After the success of the C’est Cheese beer club, which amassed nearly 300 members in just under a year, Joseph Ciardullo opened a beer store with Chris Roche, one of his first employees. And they opened in a convenient location: the 1,000-square-foot space behind his popular cheese shop and café on Main Street in Port Jefferson.
There are 200 different options available in bottles and cans at the new Craft at C’est Cheese, neatly grouped into accessible categories that combine intensity, texture and flavor like “Sour, Tart & Funky.” In this category, try the Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne, a supremely delicious gueuze made with wort derived from four of Belgian’s best lambic producers: Boon, Cantillon, Girardin and Lindemans. Under “Hoppy,” Craft’s most popular style, try Money IPA brewed by Barrier Brewing in Oceanside, a local standout.
There is also a section devoted solely to Port Jefferson’s one brewery, Port Jeff Brewing, which is located about a quarter-mile away. All of this can also be found at the brewery’s tasting room. But Ciardullo said sometimes exclusives are “walked over and delivered by hand” to his store, like vintage bottles of Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Cold North Wind that were cellared for more than two years. “The Port Jeff guys just came in and told us, ‘all yours to sell.’ We opened the café around the same time the brewery opened and we’ve always supported one another. They’re great friends of ours.”
I’ve attempted to befriend Craft’s excellent draft beers, 12 in total, which offer different options than the café’s often-great eight and are sold by the glass, the growler and in flights of four, each being five ounces. But the taps constantly rotate, sometimes daily, intermingling hop-forward gems from local IPA specialists like Other Half and Sand City with a steady supply of sought-after suds like Everett, a porter from Hill Farmstead, widely considered one of the world’s premier breweries. “The two beer programs, and the two businesses, are completely separate,” Roche said. It seems frequent visits will be necessary.
Roche recommended five beers (bottles and cans) that can be found at Craft at C’est Cheese this February and Ciardullo paired each with a cheese available at the café’s refrigerated case upfront:
Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, Mikkeller
Roche: This full-bodied imperial oatmeal stout might be one of the most unique beers out there, brewed with one of the world’s most expensive coffees made from the collected droppings of weasel-like civet cats in Southeast Asia. Seriously! But this is no gimmick beer. Once you jump over the mental hurdle of how it’s brewed, you’ll fall in love with the strong coffee and roasted-malt flavors. Also great are the many variants, like one with vanilla.
Ciardullo: A strong stout needs a big cheese. Try the Caveman Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon, a robust blue with great sweetness and fruity flavors to balance this stout’s intensity.
Schnickelfritz, Urban Chestnut Brewing
Roche: What a fun name to say and even better to drink. This versatile Bavarian-style wheat beer is brewed right here in the United States but maintains the authentic banana and clove flavors we love from a true German hefeweizen.
Ciardullo: You don’t want to overpower a light wheat beer with something too strong. Midnight Moon, a goat’s milk Gouda from Cypress Grove, offers perfectly smooth flavor.
Gose Gone Wild, Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Roche: More than just a great name, Gose Gone Wild is a “funky party time” version of Westbrook’s Gose, playfully amplified by the gypsy brewery Stillwater. This gets an added massive dose of Citra and Amarillo hops before being fermented with wild yeasts that put this light and refreshingly tart sour wheat beer on another level.
Ciardullo: We’re proud to have done a collaboration cheese with Massachusetts’ Cricket Creek Farms: Sophelise, named after my daughters Sophie and Elise. It’s a soft-ripened cheese that’s washed in Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s bourbon, which gives it notes of aromatic funkiness with a creamy, earthy finish. It works great with sour beers such as this.
Billy Full-Stack IIPA, SingleCut Beersmiths
Roche: New York is absolutely killing it right now when it comes to IPAs. SingleCut in Astoria makes some of my favorites. Try the brewery’s Full-Stack, the hoppiest and most potent in its Billy series of IPAs with dank pine aroma, bright tropical-fruit flavor and a touch of bitterness.
Ciardullo: Pair it with the nutty and fruity Sapore del Piave. This northern Italian firm cheese has great tyrosine crystals, otherwise known as the sought-after “crunch.”
Even Mo Mofo, Sand City Brewing
Roche: I really love the IPAs coming from our good friends Sand City in Northport, some of the region’s best in my opinion, and some now available in limited can runs that we’ve been fortunate enough to carry. No exception is this imperial version of the brewery’s Mofosaic, an IPA hopped singularly with the Mosaic hop variety.
If Even Mo’s juicy aroma doesn’t make your mouth water, the intense yet smooth flavors of papaya and apricot along with dank, earthy pine certainly will.
Ciardullo: The rich Dutch Gouda Beemster X-O is matured no less than 26 months. The aging process gives the cheese deep flavors of butterscotch, whiskey and pecan that play well with the hop flavor here.