We think beer and cheese is one of the most perfect pairings to be found and recently our small group got together once again to play with pairing. At least the fourth time we've done it, we gathered as usual at our favorite watering hole, each toting cheese, eager to grab beers and dig in. After a quick round of sampling all of the cheeses on their on that's just what we did. Here are the highlights.
Taleggio from Italy (Market of Choice), suggested as a replacement for the Limburger that was currently sold out, it was one of the most versatile of the cheeses. The only caveat was that it took far longer than the standard two hours at room temperature to come into its creamy, slightly funky own.
- Not surprisingly its funkiness paired well with the assertive Mexican hot chocolate flavors found in Stone's imperial milk stout, Xocoveza.
- With Anchorage Nelson Sauvin Saison with Brett the cheese brought out the hop bitterness of the beer, which depending on one's personal preference might be a bit too much, but we enjoyed it.
- Paired with the relatively mild North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince it surprisingly did not overpower the beer but instead they took turns complimenting one another with the beer allowing the funk of the cheese to come through and the cheese returning the favor, allowing the bright, tart cranberry to come in at the end.
- Somewhat similarly to the North Coast pairing, when enjoyed with Ballast Point Sour Wench the cheese allowed the fruitiness of the beer to really shine.
Rivaling the Taleggio for versatility was the Creamy Toscano dusted with cinnamon (Trader Joe's).
- No one in the group is much of a fan of pumpkin beers but the temptation of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking was too much to pass up as we know that dark beers tend to work particularly well with cheese. In this instance the cheese allowed the pumpkin to come out and rival the barrel-aged flavors of the beer nicely.
- With the Stone Xocoveza the cinnamon in the beer and the cinnamon in the cheese played wonderfully off one another, neither overpowering the other.
- In a surprising pairing, at least on the surface, the cinnamon in the cheese and the cranberries in the North Coast Berliner Weisse worked together. Thinking on it further and savoring the pair, it was similar to the way cinnamon and fruit work together in a pie or crisp.
- The gathering also included slices of Crimson Crisp apples (a relative of Honeycrisp) which combined with the cheese and the Stone Xocoveza for a triumvirate of tastiness.
Beecher's Flagship Cheddar (Fred Meyer) was quite possibly the overall favorite cheese of the day on its own and it found a singular perfect partner in Ruse Clock Keeper Saison/Farmhouse. The recommendation came from David, the beertender on duty, and it was spot on with the beer nicely lightening the luscious, flavorful cheddar.
Another cheese superstar with our group was Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog (Fred Meyer). Great on its creamy own, it brought a pleasant (at least to us) sharpness out in the rich Stone Xocoveza.
The gooey-est cheese of the day, Triple Cream Brie with Wild Mushrooms (Trader Joe's), was another crowd favorite even for those who don't typically dig on gooey cheeses. As with the Taleggio it found delicious partners with multiple beers.
- Block 15 Azaccasicle IPA, with its blend of tropical and citrusy hops and touch of milk sugar, made fast friends with the earthiness of the cheese.
- The depth of Pints Chocolate Nut Brown, brewed with UK Phoenix hops that in fact taste like chocolate, found a partner in the mushrooms.
- Once again the North Coast Cranberry-Quince mixed and mingled with the cheese. Here the tartness from the cranberries and the Berliner Weisse base balanced the richness of the cheese while the mushrooms took the tart edge off the beer.
- A final pairing but not a beer one, that we found deliciousness in was pairing this with Ilchester Smoked Applewood Cheddar. We thought the smokiness of the cheddar, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the brie would make an outstanding grilled cheese (further exploration is impending).
Not as gooey as a brie but silky soft once it warmed was Mitica Drunken Goat (Fred Meyer).
- The sweetness of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking balanced and was balanced by the saltiness of this soft but not oozy cheese.
- Reuben's Home From Home, a beer no one had a particular affinity for perhaps due to its super bitter-hoppiness (and this is coming from hop-loving folks), managed to become more balanced and drinkable when accompanied by the cheese.
Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberries (Fred Meyer)
- Pairing a fruit cheese with a stout is a bit of a no-brainer yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to find how delicious this cheese was with the Stone Xocoveza. The complexity of the beer had the potential to clash with the tartness the cranberries brought to this pairing but happily they worked harmoniously.
- With the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the cranberry-on-cranberry pairing worked nicely, being anything but one dimensional.
Stilton (Fred Meyer) is one of the more strongly flavored varieties in the blue cheese families and as such it did overpower some beers we tried it with.
- Surprisingly its powerful flavor mingled well with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince. Here the beer brought out additional, lovely funkiness in the cheese while still allowing the fruit in the beer to sparkle.
- The most decadent pairing of the day was here with the Stone Xocoveza. This is what post-dinner cheese course dreams are made of.
Face Rock Smoky Cheddar (Fred Meyer) is one of the creamiest cheddars we've had with a pleasant but not overpowering smokiness.
- A fun pairing with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the saltiness of the cheese came out, followed by the sweetness of the beer.
- Finding its backbone it stood up to the Stone Xocoveza, bringing the cinnamon in the beer to the forefront.
If you haven't tried your own beer and cheese pairing we hope this post encourages you to give it a go. As we move into the holiday season you'll likely have more opportunities at gatherings you host or attend. They won't all be winners but if you go into it with an open, exploratory mind, we bet it will be fun. And if you discover some great ones make sure to let us know!