Beer and Cheese, whaaaa????? Isn’t it supposed to be Wine & Cheese, Beer & Pretzels? Wait just a second dear CraftBeerGeek reader, tell me, what are the ingredients of wine? Grapes and yeast, that’s it right? Ok, now how about beer, grains, water, hops, yeast, fruits, spices, vegetables, coffee, chocolate, the list could go on for days!
Now, which drink do you think has a broader palate? Well if you have read this far without madly clicking away to check you crops on Farmville then you are probably with me in the idea that Beer has the possibility of more flavor.
Enter our local adult beverage store, Dorn’s. Part of the Wine Warehouse group Dorn’s main focus is wine, however they do have a nice craft beer selection as well as spirits for all your adult beverage needs. They also offer specialty cheese, and other fine dining goods. The first Tuesday of each month Dorn’s offers a beer tasting event with a theme. For $15 you get a full size beer tasting glass, samples of 8-10 beers, a $5 coupon towards your next in store purchase, as well as some snack foods. For the month of September Dorn’s decided to challenge their main customer base as well as the average Joe’s ideas about paring drink with cheese by paring 8 craft beers with 8 craft cheeses. Notice I said craft with a “C” none of those yellow oil slices to be found here!
My friend and fellow craft beer enthusiast and blogger Amie (Crazy Cat Lady Beer) joins me each month to be my “date” to the tasting. We share another passion, cars, which is how we met years ago at a local car club. While I consider myself to be more of a weekend warrior type craft beer enthusiast and blogger Amie has taken the bull by the horns and laid on the whoop ass. She has a cellar full of her rare collected and traded for beers, as well as several carboys of her homebrew bubbling away, she’s been to beer tasting events all over Florida, Philly, and recently the coup de grace The Great American Beer Fest in Denver. Her passion and knowledge of beer exceeds mine, and she is pursuing her dream of being a brewer and it is good to know I may have a friend on the inside when this is all said and done.
The following notes are our thoughts on the 8 pairings and our final thoughts of the tasting event.
“Front table beer’s and cheese’s”
Hacker-Pschorr Weiss with Montchevre Goat Cheese –
The Craft Beer Geek: A classic wheat beer, I have actually never had this one before. It it very nice it is sweet malty heavy on the banana and clove. This was a really good pairing. The smooth creamy slightly sweet cheese paired well with the banana esters of this classic wheat beer. The Pairing reminded me of banana pudding with vanilla wafers.
The Crazy Cat Lady: I tasted a lot of lemon in this beer, a lot of the standard banana as well. One of my favorite Weisses. This is such a delightful style of beer for a hot summer evening. It was lovely with the chevre. The two flavors did very well together! The light tang of the goat cheese picked up the lemon flavors from the beer and made for a delightful pairing
Fort Collins IPA with Canadian super sharp cheddar –
The Craft Beer Geek: This was also my first time having the FCB IPA, it is a nice west coast style IPA, heavy on the citrus hoppiness. I don’t have much to say about this pairing, you need a strong cheese to pair with the strong hop spice of an American IPA. The hops did a great job scrubbing the tongue and balancing the sharpness of the cheese.
The Crazy Cat Lady: This is such a great example of what an American IPA should be. The hops had a lot of citrus going on, and they paired excellently with the sharp cheese. I’m not usually a big fan of cheddar, but it was such a GREAT complement to the beer that I couldnt’ not enjoy it.
Left Hand Milk Stout with Prima Donna Dutch Gouda –
The Craft Beer Geek:While I have had Left Hand’s Milk Stout in the past I have never had it like this before. This dry crumbly cheese has a sweet nutty and very noticeably caramel flavor that enhanced those flavors in the beer making this my favorite pairing of the front table as well as the entire tasting. The caramel roasted grain flavors were amazing, it was like candy. This pairing proves how good beer and cheese paring can be, both foods coming together to create a flavor that is greater than the sum of the parts.
The Crazy Cat Lady: I was SO excited for this pairing and it didn’t disappoint. The LH Milk Stout is one of my all time favorite beers, and gouda is one of my favorite kinds of cheese. The mildness of this malt-bomb balanced so well with the creamy cheese. The chocolate from the beer was a nice foil for the slightly vanilla-y flavor in the cheese. Mmmmm…
Fullers London Porter with Swiss Gruyère –
The Craft Beer Geek:It has been a while since I have had the London Porter, this paring was nice, the cheese was nutty and earthy which went well with this classic English porter which has a similar flavor profile, the peaty malts and the earthiness of this cheese were a great match for each other.
The Crazy Cat Lady: I really enjoyed this porter. Such a nice, balanced beer, and it went so well with the Gruyère. They’re both such classics, how could a pairing this good not disappoint?
