Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer and Cheese for Breakfast: Must Be the GABF

By William Brand
Friday, October 1st, 2004 at 7:20 pm in Uncategorized.

It wasn’t exactly break fast _ but for many of us the Association of Brewers, beer cheese and chocolate tasting at 1:30 p.m. Friday was the first event of our Great American Beer Festival day.
The tasting showed once again how far the Great American Beer Festival has come from the days when an official “brewers’ dinner’’ might mean standing around in a hotel ball room munching potato chips with Cheese Whiz dip and quaffing pints of beer.
Honest, I witnessed this here a decade ago. The only thing to drink at that long ago “brewers banquest’’ was beer and for some weird reason, Scotch. My wife had to go down stairs to a hotel bar to order a Diet Coke.
Well, the GABF has grown up. This pairing of cheese and beer was sophisticated indeed. Of course, this was a beer tasting, so there was zero stuffiness, just presentations by brewers and artisan cheesemakers who really care about their craft.
I’ve written quite a bit about pairing beer and cheese in recent years, because the truth is _ beer pairs much easier with cheese than wine does. You scoff?
Check out this fine book by Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster Garrett Oliver: The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, Harper-Collins.
Garrett notes that wine sometimes has a cloying effect _ it sticks in the mouth _ when you eat it with cheese. Beer on the other hand is refreshing. Eat a bite of cheese; take a sip of beer _ the beer cleanses the palate and prepares you for another bite of cheese.
Here’s the great thing about these pairings, from my point of view: nearly all the cheese and all the beer can be found in the Bay Area.
My favorite pairing Friday was in a way like a letter from home: Two mega-hoppy beers from Bear Republic, Healdsburg were matched with cheeses from tiny Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Co. (http://www.springhillcheese.com ) near Petaluma in Sonoma County.
Bear Republic’s new Hop Rod Rye, made with 25 percent rye, crystal barley malt and lots of hops, was paired with aged Spring Hill Sage Cheddar. It was hard to move away; the sage and creamy cheese flavors and the rye beer were a perfect marriage.
Bear Republic’s Racer 5 was matched with Firehouse Style Cheddar and another made with green peppers and cilantro.
Here are the other pairings:
Widmer Alt, Widmer Brothers, Portland and Tillamook Pepper Jack http://www.tillamookcheese.com/
Ommegang, the huge, Belgian-style double from Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY and Harpersfield Tilsit, a cheddar from Cabot Creamery, Cabot, VT. http://www.cabotcheese.com.
Next came Rogue Chocolate Stout, Rogue Brewing, Newport,, OR and Cabot’s Smoky Bacon Cheddar. This was a champ. The cheese was creamy and rich _ and the bacon gave it a dreamy, smoky note. Add the Chocolate Stout, whew.
At the chocolate table, Pete Slosberg, the guy who gave us Pete’s Wicked Ale, and now produces fine chocolates, had several selections,
Easily my favorite was Allagash Curieux, a strong Belgian-style tripel aged in oak Bourbon barrels and Cocoa Pete’s Nuts So Serious.
Allagash, a Belgian-style brewer in Portland, ME, has reputation for producing strong, complex beers and Curieux stands out. The beer is hugely sweet with a bite from the alcohol and an oaken-Bourbon taste.
Nuts So Serious mellowed the beer creating an excellent taste experience. It was hard to leave the table. Cocoa Pete’s Chocolate Adventures is based in the Bay Area in Campbell, CA http://www.cocoapetes.com _ William Brand

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