Thursday, May 4, 2017

Beer & Cheese Pairing - 2017 Edition

We recently got together with friends and fellow cheese lovers, Chris and Lyn, for another play date pairing beer and cheese. We each brought a selection of cheeses (plus crackers, won ton chips, blue cheese scones and dried fruit compote) and settled into our favorite haunt to crack bottles.

We'll start the rundown with an apricot stilton (purchased at Trader Joe's and one of Lyn's favorites) which we found to create a light, summery pairing with Modern Times Fortunate Islands. The beer is available in 16oz cans, making it an easily portable and openable selection for your next picnic, camping trip or outdoor activity.

Not a cheese, but containing our go-to blue cheese (also from Trader Joe's), was the blue cheese scones. Serving not only as another vehicle with which to consume cheese but also as a bit of a palate cleanser between cheeses, they, too paired well with Fortunate Islands. The beer accentuated the pleasant bite of the blue cheese (added with a gentle hand to a standard scone recipe) and mellowed out the butteriness of the pastry.

Each of us contributed a gouda and each of them found a different beer to play well with. The deli sliced version by Boar's Head from Fred Meyer found a happy pairing with a beer we got in trade, Black Hog Brewing Co. Disco Pig Brown Brett Braggot while a double cream version from Trader Joe's went in an opposite beer direction, making friends with Breakside Wanderlust IPA.

That IPA was not only a group favorite but overall the most pair-able beer of the day. It was one of the few beers that paired nicely with Rouge Chocolate Stout Cheddar, a cheese we were all on the fence about, as well at two others. In the case of the ooey-gooey Trader Joe's triple cream brie the beer brought out a pleasant sharpness in the cheese and in return the cheese accentuated the beer's hoppiness. And for as much as we enjoyed the way the aged cheddar played off the beer, each improving the other, in cold form the consensus was that a hot combination (i.e. beer cheese soup) would be fantastic. Should you try it out please invite us over for a bowl.

Another variety of cheddar that made an appearance was a smoked cheddar found at Whole Foods. Even through the wrapping the smoke aroma was strong and in addition to a similar presence in the flavor there was a mouth-pleasing creaminess. Paired with Clown Shoes Black Currant Saison (a beer that didn't live up to expectations on its own) the smoke became even stronger, which we enjoyed but take that recommendation with a wisp of smoke if you're not into smoky cheeses. Where the cheese really had a chance to shine was with Pelican Father of All Tsunamis, an iteration of their Tsunami Stout. This 11.2% imperial stout made for a very decadent pairing similar to other RIS-blue cheese pairings we've enjoyed. Thanks to Chris for both the beer and the pic!

We had tried diligently to get our hands on a blueberry stilton but were unable to so in its place went a blueberry Havarti from Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Less fruity and more cheese-forward than the apricot stilton, its tanginess created a bit of a challenge to find a partner for. We lucked out pairing Pelican's Tsunami which was able to stand toe to toe with the tanginess.

Closing things out and coming full circle with another lighter pairing - Against the Grain All Funked Up Fruitus the Farmer Beescake and that triple cream brie. One might not think of a luscious brie as part of a light pairing but it brought the cider-like aroma of this Brettanomyces-finished Saison out in the flavor, which lightened the overall feel of the pairing. If there are any cider-Brett-brie fans in the audience please proceed as quickly as possible to your nearest better bottle shop to grab the beer, then over to Trader Joe's for their Le Delice de Bourgogne triple cream brie.

While our pairing play wasn't as structured or organized as our Girl Scout cookie pairings were it was at least as fun (and didn't lead to the sugar hangover). Besides, cheese is good for you, right?

Thanks to my partners in the pairing, including David who was our fabulous beertender that day!

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