The other night, I did a cheese and spirits pairing with my friend/distilled beverage guru Bryan Dayton. Bryan is the co-owner and force behind the cocktail program at Boulder’s much-lauded OAK at Fourteenth. He also digs cheese, and provided invaluable information for the pairing chapter in my book, Cheese for Dummies. I blame him for my current obsession with bourbon and aged Gouda.
We were at the Boulder Wine Merchant, a kick-ass shop owned by MS Brett Zimmerman–one of five Master Sommeliers living in Boulder. After a busy two-hour event, Bryan left to oversee dinner service at his restaurant, while I packed up. The cheeses and selection of four spirits (which included a heavenly Hans Reisetbauer Apple Brandy ) were still on the table. Suddenly, a tall, dark stranger appeared before me.
“Whatcha got going on here?” he asked. His considerable girth was barely contained by a bulky CU hoodie, and his beady eyes gleamed as they took in the array of free booze and cheesy nuggets. He looked not a day over 19, but upon checking his ID, I discovered he was barely legal, in drinking terms.
Still high on the vapors of a highly successful evening, I asked if he’d like me to walk him through the pairing. I noted the fistful of raw, local goat’s milk cheese already in his meaty paw, and poured him a taste of the late-harvest Riesling. He downed it before I’d even had a chance to mention its dominant notes of honey and melon, underscored by an earthy finish.
We moved on the brandy. Its searingly potent fumes were brilliantly tempered by the butterscotch and caramel flavors of the L’Amuse 2-year Gouda I’d chosen. Gulp! The spirit vanished down my pupil’s maw, followed by a handful of Gouda. “What’s next?” he asked, chewing with his mouth open.
By the time he’d pounded the Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, I finally clued in to the fact that this guy hadn’t been sober when he’d walked in the door. But I persisted, determined to see this through to the end. I poured him the final tasting–Averna–and went into my spiel:
Me: “This is a bitters, an herbal liqueur often served as a digestif. It’s made from a proprietary blend of botanicals, but you’ll notice it’s more syrupy and sweet than many in this category, such as Fernet, or Jagermeister….”
Him (starting to slur): “Hey, d’you, like, think this stuff when you’re just hanging out drinking wine?”
Me: “Um, no. I mean, this is a tasting, so it’s meant to be educational. I love food and all, but I don’t have these thoughts running through my mind when I’m trying them, unless it’s in a professional capacity.”
Him: “So, y’don’t, like, drink some wine ‘n say to yourshelf, ‘Ooh, I’m getting a lot of really ripe fruit in this. Oh, yeah, this is sooo good?’”
Me (squinting): “No.”
Him (leering, and gesturing to Averna): “I want you t’ talk to me about thisch like you would if you’re taschting wine. Like, for real. You know, like, describe it t’ me. Like thosch wine magazines do.”
Me ( Laugh, or vomit, laugh or vomit?): “Yeah, that’s so not going to happen.”
Mercifully, his frat friends found him at that moment, beer purchases made. And thus my would-be suitor shuffled into the snowy night, knuckles dragging. Drunk, lonely, horny, and doomed to yet another session reciting the Coors Lite flavor profile to himself. Tapping the Rockies just isn’t as easy as it used to be.