Cheese Clock Plate And Pairings

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Today’s infographic is a chart for pairing cheese with beer, and other alcohol, put together by Artisanal Premium Cheese, with four basic kinds of cheese and some general suggestions. Offhand, their suggestions actually aren’t that sound. If there’s anything I’ve learned about pairing cheese and beer, it’s that you can’t really make generalities. They also have a plate and pairings page that attempts to provide more information, but even that seems woefully simplistic. But at least they’re acknowledging that beer and cheese can be paired.

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Click here to see the chart full time.

Cheese Event At Point Reyes With The Homebrew Chef

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This should be a great event. Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, has teamed up with Point Reyes Cheese for an amazing day of cheese and beer. On Saturday, December 8th from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, Sean will be at the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, makers of the wonderful Point Reyes Blue, among others. The day will include “an educational walking farm tour, focused cheese tasting and a demonstration class led by Home Brew Chef, Sean Paxton. This special day will include a craft-beer-inspired and paired 4-course lunch. This educational experience is definitely for beer and food lovers!” It would also make a great early Christmas present, too. Wouldn’t you rather be drinking beer, eating cheese and taking in the beauty of nature than fighting the Christmas shopping crowds?

The luncheon will include beer from Anderson Valley, Bear Republic, Lagunitas and Russian River. Here’s the full menu:

First Course
Hog Island oysters topped with an iced Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout mignonette, crumbled Original Blue
Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout

Second Course
A homage to pot pie: local root vegetables and Willie Bird turkey breasts braised in Russian River Temptation with a thyme New Blue barley crust
Russian River Temptation

Third Course
Local lamb cheeks braised in Lagunitas Brewing Co. Cappuccino Stout on a bed of mashed potatoes infused with Toma, sautéed winter greens and garnished with a Marin County gremolata
Lagunitas Brewing Brown Shugga ‘10

Fourth Course
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye beer caramel mixed into a mascarpone mousse, layered with a fall spiced Red Rocket Ale cake, garnished with a pumpkin seed Heritage Ale brittle
Bear Republic Heritage Ale

Tickets can be purchased online and are $120 per person. That includes everything; a Walking Farm Tour, Focused Cheese Tasting, and the Four Course Cooking Demonstration with Lunch & Craft Beer Pairings by Sean Paxton over four and a half hours.

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Beer At/Is Fancy Food

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For the third straight year, beer had a bigger presence at the Winter Fancy Food Show, held each January in San Francisco. The Brewers Association once again had a booth pouring beer from a variety of craft brewers, through their Export Development Program (EDP). I went the first year, too, and this year it again appeared to be one of the most popular booths at the giant food show that features high-end, specialty foods. Hopefully not by coincidence, the BA’s craft beer booth was located next to most of the cheese, which made finding divine pairings quite easy. There are few things better than great beer and cheese together.

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In talking with Bob Pease, COO of the BA and head of EDP, it was clear this was the right crowd to help build craft beer. Attendees were by and large retailers who carry not just ordinary grocery fare, but high-end, specialty foods. Craft beer, of course, is a high-end, specialty food and these days, any specialty food retailer carrying better cheese, bread, chocolate, charcuterie, etc. but not craft beer, is missing out. And many people there seemed to understand that.

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People lined up to try the beers, and unlike your average beer festival, most asked good questions not just about the beer, but what foods it went with, how to market it, etc. In several conversations I eavesdropped on, retailers admitted not knowing much about craft beer, but seemed to understand it was now part of the specialty food world and were eager to learn more and understand how it could fit into their own businesses.

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Nancy Johnson, Event Director for the BA, sampling people on Dogfish Head’s beer.

Having had most of the beers from the dozen breweries at the BA’s booth, I wanted to see what else was being featured at the show, so I spent a few hours walking the aisles and stuffing my face with countless delicious samples being offered at nearly every booth.

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I was in heaven with all the different cheese available for sampling. I must have eaten at least a pound or more of cheese in the aggregate.

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There was an entire area devoted to Japan’s cuisine, and among those booths I discovered that Hitachino Nest Beer was sampling people on three of their beers.

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I also noticed this clever carrying-case to transport a twelve-pack to your next tasting.

