Winter’s coming and with it stronger, heavier cheeses. Cheeses that shout out for beer. I’d heard beer and cheese were easier to match than wine and so I hollered out to my beer geek friends. 4 beers, 5 cheeses, my best glasses – a tasting afternoon!
I love formal tastings, they encourage a mindfulness often missing when you’re sitting round socially, quaffing and snacking. The incidental-ness of the food and drink is replaced by an almost solemn focus. Except of course nothing stays solemn for long when sipping beer and sampling cheese.
Soon enough we were giggling our way through the Pilsner, making cheesey highways on our tongues.
I’d heard of said cheesey highway on an Anne Saxelby podcast ages ago. A bubbly American cheese expert suggested chewing the cheese and holding it on your tongue, then tasting the beverage over the top – like laying a beery carpet over an interstate. I love the image and it does indeed help isolate flavours. Perhaps because all your taste buds are exposed to the the cheese/beverage combination, perhaps because you’re concentrating so hard to get a smooth coverage your mindfulness increases. Either way your enjoyment factor multiplies!
I used a cheese tasting plate suggested in Mastering Cheese as a guide. There are also loads of suggestions online. We ended up with 4 beers and 5 cheeses as Rog needed to include the Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale as well as a Red Ale. I chose all Kiwi cheese, but am keen to do a Euro tasting, and one with a more artisan NZ cheese range. We served them with baguette and slices of apple – perfect for cleansing the palette while leaving room for more.
Twisted Hop Pilsner
Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale
Parrotdog Red Ale
No 8 Wire iStout
Our tasting notes grew more sporadic as we worked through the Tuatara APA and cracked open the ParrotDog Red Ale. We learnt that Gouda was beer’s best friend, that the Red ale went happily with all the cheeses and that Stout can stand up to a blue.
Pondering the differences between wine and beer tastings, we agreed they have a different vibe. Maybe it’s the slower decent into tipsiness, but I kept waiting for those sublime moments when a wine and cheese combo create a third taste, when both are transported and create flavours new.
We didn’t get that with the beers. The beer and cheese flavours stayed truer to themselves. We all noted how the Red Ale seemed to make the cheese taste more of itself, to intensify yes, but transform no. Perhaps this is why many of the books and blogs I consulted talked of seeking balance with beer and cheese matches. Was it just that my matches weren’t great, my cheeses were too tame for these rambunctious brews? Any thoughts my cheesey friends? I must admit I was a bit stumped as I reached for a chardonnay and tried to chase down a transforming mix. Or do I just need more practice?
Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager, Max McCalman, David Gibbons
Beer and cheese: my 5 favourite pairings, Fiona Beckett
Beer Cheese Pairings – The Joys of Beer and Cheese – Esquire
Cutting the Curd -Anne Saxelby’s cheese podcast
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