127 Main St., Stony Brook, 631-675-6060
Antique hinge-lidded beer steins and cheese graters. What else would you use to decorate a store dedicated to beer and cheese? And what else would you call it but Brew Cheese?
The little shop is a partnership between Callie and Tim Martino, owners of Crazy Beans cafes in Stony Brook and Miller Place, and Dave Striffler, manager and resident cheese expert.
Striffler started his journey a few years ago working the cheese counter at Whole Foods. “I discovered this whole big world of cheese I didn’t know was there,” he said. “And what amazed me was that using a different milk, or a different strain of bacteria, or a different amount of time — any change results in a completely different cheese.”
Brew Cheese stocks about 60 different cheeses, with an emphasis on American ones. SarVecchio ($21.99 a pound), a Parmesan-style cheese from Wisconsin, Grayson ($29.99), a Taleggio-inspired cheese from Virginia, and Womanchego ($29.99), a Connecticut take on Spanish Manchego, are among Striffler’s favorites.
The liquid side of the merchandise is handled by Holden Sly, in whose opinion beer is a better companion to cheese than wine is. “I think the flavors of most beers go better with the flavors of most cheeses,” he said. “And beer has the great advantage of being carbonated, which scrubs the palate.” Sly presides over six taps — which usually include an IPA, a porter or stout, a cider and something local — and a cooler full of about 80 bottles and cans. You can fill a 64-ounce growler for $13 to $25, or mix your own six pack for $12.
Cheese- and beer-inspired specialty items include Potlicker Kitchen beer jellies ($8.99 for an 8-ounce jar) and Rogue Creamery Blue Heaven blue cheese powder ($9.99 for a 3-ounce shaker), which Holden likes to sneak into movies to shake on his popcorn.
Brew Cheese has about 12 seats on which you can perch while you have a beer ($5 to $8) and/or a cheese board (three cheeses for $18). On Tuesday nights, Striffler conducts cheese classes. Tuition plus cheese and a draft beer is $15.