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Not surprisingly, they were also pouring beer — Spaten — in the German cuisine area.

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And last, though in this case possibly least, there was also a booth featuring beer salt. Though I suppose if you’re stuck drinking Corona, with a wedge of lime and some beer salt, you’d have the makings of a beer margarita.

Anyway, the Fancy Food Show was great fun, and it was amazing to see so many innovative foods, and the way they were being presented. There was food from a dizzying number of countries, and many new ways of eating more traditional fare. But what was really terrific to witness, is how many people were so accepting of beer as a part of the great panoply of food. I don’t so much like the word “fancy” as a way of describing either craft beer or most of the foods at the show, and I suspect that’s a name with a history that they’re somewhat stuck with now. The Fancy Food Show is put on by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, and that’s a much better way of looking at it. Because none of the food there could be considered ordinary, it was all pretty special. And that’s one way to look at beer, too. There’s ordinary beer — well-made but fairly bland without much flavor — and then there’s craft beer — loaded with flavor and in endless variety. Give me the specialty beer every time. Life’s just too short to settle for the ordinary.

Session #51.5: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off, Part 2

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I’ll be very much surprised if there’s a great turnout for Session #51.5. It is after all, asking a lot — and for a second time in two weeks — gather together a selection of beers and cheese. For this extra Session, the instructions were in the round-up for Session #51. The idea was to use the list of beers chosen by everybody for each of the three cheeses that were listed in the round-up to try a few more beers with the same cheese. Simply pick up some of the other beers that were suggested, and try them with the same three cheeses and do a follow up blog post on or around Friday, May 20 to explore more fully pairing cheese and beer.

You can write about how your choices compared, or what you learned from the other suggestions, or which out of all the ones you tried worked best. What recommended pairing most surprised you? Which didn’t seem to work at all, for you? It’s my way of taking the Session concept and making it more interactive and collaborative, essentially an “online cheese-off.” First, we made our best recommendations for pairing a beer with these three cheeses, and now we have an opportunity to try as many of the suggestions as we can, and discover which worked best. I’ll then do a second round-up and report the findings of the group as a whole to the beers and the three cheeses together. If you’ve already done Part One, don’t stop now, keep going. Read what your fellow bloggers liked, and pick a few to try yourself. To participate, just post a comment here or at the round-up with a link to your blog post for Session #51.5.

A final note. Since it’s not really an “official” Session, don’t worry too much about sticking to today’s date. Have another cheese tasting whenever you like, whenever it’s convenient or you feel like it. To be honest, after being in South America for the last eleven days, I’m too tired to do it today myself, and will most likely do it next week. Feel free to do likewise. I’ll keep adding posts as they come in. Also, don’t forget about Session #52, coming up Friday, June 3.

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Session #51 Round-Up & Announcing Session #51.5

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Well that was great fun, I was certainly glad to see so many people step up and participate, despite my best efforts to make things as difficult as possible. And everybody seemed to have a very good time, too. Cheese and beers just brings out the best in all of us, I guess. Anyway, I’m doing the round-up a little bit differently this Session, because this is not just the end of the Session, but also the beginning of the second phase, or Session #51.5. Below you’ll find a list of all of the beers paired with each of the three cheeses, or their substitute parenthetically, along with a link to each Session post submission. In most cases, I listed just the best pairing from each blogger for each cheese, unless otherwise noted. Also, I’ll continue to update this list as late submissions continue to roll in, as they inevitably do. Following that, you’ll find instructions on how to participate in round two, Session #51.5 on Friday, May 20.

The Beer & Cheese Pairings

1. Widmer 1-Year Aged Cheddar

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Here are the best pairings everybody chose for the Widmer 1-Year Aged Cheddar, or a suitable substitute. I’ve noted what substitute cheese was used, where applicable.

2. Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

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Here are the best pairings everybody chose for the Humboldt Fog, or a suitable substitute. I’ve noted what substitute cheese was used, where applicable.

3. Maytag Blue

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Here are the best pairings everybody chose for the Maytag Blue, or a suitable substitute. I’ve noted what substitute cheese was used, where applicable.

