Beer and cheese tasting

Beer-may2013c 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.

Apple makes a great palate cleanser
Apple makes a great palate cleanser

Soon enough we were giggling our way through the Pilsner, making cheesey highways on our tongues.

Making a cheesey highway while biffing back a brew takes some joyful practice.
Making a cheesey highway while biffing back a brew takes some joyful practice.

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!

Parrotdog Red Ale
Mmm more beer, tasting notes are getting a little sporadic as we open the Parrotdog Red Ale

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.

Beer-may2013aThe cheeses
Whitestone Lindis Pass Brie
Meyer Gouda
Linkwater Cheddar
Over the Moon Galactic Gold Washed rind
Whitestone Windsor Blue

The Beers
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.

Beer-may2013ePondering 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

Other posts you might like:

Camembert and Chardonnay Blue cheese and gingerbread Munster
Secrets to a great cheese board – wine and cheese Cheese canapés for cocktail parties Munster and Gewurtztraminer – an astounding combination

6 thoughts on “Beer and cheese tasting

  1. Hi, great blog and this certainly sounds like a great fun evening!
    A shame you didn’t stumble upon a beer-and-cheese nirvana though. I do wonder if you might have benefited from a wider range of beer styles? These beers are all great but they share the philosophy of a heavy use of New Zealand hops, which is possibly why they generally complimented the gouda.
    A saison would be perfect with the washed rind, and possibly the brie; Wild yeast beers can match well with both of those too or even blue cheese if they are sweet; an ESB or malty IPA is classic with the cheddar; a vintage ale or barley wine can be great with blues. All this without mentioning Belgian styles!
    So all this really means is that you have the perfect excuse to do it again…..

    1. Love it thanks! I’m not much of a beer connoisseur so I really appreciate your suggestions. You are right, I need to get back on that beer and cheese bike and give it another go. I like the idea o Euro beers and cheese. Mmm getting thirsty just thinking about it.

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