Monday, June 22, 2015

Beer & Cheese Fest (and DIY Pairing Takeaway)

Yesterday was the final day of PDX Beer Week and wrapping up the week was one of my favorite events, Beer & Cheese Fest, which returned to The Commons Brewery this year after having temporarily moved to Burnside Brewing last year. It was the fourth year of the festival and the third time I've attended. This event ALWAYS sells out and for good reasons: 1) great beer primarily from local breweries 2) great cheese curated by the cheese monger, Steve Jones 3) there's actually a limited number of tickets sold. I'm a big fan of limiting the amount of tickets to any event and it's really the only way this kind of event could be successful as the cheese needs to be portioned and cut in advance.

Held in the space starting at the roll up door on 7th and utilizing an L-shaped area towards the brewing kettles, it allowed The Commons to operate the taproom as normal during the festival. Did it get a little packed during the height of the event? Yes, but not overly so and lining the pairings up from the entrance toward the back in the suggested order probably made it work as well as it did. With that set up there was less back and forth; the crowd simply, slowly tasted their way along the path, stopping off of course for samples from Woodblock Chocolate and Olympia Provisions.

Since the pairings list wasn't published online, here's a look at it for those that weren't in attendance:
pFriem Family Brewers Pils + L'Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda
The Commons Brewery French Country Ale + Raclette du Haut Livradois
Fat Head's Rye Bock + Willamette Valley Cheese Brindisi
Laurelwood Brewing Co. Chateau du Sylvia + Unjekaas Vintage Grand Ewe
Lompoc Doppelbock + Le Saut du Doubs Summer Comte
Firestone Walker Lil Opal + Ferns Edge Mt June
Ecliptic Blackberry Sour + Hooks Cheese Co. 8 Year Cheddar
Breakside Brewing India Golden Ale + Mahon Curado Reserva
Alameda Brewing Co. XXStout + Marquis del Castillo Zamerano
Hopworks Urban Brewery Big Poppa + Neal's Yard Colston Bassett Stilton

There were some pairings that I liked better than others but overall everything was great. My favorite was Breakside India Golden Ale and Mahon Curado Reserva, a cow's milk cheese, that makes for an aggressive pairing. It's a "punch in the face" flavor-wise and absolutely delightful. The best part, however, is that the beer should be readily available in 22oz format at most better bottle shops and for the cheese, stop in at Steve's Cheese Bar on SE Belmont. A call to the Belmont Zupan's also seemed to indicate that they had it in stock.

Runner up is a pairing that is not as replicate-able based on the availability of the beer, Hopworks Big Poppa. While they have more of it in kegs, none of it is currently tapped so this is a pairing you'll have to tuck away until it is. Big Poppa is a Belgian Strong Ale brewed with figs and aged in Bourbon barrels that isn't shy about letting on how much booze is in it. But it's precisely that booziness that cuts the decadent richness of the Stilton and makes this such a great pairing. Again, check with the Cheese Bar to pick up the cheese once the beer's available.

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