Beer and Cheese Pairing with a Wine Geek
Even though I love drinking beer, I know as little about it as I do grappa, the best potato varieties to use for vodka, and the birth of rhinoceros babies. Despite my lack of hoppy knowledge, I wanted to share with you some findings from a recent cheese pairing experience that I was lucky enough to taste in on.
The tasting took place with the super knowledgeable beer people at Monks Kettle who in fact do know more about beer than rhino babies. They busted out their cheese menu, I gave a little talk about the bacteria used in this and that piece of fermented milk, and we sampled a hell of a lot of beer from their menu.
The results follow.
Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, Humboldt, CA
Pasteurized, goat, soft-ripened
We tried this one with many beers and discovered that unless someone absolutely loves the harsh bite hops unleash from a soft-ripened cheese like Humboldt Fog, they should stay away from mixing hoppy beers and this genre of cheese. Like the tannins in a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon and a thick piece of rind on a brie, both wanted to be the star of the show. The winner was a Weizenboch, a light wheat ale with a touch of spice.
Robiola, Lombardy, Italy
Pasteurized, cow, sheep and goat's milk, surface-ripened
As it is with wine, Robiola is a beer pairing dream. The mix of lemony, grassy goat's milk, nutty sheep's milk, and sweet buttery cow milk provides an easy pairing canvas. But of course, peanut butter always tastes better with chocolate than raspberry, Journey always sounds better after three drinks, and there will always be a beer that's a better match for a cheese. Although nothing went poorly with Robiola, we tried a Geuze/Gose, a tripel and a stout. The best match was the Geuze - not too light, and not too dark. I would imagine this would pair well with most 3-milk cheeses.
Yellow Buck Camembert, Marin County, CA
Pasteurized, cow, soft-ripened
This cheese wanted something as creamy and lush as it. Buttery and earthy, it was aching for something nutty. Although just fine with Speckled Hen, it was even better with Downtown Brown, a beer I normally find a little boring. But together, they tasted like a buttery toast dream. In short, a perfect breakfast pairing. I would try an earthy and creamy cheese with a like beer in a heartbeat.
Bellwether Farms Carmody, Sonoma, CA
Pasteurized, cow, semi-firm,
Carmody wanted hops, badly. It's a mild cheese- more of a cooking favorite than its sister Carmody Reserve, which is made from raw-milk. It needed something fresh and feisty to uplift it. It didn't fare well with a clean-cut wheat beer and was completely overwhelmed by darker brews. The winners with Carmody were Stone Pale Ale and Sublime Self-Righteous.
Wavreumont Belgian Cheese, Wallonia, Belgium
Unpasteurized, cow, semi-firm, washed-rind
Although technically a trappist cheese, the monks hire a local cheesmaker to craft this mild beauty while they harvest latex from the nearby forest. Yes. The porters we tried with this one were too dark. The cheese is buttery with a touch of funk, but didn't sport the strong scent of an average washed-rind like Époisses or Comté. What worked best with Wavreumont was a Biere de Garde.
Beehive Seahive Cheddar, Uintah, Utah
Unpasteurized, cow, firm, Cheddar
It was difficult not to like all the options with this cheese. It would be like having a basket of fries in front of you and a mug of beer and complaining that the pairing just wasn't perfect. Who cares? Salty, buttery, high acidity, with a touch of honey, the Beehive went with everything from a porter to a Rauchbier.
Grevenbroeker Blue Cheese, Flanders, Belgium
Unpasteurized, cow, blue
I'm not a fan of uber-hoppy beers. But all of us, myself included, thought this one was best with Pliny the Elder, a heavily hopped beer from the Russian River Valley. Together with the salty-sweet cheese, the hops tasted fresh and enlightening. And the bitter hoppyness of the beer melted away until a grapefruit flavor carried it all through to the end.
Have you tried these cheeses or beers with other drinks or bites and loved (or hated) the pairing? Tell me about it in the comment section!