Eat Cheese, Drink Summer Beers & Be Merry

By John David Ryan

 

I love beer. I drink it year ‘round. But it’s 90 degrees outside right now. I have a cabinet full of barrel-aged quads and stouts–and most of them will still be there when the leaves start to change. No one’s hammering a Founders KBS or Thirsty Dog Wulver right now. You’re drinking session ales. You’re drinking freshly hopped beer. You’re drinking plenty of pale.

But it’s prime time for cheese, too! Cows and sheep and goats across the world are eating plenty of lush, fresh, green grass. They’re turning it into creamy milk and cheese-makers are producing some of their finest products.

Let’s put the two together.

Go grab some Bijou from Vermont Creamery. Seriously. Do it right now. And while you’re out picking it up, grab a sixer of Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon. It’s the perfect summer wheat beer–not too sweet, not too spicy, and not too heavy. Or, if you want to keep it all in Vermont, maybe try some Otter Creek Fresh Slice. It complements the tangy, metallic flavors in Allison Hooper’s super creamy take on crottin. Bijou is a perfect little button of goat’s milk cheese.

Few things intimidate curd nerds like washed rind cheese. And even the most serious of hop heads can be turned off by a sour beer. Fret not! You can pair the two and simultaneously overcome your fears. Cato Corner Farm washes its Hooligan in brine until it reaches stinky orange perfection. Try it with Westbrook’s Gose or Evil Twin’s Nomader Weisse. The tart, acidic beer helps bring out the creaminess of the cheese.

Everyone loves cheddar. Everyone. If you don’t like cheddar, then you probably don’t like cute kittens, rainbows or laughing babies either. Seriously–what’s not to love about crumbly, intense cheddar? And if you want the best cheddar in the world, you’re probably going to grab Montgomery’s Clothbound English cheddar. And if you are going to pair it with beer, you’re probably going to get an IPA. And if you’re going to get an IPA, you want a hoppy, American beer. And that’s why you’re going to buy some Ithaca Flower Power or Founders’ All Day IPA.

Finally, we come to the easy drinkers. The pale ales. The pilsners. The lagers. Get you some Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale or Stillwater Classique or maybe a Pinkus Ur-Pils. Anyone can love a lighter beer, and they pair beautifully with tome-style cheeses. My current favorite is Margot. This fine Italian cheese is made by 4th generation cheese makers, and it’s washed in BEER! The hint of hops on the outside sets off the flavors of the fudgy interior.

Eat (cheese), drink and be merry.

Goat Cheese and Beer: Holler Bock at Me

by Kevin Brooks

Bock beers: Big, sweet, malty, rib-sticking beers that were originally made to wrap up the brewing season. The name comes from the town of their creation, Einbeck, which was eventually bastardized into bock, which is the German word for goat. So which cheese to pair with them…  Goat cheese, of course! Oh the puns we’ll do!

First I had to select my beers. I immediately reached for Troeg brewery’s Troegenator dopplebock: a big, sweet, strong (%8.5 abv!) dopplebock with intense dried fruit notes and a dangerous amount of drinkability. This is about as true to the style as you can get. Quick note: the suffix of –ator always denotes a dopplebock, which is a shout-out to the first dopplebock, Salvator, produced way back in 1773.

For the second, I went a little out there and selected one of Sam Adam’s new limited release offerings called The Vixen. It’s a bock beer brewed with cocoa nibs, with an added spiciness of cinnamon and chilies. Now having read all that, I wasn’t prepared for the flavor: Rich, roasty, but with more coffee in the body than chocolate. The chocolate only appears in the finish with the barest hint of spice. Where the Troegenator is a perfect example of the classic style, Vixen takes the basics and runs with it.

For my cheese, I knew that I had to go with some big flavors, as the heavy sweetness of a bock would clobber anything too mild. When pairing it’s always key to match intensities: strong with strong, mild with mild. The goal in all of this is to find two things that join up, work together, and become more than the sum of their parts. I selected an ooey, gooey Brunet, with its big goaty tang and assertive bite, as well as two washed-rinds: Consider Bardwell’s Manchester and Tomme de Chevre Aydius.

Some of the pairings were sublime, while others swayed into the inedible. Good news first! Troegenator with Brunet worked together fantastically. The intense, almost bitter cheese filled in as the hops for the beer, while the sweetness of the beer enveloped and mellowed out the cheese. They filled in each others gaps and emerged a delicious, complete beer/cheese hybrid of decadent yumminess.

The other big winner was a big surprise and is a bit of a challenge to put into words. The Vixen, with all of that roasty complexity, went so well with the Tomme de Chevre Aydius that we couldn’t stop eating it. I wish I had bought more! The two married so well, with deep bready, nutty notes emerging that weren’t evident in either the cheese or the beer on their own. Truly one of those sublime pairings where a completely new experience emerges, transcending its individual parts.

Now the bad news. Some of these pairings are definite no-gos. Brunet, which went so well with the sweet and intense Troegenator, turned almost noxious with the Vixen. “Like a shot of rancid liquor,” as my wife put it, waving her hand in front of her mouth as if to ward off the flavor. The roasty notes in the beer, which can sometimes take a bitter, molasses-esque tone, joined up with the bitter notes in the cheese to crush all joy out of the pairing. Avoid! But where did this leave the Manchester? Forgotten, too mild to stand up to either beer and getting utterly lost in the mix.

It can’t be said enough: When thinking pairings, make sure both parties can stand up to each other. When you match strengths, individual flavors won’t get lost. If you’re lucky they might even combine to create something delicious and unexpected – just one more reason to keep experimenting and tasting at home!

Kevin Brooks is a monger and merchandising specialist at Murray’s Cheese. He’s on an eternal quest for the “third flavor” and the “perfect burrito.”