I was also glad to see so many people not stress too much about the specific cheeses I recommended. I knew that not everybody would be able to find them going in, but it seemed like the more who could find the same cheeses, the better the experiment would work, because it could more easily be duplicated regardless of location. But I also realized that with beer bloggers so spread out around the world, that in the end it was an impossible task and felt it was better to participate with a substitute cheese then not at all, and as long as the cheeses were somewhat similar, I figured it would still be valid. A number of people also added additional cheeses or could not find substitutions that were similar, so the list below is all of the other and extra cheeses that peoples paired together.

4. Other or Extra Cheeses Paired

  • Boulevard Smokestack Tank 7 (Gruyere & Manchego):
    Appellation Blog
  • Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Mature Ardrahan, a semi-soft cheese):
    The Beer Nut
  • Brooklyn Lager (KH DeJong Gouda):
    The Pour Curator
  • Cigar City Maduro (Triple Cream Brie):
    The Pour Curator
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (Snow White Goat Cheddar):
    The Brew Lounge
  • Duchesse de Bourgogne [Brouwerij Verhaeghe] (French Comte):
    Wine and Beer of Washington State
  • Foggy Noggin Anniversary Ale and the Quadrupel Belgian (French Comte):
    Wine and Beer of Washington State
  • Trappiste Rochefort 10 (Parmesan):
    Yours For Good Fermentables
  • Victory Headwaters pale (KH DeJong Edam):
    The Pour Curator
  • Williams Brothers Gold (Mature Ardrahan, a semi-soft cheese):
    The Beer Nut
  • Part 2: The Extra Special Second Follow-Up Mid-May Session

    Okay, I know not everyone will want to go for this, but if you’re with me so far and you’ve already participated in Session #51, here’s the idea for part two. Use the list of beers chosen by everybody for each of the three cheeses that are listed above to try a few more beers with the same cheese. Over the next two weeks, simply pick up some of the other beers that were suggested, and try them with the same three cheeses and do a follow up blog post on Friday, May 20 — which I’m calling Session #51.5 — to explore more fully pairing cheese and beer.

    You can write about how your choices compared, or what you learned from the other suggestions, or which out of all the ones you tried worked best. What recommended pairing most surprised you? Which didn’t seem to work at all, for you? It’s my way of taking the Session concept and making it more interactive and collaborative, essentially an “online cheese-off.” First, we made our best recommendations for pairing a beer with these three cheeses, and now we have an opportunity to try as many of the suggestions as we can, and discover which worked best. I’ll then do a second round-up and report the findings of the group as a whole to the beers and the three cheeses together.

    Spread the cheese .. er, the word. If you’ve already done Part One, don’t stop now, keep going. Read what your fellow bloggers liked, and pick a few to try yourself. To participate, just post a comment here with a link to your blog post for Session #51.5.

    Guinness Ad #67: The Guinness Guide To English Cheese

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    Our 67th Guinness ad, in honor of the Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off yesterday, is a poster Guinness did in 1965 showing a variety of English cheese with the tagline “Guinness goes well with food.”

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    They also made a metal sign of the cheese poster, as well, though with a different tagline. In the metal version, it’s “— And Guinness enhance the flavor.” The cheeses, too, are almost the same, but not exactly, plus their order is changed up.

    Guinness-guide-to-english-cheese-sign-lg

    Beer In Ads #364: Nobel’s Appetizers Are Just An Excuse

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    Friday’s ads are for a Brazilian beer (where I’m heading next week) from Primo Schincariol. The brand of beer is Nobel and this series of ads is from 2008 and uses the slogan “Appetizers Are Just An Excuse.” Each ad shows a beer glass filled not with beer, but two appetizers that, from a distance, make it look like the glass is full of beer. The first, given that today is the beer and cheese Session, is filled with cheese and eggs.

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    A second shows French Fries — my favorite — in the bottom with white onions on top.

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    And a third uses popcorn, both popped and unpopped.

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    There were at least two more of these ads, peanuts and cashews, which you can see at Coloribus.

