These are two of my favorite things. Having both, it doesn't get much better than that. Really the only way to make them better is to have them paired, releasing the magic that happens when the flavors combine.
The ability to make that kind of magic happen is one of the reasons cheese monger Steve Jones rocks. Back in June Steve curated the first Beer and Cheese Festival, hosted by The Commons Brewery, during PDX Beer Week that was over the top delicious. Last night he once again worked his magic, albeit on a smaller scale, at Lompoc's cozy venue, Side Bar.
Offered up were four cherry-based Lompoc beers paired with four very different cheeses.
2011 Cherry Christmas & Samish Bay Fresh Ladysmith
The beer all on its own was music in my mouth, a well-engineered blend of four different beers, two of which were fermented with sour cherries and two of which were sour beers. The cheese, an organic cow out of Washington, was soft and salty, reminiscent of feta. The pairing ended up being my least favorite of the four but only because it seemed that the cheese took away some of the cherry notes from the beer. That being said put a wheel of the cheese and a pitcher of the beer in front of me and you won't find any left.
Cherry Bomb & Uniekaas Vintage Grand Ewe
As much as I loved Cherry Christmas, Cherry Bomb came as a bit of a letdown but only because I'm such a sucker for sours. On its own, it's a nice red that has had any trace of maltiness muted by the addition of cherries and the time spent in the barrel. Uniekaas as you might guess is an imported cheese, made from sheep milk out of Holland, and is very strongly flavored much in the manner that a sharp cheddar is. The difference is that instead of being hard, this cheese is firm but creamy. The sharpness of the cheese brought out the oakiness of the beer in a delightful way.
Red Raisin & Baley Hazen Jasper Hill
This beer showed off yet another take on cherries, drinking far more boozy than its 6.2% ABV would lead you to believe. Coming on so strong it needed a powerful cheese to stand up to it and that's just what this Vermont cow's milk blue cheese offered. The two made for the most decadent pairing.
Cherry Porter & Ferns Edge Mt. Zion
While higher in alcohol, 7.5% ABV, than Red Raisin, this beer was more subtle and very drinkable. Correspondingly the cheese, a raw goat cheese made here in Oregon, was less aggressive. Close in texture to a parmesan, it made for yet another delicious pairing.
If you didn't make it to Side Bar last night you might be SOL. On the other hand you can always visit Steve's home base, Cheese Bar on SE Belmont, to eat and drink to your heart's content.