“Back table beer’s and cheese’s”
Bells Amber Ale with Chistou –
The Craft Beer Geek: This was my first time tasting the Bells Amber, it was a nice amber ale that should satisfy the beer enthusiast as well as the macro beer drinker in a social setting. Pick up a 6 pack for your next BBQ. This was probably my least favorite pairing of the evening. Both the cheese and the beer were pretty mild in their flavor profiles. Maybe if this had been my first tasting of the evening I would have been able to get more from this pairing but I just could not get any flavors that were playing with each other.
The Crazy Cat Lady: I’m going to leave the description of this pairing to Wes. I agree that this was my least favorite pairing of the evening, and that the Bell’s would make a great barbecue beer.
Lindemans Kriek Lambic with 60% Brie –
The Craft Beer Geek: I do always enjoy this tart cherry Lambic, the sweet tart
flavor and light mouthfeel is very refreshing, a good one to change non beer drinking people’s ideas about what beer is. The Lambic was paired with a dense creamy Brie, this paring was very much a contrast of flavors and textures but worked quite well together. A lot like a cherry pie with a buttery crust, or cherry ice cream.
The Crazy Cat Lady: While the Bell’s/Chistou pairing was my least favorite pairing of the evening, the Lindemans Kriek was my least favorite beer of the evening. I love Kriek lambics, but I love the tart, mouth-puckering, traditionally sour ones. This one is SO sweet… and SO cherry that I didn’t like it on its own. I felt like I was drinking cherry soda. But when paired with the cheese, it became a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Oh my! The cherry beer paired with the creamy, luscious brie reminded me of the cherry cream cheese pie my grandmother used to make at Christmas. What a delightful pairing!
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with five County’s Cheddar –
The Craft Beer Geek: I am a huge fan of the SN Pale Ale it is a classic craft beer that is always good and easily found, I even see if for sale at Wal-Mart these days. The Pale Ale was paired with a 5 layer cheese which consists of Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester and Red Leicster aged together. This paring was kind of boring, not much going on here. I found it difficult also as there are 5 different cheeses here pairing with one beer. I would have liked to try this with a smoked cheese of some kind.
The Crazy Cat Lady: How can you go wrong with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? Perhaps the most iconic craft beer in the industry, the lovely composition of this beer is so classic and well-conceived. Pair it with a slightly off kilter classic (a wedge of cheese composed of 5 different varieties of Irish cheese, yum!) and it makes for a nice pairing. Like Wes later says, it’s not the most exciting pairing, but it works well.
Unibroue Trois Pistoles with Danish Blue Cheese –
The Craft Beer Geek: I have had the Trois Pistoles a few times and just recently while filming a review of it for my YouTube channel. This was my favorite paring at the back table. The Trois Pistoles is a wonderful Belgian Strong Dark ale, lots of dark fruit and wonderful flavors. The Danish blue cheese it was paired with was a crumbly mild blue cheese slightly salty which helped balance out the sweetness of the Trois Pistoles. This is a strong flavorful beer at 9% so you need a strong cheese to pair with it. Blue was the right choice to both enhance and compliment the flavors of this beer. Two strong flavored foods which can be hard to get right but this was done very well, again the pairing is more that the sum of its parts.
The Crazy Cat Lady: I was a little apprehensive for this pairing – I don’t eat blue cheese (at least not in large quantities). I love Troi Pistoles, though. Trois Pistoles is such a complex, heavy, fruity beer. Sticky, malty sweet, and heavy, this beer needed a cheese that could tame it. Boy did the blue cheese do just that! The tang of the cheese worked to curb the sweetness in the beer, and the flavors in the beer so complemented the cheese that I was able to enjoy a piece of blue cheese for the first time.
Our Final thoughts
The Crazy Cat Lady: By far, this has been the best Dorn’s Beer Tasting that I’ve attended thus far. I’ve had cheese with beer before, but this is the first time I did some thinking as to how the flavors work together! I can’t wait for Dorn’s Left Hand tasting next month, the 5th, from 6-8. Make sure you RSVP, it should be excellent!
The Craft Beer Geek: As usual I had a great time at Dorn’s monthly beer tasting event. They always make it interesting and I get to taste some beers that I may not normally try on my own. I am not a craft cheese enthusiast so this was really my first time paring good cheese with good beer. After this tasting I certainly stand by my feelings that cheese and beer make a better paring than cheese and wine. There are just so many more flavors available to work with from beer that opens up a lot of interesting combinations that are just not possible with wine. Good beer pairs well with a variety of cheeses as well as any kind of food. It is also good for a duffer like me, the flavors of wine can be quite subtle and it can take a while to get your taste buds trained. I hope to see you next month and all the rest after that. Dorn’s holds their beer tastings the first Tuesday of the month at 6pm and 7pm, registration is required so call ahead or friend them onFacebook for notifications and online registration.