Monday, December 23, 2019

The Latest Installment of Beer & Cheese Pairing

Our periodic beer and cheese pairing adventure resurfaced this fall with some returning favorites showing up on the cheese front along with new ones and of course, new beers.

Cheddar, as a broad category of cheese, always makes an appearance at our pairings. This time around we had a smoked cheddar from Beecher's and a peppercorn cheddar from Face Rock that both went quite nicely with Gun Hill Rise Up Rye. The beer, brewed in The Bronx NY, was a gift from a friend out east and while we didn't love its rye-ness on its own, pairing it with these cheddars - one smoky and deep, the other slightly spicy from the peppercorns - brought out its best qualities.

Another return contender was the mushroom Brie from Trader Joe's, invited again due to its incredible versatility to pair with beers ranging from hoppy IPAs to hefty stouts and more. Falling into the "more" category this time was Drake's Quint, a barrel-aged Belgian-style quintuple. A beer like this is usually a little too much for us, both with its 14.5% ABV and the intense coriander, orange zest, honey and cherry flavor profile. Pairing it with the earthy cheese balanced the overt sweetness of the beer.

It came as a bit of a surprise to find that this big, sweet beer actually paired quite well with Murray's Blueberry Stilton. Fruited Stiltons in one form or another (apricot, cranberry) often make an appearance and fall into the dessert category of cheeses. On the surface it may seem counter intuitive to pair a sweet cheese with a sweet, boozy beer but the cheese managed somehow to tame the excessive sweet, booze flavor of the beer. 

Continuing further down the dessert path, the Blueberry Stilton was a hit with Fremont 2017 BB Dark Star Spice Wars that happened to be on tap. The beer offered heavy cinnamon flavors and when combined with the cheese was reminiscent of a blueberry muffin. Breakfast anyone?

Like cheddars, IPAs are a constant in our pairing quests. Two familiar ones - Melvin IPA and Baerlic Cut the Fluff hazy IPA - both worked will with Alisios, a semi-soft cow/goat cheese from Spain. The cheese's inherent nuttiness complimented the hop profiles of the beer and was enhanced when adding some roasted pistachios we happened to have on hand, into the mix.

As always we are incredibly grateful to The BeerMongers for letting us indulge in our pairing adventures and pleased that so many of our friends are willing to join in the fun.

Monday, December 16, 2019

KEX Comes to Portland

Oli, Kiddie, Carsten & Brandon (High Road Distribution)
In Icelandic "kex" means biscuit. In Portland, "KEX" is the new hostel/bar/restaurant/brewery that has moved into the beautifully renovated building on the northeast corner of NE MLK and Couch.

Co-owners Kristinn "Kiddie" Vilbergsson and Olafur "Oli" Augustsson brought their concept from Reykjavik to Portland, saying at a recent media event that Portland is similar to Reykjavik in that it is home to good food and beer and close to nature. Embracing Portland as a home for their second KEX (the first having opened in 2011 in a former biscuit factory) they hope to appeal to a mixture of locals and travelers. 

KEX beers are being brewed by Carsten Haney at his closed-to-the-public Ross Island Brewing space. We tasted five beers - Kolski Kolsch, Forbidden Fruit Kettle Sour, Steroids to Heaven IPA, Coffee + Cream Porter and Gretta sour mash pale ale. We found the Hull Melon-hopped Kolsch (not a style that we usually seek out) to be quite to our liking as well as the Coffee + Cream and Gretta, both more typical of beers that appeal to our palate. The Coffee + Cream porter combines Stumptown cold brew concentrate, lactose and roasty malts to produce one of the more memorable coffee porters we've tasted. Enjoyed on CO2, we were told that it is even better on nitro.

Gretta is a collaboration with Mikkeller, who opened just a hop, skip and jump away in the building that formerly housed Burnside Brewing. Originally intended to utilize fresh hops, a delay in brewing caused Carsten to rework his plans and instead the sour mash pale ale was heavily dry hopped. The name Gretta may translate in Icelandic to the pucker face one makes when drinking a sour, you'll find only smiles if you see us drinking this beer. Available on a limited basis in bottles, this is one we hope will be brewed again.

The beer is just one component of KEX, which also has an open and spacious bar/restaurant on street level, above which private and shared accommodations are available. The accommodations range from hostel-style bunks in multi-bunk shared rooms to private rooms that have shared bathroom facilities to standard hotel-style private rooms with en suite bathrooms. All rooms include access to the on-site sauna and use of a guest kitchen facility, both in the lower level of the building. 

We haven't yet had the opportunity to fully experience Dรณttir bar and restaurant but were treated to a sampling of menu items alongside the beer, of which we adored the pate (a combination of duck, pork and foie gras) and the brightly colored Skyr (yogurt) ailoi and parsley oil dipping sauce that accompanied the thick cut salt and vinegar fries. The restaurant opens at 7am for breakfast and cycles through lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night happy hour.

In an area dominated by newly sprouted, behemoth apartment buildings it is refreshing to see an existing building remodeled and re-imagined. Hopefully a bit more exterior signage will appear to draw attention to this new venture.