged cheddar. Somewhere--in one of my old Cheese Lovers Newsletters, I think--I said the cheese reminds me of Concord grapes, with its sharp, fruity bite and it's insta-burst of flavor. Plus, nothing says fall like Concord grapes, especially if you're from Western New York. And while I can't always tell the difference between raw (unpasteurized) cheeses and the cooked versions, there's no mistaking Grafton's rawness. But it turns out they aren't currently making the three-year Gold. And the cheesemaker I talked to, 24-year-old Greg Joslyn, isn't actually a huge fan of aged cheddars. He prefers the younger one-year old unpasteurized cheddar, and his favorite is actually the smoked cheddar, which is made with the aid of maple wood chips. Go figure. I would have thought an actual cheesemaker would always take older over younger.

But Greg gets some leeway here, because he's a second-generation cheesemaker whose father, Brian, started making cheese for Grafton in 1977 and eventually became the plant manager. Greg's uncle works there, too. Greg went to work for Grafton just a few months after graduating high school, and he loves the job, doesn't even notice the smell any more. Although....

"Every time I get home, my wife says, 'You stink like cheese,'" he says. "Every day." See, that's cheese cred.

Plus, for football-watching purposes, he makes a good point: the younger cheddars melt better and are perfect for nachos, while the older cheeses tend to become greasier and float away

when they're melted down. Greg and his buddies are fond of melting the one-year cheddar over crackers and pepperoni for football-watching purposes. And while he's not a big beer drinker, he recommends Long Trail's Blackberry Wheat with the one-year. And after the smoked, his next favorite Grafton cheese is the garlic. Again, go figure.

(Incidentally, like any good Vermonter, Greg roots for the Patriots, although he's a little worried about the passing game. Thinks the absense of Deion Branch and David Givens has gotten inside Brady's head. He told me the Patriots would win something like 31-14 against the Dolphins this week, as a New York Giants-loving co-worker screamed "LOSERS" in the background. And Greg's not sure whether Bill Belichick has ever tasted Grafton cheddar, although "I wouldn't say that he hasn't," he said. "I mean, the cheese goes everywhere.")

On to the beer. Hoppy Jeff writes:

January 16, 1920: the most feared date for any American beer drinker. After Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment (the Volstead Act), the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol was prohibited in the United
States. This act not only opened the doors for an unfathomable increase in crime but it devastated our country's brewing culture. In cities with large German and Dutch populations, such as St. Louis and Milwaukee, beer was a large part of the local culture. This was especially true in New York City and what would soon become its most populous borough: Brooklyn.

In the early 1900s Brooklyn had more breweries than any other part of the country: 48. Prohibition eliminated nearly all of these producers of traditional beer. This decline concluded in 1976, when Brooklyn's last commercial brewery, Shaefer and Liebmann (Rheingold) closed its doors. In 1987 two Brooklyn men--Steve Hindy, a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, and Tom Potter, a bank lending officer--began carrying out their dream to restore Brooklyn's great brewing heritage. Starting with a handful of employees and a few delivery vehicles, Brooklyn Brewery overcame incredible obstacles and proceeded to set milestones for the Craft Brewing movement. In the past 19 years they have successfully built and then sold their own distribution company, hired one of the world's most respected Brewmasters in Garrett Oliver, opened a brewery in the vibrant neighborhood of
Williamsburg and grown into one of the nation's top 50 breweries.

Based on an early homebrew recipe from co-founder Hindy, Brooklyn Brown Ale is a delicious beer for cool fall weather. Combining the strong and dry flavors of northern English Brown Ales with the milder and sweeter flavors of southern English Brown Ales, Brooklyn Brown is finished with American hop varietals to give it a firm, dry finish. (And, the brewery notes, it goes perfectly with well-aged cheddars.) This full-flavored beer has complex malt flavors resulting in a fruity and smooth flavor with a background, as the brewery says, of "caramel, chocolate and coffee." Such an award-winning brew would have suited the occasion perfectly when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced at the end of Prohibition in December, 1933: "I think this would be a good time for a beer."

Enjoy. And if any cheese lovers plan to be Caps pub crawling or D.C. United tailgating tomorrow, send me an e-mail and I'll try to find you with some Grafton samples.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 6, 2006; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Beer and Cheese  
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Aaaah, behold the power of Vermont: A true bastion of liberalism and fine cheeses. If it weren't for the lack of a professional hockey would be almost perfect.

Good cheese by the way - thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Dan | October 9, 2006 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey Jeff and Dan,

I love beer and cheese, better than wine. I spent $147 last week in Whole Foods cheese department for Sunday football. Very easy to do, just go see Scott in Specialty Department in thei Union Square, NYC store. Stilton is a favorite of mine with EIPA.

Posted by: mikev631 | October 24, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

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