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Your Beermonger: Cheese Pairing and Tasting Notes

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Friday - 5/17/2013, 1:30pm  ET

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Last week I sat down with some of the Arrowine staff (including Katie, a.k.a. Your Cheesemonger, who has some amazing insights regarding the cutting of your cheese — you guys should ask her to tell you about it) to try out some beer and cheese pairings.

In the name of experimentation, we were slightly haphazard in the selection of cheeses and beers — we were looking to be surprised one way or the other by the results we had. Not that we weren’t looking for beers that would pair well but as you’ll see, a couple selections fell into the “I wonder what would happen if…?” category. First, a quick rundown of the cheeses we had to work with:

La Tur: An old favorite of mine and popular at Arrowine, La Tur is a three-milk (cow, goat, and sheep) soft cheese from Bosia in the Piedmont region of Italy. While its aromatics are a little funky (especially as it warms up), on the palate La Tur is very mild with the tang of the goat’s milk keeping it from feeling too rich.

Manchego Artequeso: Classic Spanish sheep’s milk cheese aged for about nine months. This sharp, dry, mild, relatively young Manchego can make for a tricky pairing subject.

Challerhocker: A popular cheese at Arrowine, Challerhocker is a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that is semi-firm in texture. I find Challerhocker to be salty with bold, earthy flavors but not so salty that it isn’t a good ‘base’ to play other flavors off of it.

Valdeon: An intense Spanish blue cheese, Valdeon was the one I was looking forward to the most. I’m a big bleu cheese fan, and Valdeon pack a big punch for those who enjoy it like I do. The vein of the Valdeon is hot, with a strong, spicy presence on the palate.

Here are the beers we tried with them, with notes on how they were on their own as well as with the cheeses:

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale: This Saison-style beer from Kansas City is hoppier than a traditional Saison, but manages to be crisp and flavorful without losing its balance. The spicy finish would lead you to think it’d be a great choice for a pairing—and you’d be right. Tank 7 matched with La Tur was the group’s pick for best pairing of the night; with the beer and cheese allowing each other’s best characteristics to shine. It seemed like Tank 7 went well with all of the cheeses — even the Manchego, which proved to be the most difficult cheese of the night.

Leipziger Gose: Gose is a style of Wheat Ale made using coriander and salt. With an alcohol level usually clocking in somewhere in the 4-5% range, think of Gose as a precursor to Belgian Witbier. I thought the citrus character, spiciness, and subtle salinity of Gose would work well with the Manchego, and cut through the richer La Tur and earthy Challerhocker — and boy, was I wrong. Pairing the Manchego with the Gose just brought out the salt in the beer and the intense sharpness of the cheese. The Leipziger played a bit better with the Challerhocker, but in the end this was the one beer that really didn’t go over well with any of the cheese selections. I still love it on its own, however, and think with the right seafood or even a salad with fruit and crumbled goat cheese it would be right at home.

Blue Mountain Maggie Maibock: I’ve been really enjoying this Virginia brewery’s take on the classic German strong Lager style, and thought it would make a good match for the Challerhocker. In practice the rounded mouthfeel and slightly sweet malt character of the Maibock did work, but the Challerhocker cut through on the finish in a way that just sort of threw everything out of whack. Something more mild, like Beaufort, would likely work better with the Maggie Maibock, though I did like it with the La Tur as well.

Maine Beer Company King Titus Porter: By now I think everyone knows how big a fan I am of Maine Beer Company’s work. As much as I love their Pale Ales, it’s the King Titus Porter that I think demonstrates the young brewery’s abilities the best. Rich, boldly flavored, acidic, sweet, roasty, subtle, and smooth all at the same time, Titus was my pick to play off of the Valdeon. While the heat from the blue cheese’s vein found balance with the malty Porter, the saltiness of the Valdeon was too much—a slightly creamier bleu or a richer dark beer would have made for a perfect pair. I liked what Titus did with the other cheeses too, though it was a bit much for the La Tur.

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