Saturday, February 23, 2013

Failure Turned Learning Experience

It's said that we often learn more from our failures than our successes. We can also learn from others' failures as well, which brings me to the subject of a recent failure of the beer and cheese pairing variety.

A local establishment had the intriguing idea of bringing together a group of folks to pitch in to buy a BIG wheel of cheese. The idea took hold, the wheel was purchased and on the evening of the scheduled pick up the establishment paired the L'Amuse Gouda with both a beer and a wine.

Excited and anticipating the event, I did a quick search to see what beer would be recommended to pair with a gouda. Beer Advocate lumped gouda with a couple other cheeses and listed a dozen possible beers including a stout or imperial stout. Craft Beer suggested a brown ale, altbier or imperial stout. Seeing the overlap and considering the time of year I was pretty sure a stout or imperial stout would be the beer presented.

To my surprise the beer was an IPA, 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA in fact. I tried to keep an open mind because although I love beer and cheese pairings I'm not skilled enough to make my own; I rely on the experts for that. No matter how hard I tried I could not get behind this pairing and after a night of it rolling around in my head I asked someone who is not just good at pairings but a certified cicerone. He suggested a saison and although that's not a style I love I plan to take his advice. I also plan to try it with a stout.

So the moral of this little musing is that if the pairing had been successful I probably would have enjoyed it and kept moving. Instead, the failure of the pairing has led me to do some additional exploring and learning. Check back; I'll let you know how it all plays out because I have 1 lb of this delicious cheese in my fridge and it's going to get consumed one way or another.


  1. Everyone is a self-appointed expert when it comes to beer. Once you understand that, everything else will fall into place.

    1. That's part of it though. I don't think the person who selected the beer knows much about beer at all and/or didn't bother to put the work into making sure to select a good beer to pair with the cheese instead of chosing from one of the five or six they happened to have on tap at the time. My view is also colored by the fact that another person at the establishment couldn't pronounce dopplebock correctly, couldn't verify that the beer on the menu was the dopplebock on tap, only that it was from the same brewery AND told me it was like a stout. I got more info from Untappd than her.

  2. Wow, cicerone? That's my vocabulary word for the day!

    I am surprised also to hear an IPA was paired with the gouda: I know PDX is an IPA loving town, but how do bitter hops compliment or contrast a nutty buttery gouda?

    I could see those darker beers you researched complimenting that nuttyness while a saison could probably contrast with the richness. You might also try a Belgian beer since usually food and drink that come from the same area work well, but maybe that's why you were chatting about a dopplebock?

    I'm interested to hear your report back what your tried- the only way to really figure out how to pair things is experiment a few times. You're now committed to that, right? The sacrifice... :)

    1. Actually if it had been a creamy gouda the IPA pairing would have had a better chance of working. This, however, is an aged gouda so it has Parmesan-like characteristics and the dry, crumbly texture of Parmesan.
      And, yes, I'm all about being self-sacrificing :)