Cheese N' Beer

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

-Clockwise from the top: Demon du Midi, Gres de Vosges, Maytag Blue, Fromage de Meaux, Lamb Chopper, Carmody.-

Normally, I'm not a beer person. That's not to say I hate beer, I'll throw a few back at a barbeque and certainly won't turn one down when offered, which, as I am to understand, is a sin. I even have a few favorite beers such as Blue Moon with a slice of orange, and Siamese Twin (a delicious beer with kaffir lime and lemongrass, only to be found in California) is a beer I hold dear to my heart, stomach, and liver. However, if you were to invite me to a beer tasting I would have to politely turn you down. It's just not my thing. Wine tasting, chocolate tasting, yes - but not beer.

Throw cheese into the mix and, well, how can I say no? When I heard about the cheese and beer pairing class to be taught by the Taylor's Market cheesemonger, Felicia Johnson, I immediately signed up. I was familiar with the epic duo of pairing cheese with wine and even cheese with chocolate, but cheese and beer, though known, was unfamiliar to me. It was a realm of dairy I had apparently overlooked like so much Budweiser and block cheddar.

-Beer, glorious beer.-

I arrived to find a stylish plate adorned with six cheeses and three glasses of beer, each competing for affection through their body and funk. We would be tasting 18 different pairings, some which would be striking, others revolting. The reason: to learn not just from the positive experiences, but the negatives. An odd though sensible approach to tasting as human beings, being the obstinate beings we are, tend to hold onto our more unpleasant experiences with a miserly grip.

The tasting was instructive and enlightening. The Fromage de Meaux - the closest to a real Brie we'll ever get in the U.S. due to pasteurization laws - matched perfectly with the Scrimshaw Pilsner. The faux-Brie's single cream, mushroomy richness danced well with the light beer. The Pilsner, being light in flavor like a Champagne (a classic cheese pairing for Brie and other rich, mellow cheeses) thus also enjoyed the presence of the Lamb Chopper, buttery Carmody, and oozy Demon du Midi.

The Dogfish Head 90min IPA, a beer with great malt backbone that can stand up to an extreme hopping rate, was made more for the rank and stinky cheeses. When it eclipsed the soft in flavor Brie and sheep's milk cheeses it was able to share my mouth with the Demon, but came to a calming armistice with the meaty, smells-like-feet Gres de Vosges (think of a mild Epoisses).

-Maytag Blue is made like a classic Roquefort, but to me tastes a little... off. I'm in the minority though.-

The Maytag Blue, the oldest American blue and one I'm not keen on to begin with, matched well with the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Stout (a beer made by Fritz Maytag no less). I say this from an indifferent point of view though. They did match well, but combining a cheese I don't care for with a espresso-esque beer I don't care for wasn't exactly a match made in heaven for me. But then again, taste is subjective as my tasting partner seemed to enjoy it.

The tasting was educational in introducing me to new cheeses and how to pair them with beers. It also enforced the main rule in learning about food. Use your senses. You can read about food all you want, but unless you're out there touching, smelling, seeing, and tasting food; the good and the bad; then you'll never really learn or know food. This golden rule of foodism couldn't be more true for cheese.

-How awesome of a name is Lamb Chopper? Seriously, it sounds like a serial killer or the codename for a secret military jet.-


  1. Hi Garret, I've been reading your site for a while but never said hi before. I just finished my Master's from UCD too! I've enjoyed reading about your struggles in finishing a thesis. Is it wrong to enjoy hearing about your struggles? It always made me feel better about my own ;)
    I also wanted to drop out of grad school and go to the CIA. I feel like we're the same person or something. I stuck with it and finished school, but have yet to go to cooking school. Do you have any plans to?
    Anyhow, I love your site! Always interesting and very informative!

  2. Congrats DessertforTwo! You must be excited! Why not go explore the CIA a bit or see if you can work in a kitchen for a while. I'm trying to do that myself! Thanks for commenting. =)

  3. I'm a little bit of a beer snob and like to point out that Blue Moon is a Coors beer.

    I enjoy sour, funky beers (in addition to other types) but don't like strong cheeses. But my tastes in other areas have changed with age, so maybe some day I will enjoy some funky cheese.

  4. Really you'd have to pay me, and a lot to persuade me to drink beer, but cheese, mmm cheese, I've always liked cheese since I was very young. I was a very fussy eater when I was a child but one thing I would never turn my nose up was a lovely moist crumbly white wenseydale. Since then I've had the fortune to live with 3 French people when I was living in Edinburgh, who all had regular vistiors from France, bringing with them beautiful cheeses. Now I live in Asturias in the North of Spain (I'm English). Here could be considered a corner of cheese heaven, my favourite being Cabrales. They are proud of their cheese and so they should be, I believe there are some 40 or so different types. So if you haven't come across Asturian cheese before, or 'queso asturianu', you should make it a priortiy at some point to come here and try it!

  5. Drat! I wish I had gone to the tasting. I did a beer and food pairing project for Dogfish Head and my favorite cheeses with the 90 Minute were a stinky blue cheese and goat cheese with honey. THAT was a fun project!

  6. SOunds like fun! I would never think much about pairing cheese and beer but of course there must be ones that go swimmingly together. Nice post, nice blog...I'll be back!

  7. I didn't used to be a beer fan, but now that we have great beer in this country, I am starting to love it.

    Beer and cheese are two fermented foods that are highly open to interpretation (just like wine). I bet this was a very educational experience!

    Eat Beast seems like a beer and cheese kinda creature. Too bad you couldn't take him (her?) with you.

  8. Hi Garret,
    Very cool blog. I got to it from your today's post on simply recipes.
    I love cheeses of all kinds.... as for beer I can drink a hefeweizen every now and then and that would be it! I think I overdosed on it once upon a time when I was in Germany LOL

  9. Me, I am both a beer snob and a cheese whore. This class sounds like a dream to me! (I am also a HUGE fan of most things bleu, and have to admit Maytag is one of my favorites.)

  10. This entry is amazing, it inspires me to raid the cheese section of Whole Foods. You should try some Russian or Latvian cheese if you can find it :) Love the blog, by the way.

  11. Props for expanding your beer palate! Beer has become so much more than "carbonated yellow water" and it's great to see more and more people drinking, homebrewing and blogging about craft beer :)

    I'm a cheese novice. I need to change that.

  12. Garret thank you so much for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the class!


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