FOOD – SOUR BEER AND CHEESE PART ONE
A food pairing that has been in the works for quite some time has finally happened, and makes for a solid introduction to a series of pairings we plan to do throughout the year. Teaming up with our friend Vito from the Coppermine Pub, we set out to see what cheeses work best with a variety of different beers. For our first pairing session we decided to go the sour route, as there are many different styles and flavors of sours that we felt would lend very well to the flavors of cheese. As for which cheeses – well, let’s just say that without Vito we would have been at a loss. So, we gathered up some sours and a few different cheeses to see which ones were more fitting than the next.
If you remember our post from a year ago on the Coppermine, you would know that Vito has a real passion for cheese, so it was a no-brainer that we wanted to team up with him to gain some knowledge and an understanding of all these flavors that cheese has to offer.
The first beer on the ticket was The Bruery’s Hottenroth: a low abv Berliner Weiss and the perfect starter, as it is light, refreshing, and very drinkable. When pairing with something light like a Berliner Weiss we recommend that you go with a soft ripened cheese like a Camebert, a gooey cheese (such as the Kunick), or hard cheese (the Gruyere). Stay away from bleu cheese on this beer as it overpowers the flavor and tartness for this particular kind of sour.
Our second beer on the list was a real treat and something that you can only get up in Vermont. Backacre Beermakers take the lambic blending techniques to bring together an American Wild Ale that is an outstanding sour golden ale with just the right amount of funk for the pairing ahead. We found a few cheeses went well this one. For example, one of the most outstanding pairings was with the French Chaumes. The soft cheese played along nice with the sour, complimenting one another throughout the whole beer. The Great Hills bleu cheese was another one that worked, as well as the raclette from Spring Brook Farms. Another style of cheese to look into for this pairing would be a Parmesan like grana padano.
Our third beer was the last lighter-colored beer we had on the ticket (Brouwerji Alvinni from Belgium – an awesome sour blond). It is a great introductory beer if you are trying to get into sours or this particular style of blond. This was another one that we found to go well with the variety of cheeses on the board. Nettle Meadow’s gooey Kunick was delicious and paired up very nicely. The grape leaf wrapped bleu from Valdeon was another exceptional match. One of the best ones was Vito’s home made muenster: this cheese really brought out the taste of the oak barrels within which the beer sat.
So many sour beers can really get to you and make your gut feel a little uneasy. We recommend that you keep plenty of tums on hand, as well as a bit of bread to help cleanse the palate and make sure your sour beer tasting is pleasant and joyful.
Getting into the darker beers, we decided to go with the only stout we had for the pairing and a recent release from Great South Bay out on Long Island. They take the wort from their Dirty Deeds Imperial Stout and sour it to make a slightly smokey and tart black ale. This beer was a bit tough and not the most ideal for pairing with cheese, but we did find that Vito’s homemade Gorgonzola Dolce was a nice pairing and calmed down the over-all roastiness of the ale. A nice Parmesan will go will with this too, as the beer doesn’t overwhelm the cheese flavors.
After a little disappointment with the stout not pairing up so well, we decided to get into one of the fruitier sours – an Oude Kriek from Oud Beersel. This was one of my favorite beers of the day as it brought out a lot of interesting flavors when set up with the cheese. Hands down one of the best cheeses to sync up with this beer would be a Kunick, as it created flavors of cherry cheese cake in your mouth. Again, bleu cheese went very well with this as well because one didn’t over power the other. Stay away from things like muenster and Parmesan; the beer completely cuts the flavor of the cheese.
Stepping away from the Oud Beersel, we wanted to follow up with another cherry beer. We tried The Lost Abbey’s take on a Flanders red – a beer they call Red Poppy. This one was fifty fifty down the board. A soft cheese like the chaumes and the harder cheeses like Gruyere and toma primavera go very well with this Flanders style sour. On the other end of the spectrum, we found that other soft cheeses like the Kunick did not go well; neither did muenster, bleu, or Parmesan.
Staying with the cherries a little more, we cracked open this awesome bottle from The Bruery and City Beer. A little on the darker side, this beer was aged in oak with blackberries and cherries and was just bursting with fruit. This particular dark sour went well with most of the cheeses we were sampling. Bleu cheese is an excellent pairing for this one, no matter which one you choose. The moldy funk of the bleu, when sipped with the beer, made the cheese real creamy on the palate and brought out these herb-laden earthy tones which were quite pleasant. This is another one that Parmesan doesn’t go well with – the beer kills the flavor outright and the cheese magnifies the booze of the beer.
We saved the biggest and fruitiest beer for last: Weyerbacher’s take on a wild ale they call Riserva. Vito has been aging this one for two years and it was a real treat for us as we have never had one of Weyerbacher’s sours. This beer completely crushed a few cheeses like the Chaumes and Grana Padano Parmesan, but there were some cheeses that were the perfect companion for this huge sour. The Valdeon bleu was excellent with this one as well as the Toma Primavera (nothing outstanding, just a nice complement to one another). The one that really stood out though was Great Hills bleu cheese, which brought forth a satisfying herbal quality in the flavor. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of bleu cheeses will stand up to a big beer like this one and give you pleasant experience.
At the end of it all we had a bunch of misspelled notes and cheese covered papers from everyone. Overall, a great experience, as two of the funkiest things on earth were brought together to create flavors out there that we didn’t think existed – some for better and some for worse.
Suffice to say, our first foray into food pairing was a humbling venture, as we found pretty quickly that we have much to learn and experience. We will be revisiting this sour beer and cheese pairing again in the near future and even play around with some other styles like IPA’s, Saisons, and Stouts. A big thanks for Vito for hosting us and being the perfect companion for this adventure. We most certainly tasted a lot but we have only scratched the surface.