This trifecta of fermented foods was presented by THE cheesemonger, Steve Jones, owner of Cheese Bar with Josh Grgas, from one of my favorite breweries in town, The Commons, and Dillon DeBauche of Little T Baker, which up until the event I was unfamiliar with. The event "came from a place of dorkiness" and was conceptualized when Steve introduced Dillon to Josh, saying "I have the dork to pair you with." Thus the dorks came together to present a lineup of five breads developed with unique fermentation methods and five beers crafted from different yeast cultures expertly paired with five cheeses. The short review is that it was simply an outstanding event. For more details, keep reading (or just scroll down and peruse some pictures).
Pairing #1 - Farmhouse bread with Urban Farmhouse Ale and Ancient Heritage Hannah
The bread, while not containing any beer, did use The Commons' yeast culture and contained the same percentages of malts as the beer. The cheese comes from one of my favorite local cheese makers who also happens to be one of the bigger sheep dairies on the West Coast and was reminiscent of a parmesan. That sharpness was balanced by the sweetness of the beer and tied together further by the bread, which smelled just like beer being brewed.
Pairing #2 - Cornbread with Cascade Serenade and Bellavitano Pastorale
This was the pairing that Josh admitted he was most pessimistic about and the only beer of the evening that I had not had before. An American wheat beer with elderberries and orange peel, I noted that it was a "very strange beer" and while I can't nail it down more than that, I can say that I enjoyed it more with the cheese. Speaking of cheese, Steve commented that the bread, a moist, delicious version of cornbread, spoke to him very quickly and he went to "the tamale place" for this pairing. The cow/sheep blend comes from Wisconsin and was wrapped in smoked paprika.
Pairing #3 - Coffee Rye with Madrone and Central Coast Goat Gouda
This was another challenging course for the masters. The bread starts from old spelt bread soaked in water, a rye sourdough starter and involves caraway and coffee grounds. Dillon says "no one ever buys this bread" although it is one of his favorites and one I found to offer a dark rye aroma while being pleasantly more moist. Madrone, a clean cut beer, balanced out the very creamy flavor of the cheese and in turn the cheese was delicious with the bread.
Pairing #4 - Beet bread with Biere Royale and Remeker Pure
This pairing was unique in that cultures from Nancy's yogurt were used to make both the beer and the bread. The beer is one of my current favorites from The Commons and I felt was the best beer-bread pairing of the night. The sour characteristics of the beer played well with the beet sweetness and pecans in the stunningly colored bread. The cheese was very aromatic with a delicious funk that paired well with the beer but was a bit overpowering for the delicate flavors of the bread. No doubt though, the color that the beets imparted into the bread and the currants imparted to the beer made this the most beautiful course.
Pairing #5 - Anamada bread with Ortucky Common and Rogue Smokey Blue
Although the bread and beer names were a bit unusual this was not only my favorite pairing of the night but due to the flavors, easily acted as "dessert." Anadama contains cornmeal and molasses and has become a new staff favorite bread, being appropriately described by Dillon as comfort food. The beer, another sour I greatly enjoy, is a play on a Kentucky Common, one of the few indigenous beers in the U.S. and was a collaboration with one of Oregon's newer breweries, De Garde. The molasses in the bread imparted sweetness, working very well with the pungentness of the assertive, smoky cheese and the beer was strong enough to stand up to such a cheese.
I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the evening and I'm very hopeful that the hints about making this a regular event come to fruition. Thanks to Steve, Dillon and Josh - some of the coolest dorks in Portland!