Monday, June 18, 2012

Beer & Cheese

These are two of my favorite things. Generally, however, I don't make a concerted effort to have one with the other. But they do go incredibly well together so when the opportunity arose to attend an event that was curated by Portland's own award-winning cheese monger, Steve Jones, hosted by The Commons Brewery, there was no way I could pass it up.

The first Beer and Cheese Festival was one of the last events of PDX Beer Week and what a way to wrap up a great 11 days of beer events. The advance sale only ticket price of $27 entitled attendees to 10 beer and cheese pairings, a glass snifter plus a huge variety of cured meats and pates from Chop Butchery & Charcuterie. On the surface "10" might not seem like a lot and I'll be honest that I thought I might end up buying extra individual tickets. However, once the fest began and I got a few pairings in it was obvious that 10 oz of cheese and approximately 30 oz of beer was going to be plenty.

My top three, in no particular order were:
Solera Berlinerweiss/Grisette Blend with Sartori Bellavitano (cow's milk cheese from WI)
Solera is one of Oregon's newer breweries and this was probably my favorite beer of the day. Sartori is a cheese maker I was already familiar with, in particular their Raspberry BellaVitano that is soaked in New Glarus Raspberry Tart ale. The bonus was that I had the chance to meet head brewer Jason, who worked under Minnesota's own Mike Hoops.

Gigantic Rauchweizen and the Bandit with Willamette Valley Cheese Co Brindisi (aged Fontina cow's milk cheese)
I have to admit this was a pairing I wasn't looking forward to as I'm not a Rauch beer fan. As suspected, the beer was smoky in both aroma and flavor. When paired with the noticeably salty cheese (and I mean this in the best way possible) my eyes were opened to a way to enjoy the style. I would love to see Gigantic start to carry this cheese as I'd happily purchase the pair next time I meander down to the taproom.

Block 15 Figgy Pudding with Colston-Basset Stilton (cow's milk cheese)
Figgy Pudding is a big (11%) brandy barrel-aged beer that is strong enough to stand up to the deliciously assertive blue cheese flavors of the stilton. Mag described the pairing as feeling like, "I'm doing something naughty," and I agree that this was the most decadent pairing of the day. It was also my final pairing and the perfect "dessert."

As with the Fruit Beer Festival last year, I hope this first year festival returns in the future. It was a great time and something that while simple in concept, was executed very well and from all the comments I heard, an absolute hit. Thank you to Steve for allowing us to benefit from his mastery of cheese, The Commons for hosting, Chop for sharing their delicious work, Ezra for putting together another great event and all of the other folks that made it possible.


  1. That sounds like an event straight from heaven to me. Beer, cheese, cured meats...craving those combos you so enjoyed.

  2. I didn't care for the Gigantic at all, but I loved the Solera and Block 15 offerings. They were easily the two best beers there. I didn't even know about Solera Brewing before this event, but you can bet I'll following them closely now!

    Overall I thought the beers were kinda weak. The offen weisse from Upright, one of my top 2 or 3 breweries in Portland, was terrible. I don't know if they've had better batches of it in the past, but at the event it was watery and flavorless.

    The cheeses were just outstanding. But what else can you expect from Steve Jones?

    Mixed quality of beers aside, the $25 is a steal for the amount of food and beer, and I'll absolutely be going back next year.