Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Session #51: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-off

So on Friday we were “occupied.” Not like in we were invaded or anything, but merely otherwise involved. You know the drill. So the fun and hijinx of the Session and Jay Brooks’ call for a cheese and beer bonanza had to be postponed until today. Rather than take any sort of scientific approach that focused on pairings, we went with the four cheeses and four beers approach. You know, mix and match. Embrace the random. Here’s what we grabbed:

Champignon Mushroom Brie
Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Goat Milk
Vintage 5 Year Gouda
Widmer 10 Year Cheddar

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
Weihenstephaner Hefe Weisse
Westmalle Dubbel
Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

Let the fun begin!

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere: Humboldt Fog matches Bam Biere for a couple of reasons: the funk in the outer layer of the cheese melds well with the sharp mineral-ly and funky components of the beer—sort of complementing funks—and the sharper inner crumbly and creamy goat cheese matches the brightness and spritziness of the beer. None of the other three were a terrible match, although Widmer and Champignon were both too subtle to hold up to bright mineral funk of Bam Biere. Vintage Gouda did have the complexity to hold up to the beer, but the nutty, biscuit, and creamy flavors didn’t balance correctly.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier: both Champignon and Vintage Gouda work decently for similar reasons: each pairing offers a study in opposites. The creamy density of Champignon balanced the brightness and softness of the beer, while the stronger flavors in the Gouda offered a different texture and character of flavors against which to balance the lighter and brighter beer. The flavor of Widmer Cheddar completely overpowered the gentle flavors of the beer, which was an interesting shift from the way it was overwhelmed by the Bam Biere, while the Humboldt Fog just didn’t quite work—the creaminess of the goat cheese didn’t work in the ways that it did with Champignon.

Westmalle Dubbel: sadly, none of the cheeses were a good match for this beer. Both Widmer and Vintage Gouda offer a similarity in complexity, with the nutty caramel of Gouda fitting in with Westmalle’s fruity malt character, but neither was a perfect match. As well, the creaminess of Champignon balances the complex malt character, but not exactly. And the funkiness of the outer layer of Humboldt Fog did not work well with the soft, gentle, and complex malt profile at all, although the inner creamy part was a better match.

Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout: Widmer Cheddar found its match: it brings out the sweet molasses character of the beer, and each balances the other nicely—both are improved via the pairing. Champignon brought out the roasty chocolate character of the beer, but was overall less interesting, and Humboldt Fog got covered over and didn’t work. Vintage Gouda was an interesting match, but as Elli offers, “neither did anything for each other.”

The remains of the day...

Best Pairings: in terms of the final tabulations, we had a split decision. Elli found the Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout and Widmer 10 Year Cheddar the best match, while I thought the Jolly Pumpkin and Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog the best match. But since we both got to eat fancy cheese and drink fancy beer, I’m pretty certain we’re both winners.


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