    Session #51: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off

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    It’s my great pleasure to host our 51st Session, my second time playing host over the four years we’ve been doing them. I chose a frightfully complicated topic which I’ve taken to calling by an overly grand name: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off. You can go back and read the long, original version of what’s going on, or here it is in a nutshell.

    1. Pick up three cheeses:
      1. Maytag Blue, or another blue cheese.
      2. Widmer Cellars 1-yr old aged cheddar, or another aged cheddar.
      3. Humboldt Fog, or another goat cheese.
    2. Pick a few beers you think will pair well with each cheese.
    3. Drink them with the cheese.
    4. Write up your results and post them on or before Friday, May 6.
    5. Leave a comment here, the announcement, or send me an e-mail so I can find your Session post.

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    So in addition to the Session Announcement , I also wrote about cheese and beer pairing in my last newspaper column, similarly challenging readers to try some beer with the same three cheeses and send in their best pairings, too.

    Wednesday evening, a few friends joined me to try several beers with each of the cheeses. Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, and Pete and Amy Slosberg, who started Pete’s Wicked Ales in the 1980s, each brought a beer for each cheese, I picked a couple for each, and then I included some of the most promising sounding pairings that readers of my newspaper column sent in. Here’s what we discovered.

    The Beer & Cheese Pairings

    1. Widmer 1-Year Aged Cheddar

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    We started with the cheddar. The Widmer is a simple cheddar, but with solid, strong flavors. I love the nuttiness and the way it melts in your mouth. The beers we had for the cheddar were the Belgian sweet gale beer, Gagleer, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 , Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Anderson Valley’s Brother David’s Double, Speakeasy’s Payback Porter, HUB’s Secession Cascadian Dark Ale and Firestone Walker’s Pale 31.

    A few of our choices didn’t really work at all, which was immediately apparent. The Gagleer was too sweet, Pale 31 was too mild to stand up to the cheese and the roasted malt in HUB’s Cascadian Dark Ale was accentuated by the cheese, making the pairing too harsh to work well. The vegetal, oniony cattiness of Pliny — delightful on its own — brought out an equal amount of bitterness in the cheese and led to a hash astringency in the combination. While talking through the cheeses, Pete asked if I had another dopplebock we might try, so I opened an older Salvator I had in my beer cellar (a.k.a. “the garage”). Even slightly oxidized, it was our third best pairing with the cheddar. It had only a slight malt sweetness, which complimented the nutty flavors in the cheese nicely. Racer 5, Bear Republic’s IPA, was our second favorite. It seemed to have the right level of bitterness to work with the Widmer Cellars cheddar, the two were a little bit more than the some of their parts. I think it could have been fun to try the cheese with just a variety of IPAs, because it really seemed like the IBUs and the choice of hop varieties make a big difference in whether or not the beer and cheese pairing is a hit or a miss.

    Our top choice, a unanimous decision, was Speakeasy’s Payback Porter. The cheese brought out an underlying smokey quality in the beer, accentuating it perfectly, and made the two something more than either could achieve alone. And that, we concluded, was what made a pairing great; when the two elements — the beer and the cheese — combined to become a third thing that was unique in and of itself.

    2. Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

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    We tasted the Humboldt Fog, a goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre, second. It’s a fantastic cheese; with unmistakably strong flavors. It’s creamy, with a zippy tang and sharp bite.

    The beers we had for the Humboldt Fog were Aventinus Weizenbock, the Bruery’s Orchard White, Ommegang’s Hennepin, Hoegaarden, Russian River Temptation and Saison Dupont.

    The Orchard White was an utter failure, the spices and floral notes really clashed with the cheese, making it too perfumy. We also tried the Pliny from the last flight and found its bitterness stomped on the cheese. Both the Payback Porter and HUB’s Black IPA did likewise, with the beer bringing out too much bitterness in the pairings that overwhelmed the cheese. In “The Brewmaster’s Table,” Garret Oliver singled out Hennepin as a beer to pair with goat cheese, but it didn’t actually work too well with the Humboldt Fog. It wasn’t terrible, but it brought out a bitterness in the beer when combined with the cheese that was less than ideal.

