Excluding peanut butter and chocolate, there are few things that pair as well as beer and cheese. Who doesn’t like beer and cheese? Communists, that’s who. Well, and the lactose-intolerant. And non-drinkers. But why the hell are non-drinkers reading this blog? They’re not. However, I do have a huge lactose-intolerant following. Fact.
Earl’s Beer and Cheese is an unlikely spot – unlikely in its location, its menu, and it success. Nestled amongst the brownstones overlooking the Metro-North tunnel egress, the gaudy yellow awning of a Caribbean eatery is the signal that you are near the subtler banner of Earl’s. Enter the space and the first thing you think is “narrow”.
Like everything else about Earl’s though, it isn’t so narrow as much as succinct. The space is tiny. Stools accompany a shallow drink shelf along the north wall and a great communal table under an Upstate woodland scene mural on the south wall. Both the table and the wall shelf are made of reclaimed bowling alley parquet, which adds to the small-town NY feel. The space funnels to the back toward a tidy square bar, a bathroom, and ultimately reaching back to the kitchen, where the staff works busily amongst clean stainless steel. I digress, let’s get to business.
The beer list is simple: four taps and a short bottle list that is, in fact, mostly cans. During my visit, the taps were
Avery New World Porter
Bear Republic Hop Red Rye
Belfast Bay Oatmeal Stout
That’s good mix, no crap, and a lot of great possibilities for pairing with the cheese list.
Again, this is a good selection. Earl’s seems to favor the West Coast, which is just fine for a hophead like me, and the Avery and Oskar Blues are familiar but not uninteresting. The Session Black is a great brew – one that’s not seen on the East Coast enough – and a good choice when you’re looking for something with flavor that’s not going to fill you up when you’re sampling the hearty grub at this joint. As for the Molson, well, it shows that Adam, the owner, has a good sense of humor. Not too many restaurateurs are so keen to stock malt liquor on their shelves.
Adam was kind enough to chat with us a bit throughout the night, and mentioned that the taps rotate frequently. Not long after that, the Hop Rod kicked and was replaced by something else. It was late and I was a few deep, but I think it was a lager.
This is a beer blog, but I have to mention the food, too. We tried everything on the menu save for the spicy tomato soup and a few of the cheeses. We started with a three-cheese plate that included Old Chatham blue, Tomme Delay goat cheese, and Ben Nevis cheddar from VT. The Old Chatham and the Avery Porter were a glorious pairing.
The mac-and-goat-cheese with chicken was excellent, but the grilled cheese stole the show. We had the NY cheddar, pork belly (which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich), kimchi, and a fried egg, on thick sourdough slices that are chewy on the inside and crisply buttered on the outside. No photos though – it wasn’t around long enough. I’ll be back to this place very soon though.
When you find a diamond in the rough like this place, you tend to want to keep it a secret, particularly when there is so little room for patrons. However, it is my duty to spread the word and let you, my fine readers, know that this place is awesome.