This Brewvana tour started at award winning cheese monger Steve Jones' shop, Cheese Bar. Modest in size but much larger in quality - the cheese selection, the extremely knowledgeable staff and consistently great tap and bottled beer selection - Steve has created an environment for enjoying and learning about cheese. On this night, we were also greeted with a table set and waiting just for us.
After getting seated Steve presented the first pairing - Daily Bread Common Ale from Everybody's Brewing and Mt. Zion, a raw goat's milk cheese from Fern's Edge Dairy. The cheese was not a soft goat's milk cheese but one that had more dryness, not as much as a Parmesan but going that direction. Both the beer and cheese were mild, yet flavorful partners that worked together to compliment one another.
The second pairing - Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout with an English cheddar from Montgomery's - was given a bit of mystery when during the introduction Steve asked us to think about flavors from childhood. The assertive cheddar melded with and was mellowed out by the chocolate and coffee flavors of the beer and Steve was right, that was something familiar here. I wasn't able to figure the riddle out but was in agreement with him when he said it was reminiscent of a peanut butter cup. Beer + cheese = candy? Yep, and if you don't believe me or Steve, stop into his shop and try it yourself.
Being only the first stop, we didn't have much time to linger but time enough for a couple of bottles to be bought for the road. Then it was off to Gigantic Brewing where Steve continued to share his knowledge of pairings and obvious love of both beer and cheese.
Co-owner of Gigantic Brewing, Ben Love, filled our glasses with Gigantic IPA while Steve handed out Hannah, a mixture of raw cow and sheep's milk cheese, from Ancient Heritage Dairy. The firm, acidic cheese really made the hops pop in the assertive beer. Another winner of a pairing.
Next we headed inside for a tour of the brewery, including a look at something that made me very happy - used barrels from Buffalo Trace Distillery and others. Ben didn't give specifics but you can bet I'll be keeping my ears open for when the aging is done and the beers are ready for consumption.
The evening was marching on and in no time we were hopping back on the bus, traveling across the river to Hillsdale. The welcome mat was rolled out for us at Sasquatch, complete with cones reserving space for our bus to pull up right outside their doors. Inside the table was set with half of our first pairing - Chinook-Hopped Chocolate Truffles with toasted hazelnuts and fleur de sel.
Salted chocolate is always a winner in my book but pair it with a CDA and I'm one happy camper. Sasquatch's Celilo Cascadian Dark Ale had a flavor profile similar to the truffles but with enough hops to counter the sweetness. I'd love to see these two-bite truffles become a standard on their dessert menu; they're perfect when you want just a little something sweet at the end of the night.
The next pairing took us away from the dark side and into the light with a beer you wouldn't usually find in my glass. Their Belgian Blonde came matched with balsamic whipped cream and warm strawberry-basil filling stuffed in a shortcake biscuit. I would have enjoyed the dessert on its own but the beer, which I probably wouldn't enjoy on its own, made the dessert even better. The whole experience at Sasquatch from the warm welcome to brewer Charlie Van Meter's descriptions of the beers to the chef's food insights made for a great end to the tour.