When Yeast and Cheese Aim to Please
Turns out, as you might know, the good monks and the lay people they hire who are rumored to be even better than the holy folk (no comment from the agnostic gallery, promise) at Chimay in Belgium not only make terrific ales--as Hollister brewer Eric Rose said "the reason you see it everywhere is because it's perfect"--but also cheeses. The most common one to be imported into the U.S. has a washed rind, bathed in Chimay Blue. Hence my opening query, which, alas, didn't get as enthusiastic a response from Amy as I had hoped. I think she'd prefer the tasty cheese to a cheesy husband.
Or one that takes copious notes through an utterly delicious tasting. Part of that is that Kathryn from C'est Cheese and Eric from Hollister are so excited about what they do (and they darn well better be--they sell beer and cheese!) that they impart factoids without pain, so you learn stuff as all the good food and drink go down. But they also simply nail pairings, like the Morbius Double IPA (Rose's latest creation) matched with Shropshire Blue, for as Rose says, "salty foods need hoppy beers." TNT needs a detonator cap, too, but couldn't match this pair for explosive flavor. And then there was my favorite match of the evening (if neither was my favorite cheese or beer--now that shows the complexity of this synergy thing)--Midnight Moon with Allagash Dubbel. Kathryn said she felt the sweet saltiness from the goat's milk cheese brought out the chocolate notes in the beer, but I felt it was more a deep caramel, and for me caramel is a sort of taste safety blanket, so you can't top that (and don't take it away from me or I'll cry).
Obviously, this time around the 5 pairings didn't just feature Hollister Brewing beer, but also beers Rose helped C'est Cheese choose to sell itself. So along with that Allagash Dubbel and Chimay Blue (from the 5 liter bottle, too! they spoiled us so) we had Ommegang Hennepin, which got us so close to the valley girls and gals saying "O-my-gang!" but that's probably not as much a joke near where the beer comes from, Cooperstown, NY. And then I learned there's a Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Beer Festival, which means amazing beer and the Baseball Hall of Fame in the same little town. If I ever do get to go, I might just tremor, fall over, and die of too much joy at one time, the non-sexual version of that me, Neko Case, Julie Delpy threesome. But, like, possible.
Sorry, now that you're all too grossed out to keep reading.... That Ommegang, a wonderful saison style ale, lit up with champagne-like notes for the creamy goodness that is La Tur, the cheese so nice, they had to milk animals thrice--it's made with cow, sheep, and goat cheese. (Kathryn calls it "the scrubby effect of carbonation.") Then there was one more Hollister beer, Rose's new Belgian Country Ale that he says, "Shows the difference between a farmhouse and a saison...bascially I ripped it off from my friends at Russian River." Given as much as I like Perdition in Santa Rosa, it's a 6 hour plus drive, so being able to get an excellent facsimile in Goleta is a big plus. That beer matched well with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, a new cheese to the store from Vermont, pleasingly pungently cheddar-like, but trading in some of those more ammonia-y after-tones some English cheddars can have for some lovely nuttiness (which the Belgian yeasties--I believe that's the technical term--helped accentuate).
Afterward, we still felt a bit peckish, so picked up some sushi to take home from the ever-reliable Ahi and washed that down sharing a bottle from dear Michigan beer friend Smitty--a New Holland Brewing Golden Cap Saison. It fit the rest of the Belgian-dominated night like a beer named cap caps a fine evening. And it was.