Monday, June 22, 2009

When Yeast and Cheese Aim to Please

You know an event has to be a jim-dandy if at some point you think, "If I was a cheese, would you wash me in beer?" and that's exactly what happened this evening at the Beer & Cheese Tasting at C'est Cheese, co-sponsored by Hollister Brewing Company. (Digression, as if every one of my sentences doesn't suffer from at least one, as this poor sentence even has: it might just seem like all I do is eat, drink, cook, make drinks, and write about eating and drinking. That's just how this blog rolls of late, if rolls might be an unfortunate term. The sell-out on health care "reform," say, by the people who are most supposed to be like me politically is just too painful to discuss...without another drink.)

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.

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Blogger Cookie Jill said...

"the scrubby effect of carbonation." Love it.

"Hoppy" to hear y'all had a delicious time.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Smitty said...

I am newly inspired to host an evening of beer-and-cheese pairings. Thank God for Zingerman's, or I'd never be able to find quality cheeses to match Michigan's amazing beer selection.

Salty with hoppy. Huh. It seems so basic, but I've never gone that way intentionally. I'm missing out, obviously. Usually, I do hoppy-with-spicy or hoppy-with-fatty. I will do this salty thing.

Thanks for the nod, and I am glad you enjoyed the Golden Cap. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I tried it.

Funny you mention beer...some breweries here are just releasing some of their summer stuff, and I am putting together a little shipment for you. Be a week or two yet so's I can get some fresh stuff to send you.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Marty said...

I like the Ommegang (along with Dogfish Head and some other good MB's), which I can get here, but the cheese? No chance, at least locally.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Mike said...


(That's all I can say.)

6:17 AM  
Blogger George said...

Sorry, Marty.

Thank you in advance, Smitty.

9:43 AM  

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