    But most actually worked fairly well with this versatile cheese. The Velvet Merkin/Merlin (which we went back and tried; see below) worked better than I expected; the oats in the stout smoothed and rounded out the flavor combinations. And the orange peel and coriander in the Hoegaarden, a last minute impromptu addition, brought all sorts of complexity to the pairing that made it hard to choose the best choice with the goat cheese.

    In addition to the new ones we added for each cheese, we also left all of the beers on the table from the previous cheese (and yes, the table filled up quickly) so we could try an even greater variety of combinations. As a result, we might never have discovered how well the Racer 5 went with the Humboldt Fog. It might not have occurred to be pair such a hoppy beer with the goat cheese, but the contrast was delicious, and we gave it an “honorable mention.”

    For our third best, we picked Temptation. The two were just heavenly together, as was our second choice: Saison Dupont. Both beers are zesty, spicy and complex and served to bring out a lot of flavor components from the cheese in the process, hitting that sweet spot of being more than the sum of their parts. But the beer that did all that, but better and with far more intangibles, was the Aventinus Weizenbock from Schneider-Weisse. The beer itself has an awful lot going on, and brought out so much more in the cheese that we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. I’d swear we heard choirs of angels faintly ringing in the air.

    3. Maytag Blue

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    Lastly, we tried the Maytag Blue, a classic blue cheese that crumbles easily and is very spicy and tangy. The runnier it gets, the more I like it.

    In addition to the beers we’d opened before it, we also tried it with Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merkin (or Merlin for the feint of heart), Lagunitas Imperial Stout and North Coast’s Old Rasputin.

    Most of the lighter styles from the previous flights weren’t up to the challenge of keeping their own against such as strong cheese as Maytag Blue, though the Racer 5 was an exception, and showed itself to be a very versatile beer to pair with a variety of cheese. Both the Velvet Merlin and the Lagunitas stout were strong enough and worked well enough for us to declare a two-way toe for third place. Personally, I thought the Lagunitas had a slight edge because it was stronger and stood up better than the softer oatmeal stout. But I was alone in that, and unable to break the deadlock.

    Of the stouts, the already wonderful Old Rasputin became even better with the blue cheese, earning itself second place in our informal contest. Strength against strength, complexity upon complexity, the two were a beautiful match. There’s just something about a big, lip-smackingly good complex imperial stout, with all its roasty goodness, malty sweetness and alcoholic punch, that seeps into the veins of the tangy power of a blue cheese and can match it round after round in the boxing ring inside your mouth. But remember that was our second choice. The best was yet to come.

    Hands down, and unanimously so, we liked the Russian River Temptation from the second flight as the best beer to pair with the Maytag Blue. It was simply “otherworldly.” It’s even hard to describe. We all took a sip, looked at each other furtively and knew. It was that good. Everything just worked. The combination of the two was so much more than the either individually, it was if they were made to go together.

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    And that, in essence, was the takeaway, what the exercise taught us. Like “white wine with fish,” any kind of guidelines about what beer styles goes with what cheese is only slightly better than guesswork. There is a very specific component to each beer and each cheese that alone determines if the pairing works or not, and that seems especially true for stronger beers (in both strength and flavors) and stronger cheeses, too. It may well be that milder cheese and beer do more easily fit a framework of guidelines. But in our little experiment, it became clear that guidelines are just a starting point. You have to really get under the hood and try various beers and cheeses together. And what you find is that while one IPA may work with one cheddar, it may not work at all with another. That makes it much harder to predict what will work together, but at least trying endless combinations is not exactly a grueling, miserable task. I’ll gladly try fifty beers with one one cheese to find that perfect pairing. Because when its good, holy moley, is it ever good.

    The other thing we noticed is that beers with pronounced flavors, such as very strong bittering or very sweet malt tended to accentuate those when combined with the cheese. As a gross generality, beers that were more balanced tended to work much better with whichever cheese we paired with them. That was interesting, and might require some more research.

    Well, that was great fun. Now it’s time to open another bottle of Temptation and cut up some Maytag Blue. Yum. I can’t wait to hear what everybody else tried and what combinations worked best. So that’s my round one. Look for the details on round two, Session #51.5 — which will take place in two weeks on Friday, May 20 — in the round-up, which I’ll likely be posting tomorrow morning.