What Garrett Oliver Thinks You Should Drink with Baloney

The Brooklyn Brewery’s latest brewmaster reserve release party, celebrating the darkest brew of the bunch so far — so dark it’s called Cuvee Noire — sure was a blast, and not just because of the sloppy joes and flaming mortadella (the fancy Italian name for baloney) sandwiches that paired awfully well with the beer. The beer was made by brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who we profiled just a few weeks back, and his party was the sort of on-the-verge-of-getting-out-of-hand event that is typical if you throw a couple hundred beer bloggers, homebrewers, and enthusiastic drinkers in front of some taps and tables of food from Tom Cat Bakery, Coach Farms, McClure’s Pickles and the Meat Hook. (Makers of that fine mortadella set aflame, as shown below.)

The mood was further elevated by palpable signs of the brewery’s imminent expansion–bottling lines, kegs, and other equipment stacked high along the wall. In a few short weeks, the wall will come down between the old brewery space and the new, order-of-magnitude-larger facility next door.

Easy Cheese: A blowtorch was key to melting sandwiches made with Meat Hook mortadella, pickled onions and mustard.

As for the Brooklyn Cuvée Noire, it’s the sort of cross-cultural concoction that is sometimes favored by globe-trotting brewmaster Oliver, who has active collaborative brewing projects in Italy, Japan and a few other Brooklyn Brewery export markets. Traditional stout has drip coffee and roast flavors, Oliver explained, which means any spiciness or hopiness is toned down. But, as the tongue-in-cheek, Hollywood-crime-drama tasting notes explain, “black ales with German, American and British malts didn’t normally go out with Belgians.” Belgian yeast, that  is: But the Brewmaster joined them anyway. “It’s from Brooklyn, not Belgium,” he writes. “We don’t have a king. Don’t fence us in.”

In all seriousness, the result is rich and subtle. One friend in the beer biz told us, “it drinks like a Guiness but it’s not thick like a stout.”

Oliver was glad to hear such interpretations, and even offered his own comeback: “It’s like fusion cooking. There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.” Or as the Meat Hook man dishing up spoonfuls of spicy ground meat said, “Sloppy Joe and Cuvee Noire, it’s a match made in heaven.”

Still, the Brewmaster is looking forward to sipping the limited-run Cuvée Noire–on tap throughout the city and beyond–with stews, roasted meats, cassoulet, and a duck lasagna that he makes with friends (Oliver brings the ragu, his friend make the pasta) when the mercury starts to fall. “Duck is one of the few meats that tastes like itself,” he said, noting that it hasn’t been bred to be lean or for industrial, factory farm production. The affinity for this very local protein could also have something to do with Oliver’s early exposure to the fields of Long Island, as a member of the Long Island German Shorthaired Pointer Club, with whom Oliver hunted pheasant, sometimes on horseback. How retro.

Brian Halweil

Brian is the editor at large of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.

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