Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A Symphony of Beer and Cheese

By William Brand
Friday, May 20th, 2005 at 11:30 am in Uncategorized.

SAN FRANCISCO – I reported earlier in this blog (like midnight yesterday) about a panel discussion on craft beer at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The tasting that followed was stony, not just the beer, but the cheese that Sonoma’s Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection brought to match the beer.

Yes, I know, your father and 10 million French citizens told you the correct combination is wine and cheese. Wrong. Beer and cheese are a much better match. Even foodies who officially “hate” beer, are coming around. Here’s a quote from Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing, one of America’s best brewers and, a writer of subtle elegance:

“The dirty little secret of the wine world is that wine, especially red wine, is a poor match for cheese. Don’t believe me? Ask an honest sommelier…” Oliver goes on to note that beer refreshes the palate. Take a bite of cheese, then a sip of beer. The beer cleanses the mouth, provides a proper counterpoint to the cheese and prepares the palate for another bite of cheese.

“It’s not very surprising when you think about it. Beer and cheeses are both traditionally farmhouse products, often made by the same person. (Have you ever seen a cow in a vineyard? Neither have I).

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, Garrett Oliver, HarperCollins, $29.95.

OK, here’s the list from the Commonwealth tasting. Sheana, who represents many Sonoma County farmstead cheesemakers lists cheeses by name, but notes that similar cheese from elsewhere can be substituted:

1. 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat.**** (The beer is enticing. A solid, body, with a teasing hint of watermelon. Brewer Shaun O’Sullivan said he adds 400 pounds of fresh watermelon to each batch.

Pair with fresh Chevre or Fromage Blanc and sweet baguette. She brought Laura Chenel Fresh Chevre, a creamy, rich cheese made with pasteurized goat milk.

2. Anchor Bock****. This is the first new beer from Anchor since Small Beer. Mark Carpenter, of Anchor, said it may be a one-off or a seasonal regular, depending on its reception. This is a splendid beer, fine malty, nose, but quite dry with a quenching follow.

Bocks traditionally are spring beers. Until recently, it was a German lager style, usually fairly strong. But Mark said Anchor Bock’s made with an ale yeast and the strength is moderate, 5.5 percent alcohol by volume. (Bud’s 5 percent, but what a difference!). Give Anchor Bock a try.

Sheana paired Anchor Bock with Vella Cheese Co. Asiago, a , sweet, nutty, raw cow milk cheese, aged one year and with Bellwether Farms Crescenza, a soft, creamy, pasteurized cows milk cheese. She also supplied Marcona Almonds and dried apricots and Italian Sea Salt Crostinis. Tasty combo, indeed.

Anchor also brought a wheel of Maytag Blue Cheese, from Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton, IA. This is a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged three to six months in a cool cave. It has a creamy, “blue” flavor.

3. Temptation*** from Russian River: Here are my tasting notes from earlier this year: Temptation is a walk on the wild side: 8.5 percent, , aged in oak barrels, fermented with Brettanomyces wild yeast: malty nose with little hint of the wildness within. Taste is barely malty with a definite bitter note. Tasty, refreshing unusual.

Sheana paired it with Laura Chenel Chevre and Crescenza and sweet baguette.

4. Damnation**** from Russian River is another very unusual, 7 percent, Belgian-style strong ale. Warm-fermented, by leaving bottles in front of the boiler room for a time: nose of ripened pears, malty with a good zip from the alcohol.

Sheana paired it with Vella Asiago and dried apricots and Marcona Almonds and fresh sweet baguette

5. Pliny the Elder***** from Russian River is rapidly becoming an American classic. It’s been making the rounds to beer fests around the Bay Area in the last six months. My tasting notes: Pliny’s an 8 percent, extremely hoppy, amazing ale. It has 100 International Bitterness Units, a measurement of hop bitterness. By comparison, Bud’s about 12 IBU. However, there’s so much malt that the beer is well-balanced.

Sheana paired it with Vella Daisy Cheddar, a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged nearlyh two years, along with dried cherries and Italian Sea Salt Crostinis.

Where to find the beer: Anchor’s John Dannerbeck and Mark Carpenter said Anchor Bock was bottled May 13, (2005); it went to distributors in the Bay Area this week and should reach stores next week. If you’re reading this blog from afar, sorry – this one’s only for the Bay Area. It’s expected to be at Beverages N’ More stores and other well-stocked stores in the next few weeks.

Watermelon Wheat and IPA are only available at 21st Amendment, where it’s a regular. That’s not painful at all – the pub’s just down the street from the Giants ballpark and a pleasant place to spend an hour on any day.

Russian River’s enticing beers are available every day at the pub in Santa Rosa. Vinnie also bottles Damnation and Temptation and sells them there. I also find them regularly at Ledger’s Liquors, 1399 University Ave., in Berkeley, CA and at a few other spots with well-stocked beer shelves. Not sure where? Drop us an e-mail and we’ll send you our retail beer store list. – William Brand

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]