Food Artisans: Cookie Guild

Food Artisans

A different New York artisan every week.


[Photograph: Valerie Fischel]

When Brian Matheron is in the Cookie Guild booth at Smorgasburg, he can always tell when people have spotted his sign. "You can hear them from far away," he says, "saying 'beer cookies?'"

Though they do offer more traditional cookies, like this summer's seasonal blueberry vanilla, the beer cookies get the strongest reactions from the crowds. "Some people are excited, like 'yeah! beer cookies!' and some people are more hesitant, like, 'um, beer cookies?'" he says, adding that "once people try them, they think they're great." He explains that the beer adds "a whole different layer of flavor" to varieties like coffee stout with chocolate chips or citrus hefeweizen with poppy seeds. One thing all of the cookies have in common is what Matheron cheekily refers to as their "salty butts": a bit of Maldon sea salt on the bottom.

Unless people ask, Matheron rarely talks much about the beer itself, though he's more than happy to, explaining that he prefers small batch beers. He decided early on not to pursue a partnership with any of the local breweries, even though it probably would have gotten him a substantial discount. "I want the freedom to use whatever catches my eye," he says. "I saw a Scottish seaweed beer the other day. Will I make seaweed cookies? Probably not. But maybe!"

The company's name is not, as it may first appear, a Wizard of Oz reference. Instead, it's a reaction to a certain kind of preciousness he wanted to avoid, where the aesthetics of the product outweigh its purpose. "We wanted to convey something that has a lot of care and thought behind it," Matheron explains, "but also that it's something you're supposed to eat." He saw common ground with the medieval guild system. "Sure, there were guilds for painting and art, but the majority of guilds made something practical, like baskets or pottery," he says. "You'd start as an apprentice and learn your trade and build yourself up. Baking and brewing both have some art and science to them. That plus hard work is what the Cookie Guild is all about."