Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Bistro Cheese-Off

By Jay Brooks
Thursday, February 11th, 2010 at 4:51 pm in On Beer.

Last night, the Bistro held its 2nd annual cheese-off, one of my favorite SF Beer Week events. Similar to last year, Bistro co-owner Vic Krajl picked four cheeses and then asked four breweries — Eel River, Mad River, Moylan’s and Sierra Nevada — to pick the beer they made that they felt was the best pairing with each cheese.

Pairing #2: Moylan's Hefe, Eel River Amber, Mad River Jamaica IPA & Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Here’s flight 2, for example, one cheese with four beers.

After choosing our favorite from each round, we handed in our scorecards and they tallied up the results to determine which pairings were the most popular. A prize was awarded to whoever correctly predicted the most popular choices. Only one person, for the second year running, chose all four most popular. While I’d argue that most popular doesn’t necessarily mean best, especially since people’s tastes and palettes vary widely, it was still a fun way to wrap up the evening and determine at least what a majority of people thought about the choices. Below is a list of each of the cheeses along with the beer pairings chosen by each brewery and then what was determined to be the most popular. The beer in bold was chosen as most popular and italics indicates my personal choice, in case you’re interested.

Cheese No. 1: Wavreumont (cow)

  1. Molyan’s: Celt’s Golden Ale
  2. Eel River: Triple Exultation
  3. Mad River: Mad Belgian Golden Ale
  4. Sierra Nevada: Kellerweis

Cheese No. 2: Petit Agour — Tomette d’Helette (sheep)

  1. Molyan’s: American Hefeweizen
  2. Eel River: Amber
  3. Mad River: Jamaica IPA
  4. Sierra Nevada: Pale Ale

Cheese No. 3: Sunlight (goat)

  1. Molyan’s: Hells’ Lager
  2. Eel River: Porter
  3. Mad River: Jamaica Red Ale
  4. Sierra Nevada: Torpedo Ale

Cheese No. 4: Bleu de Laqueuille (cow)

  1. Molyan’s: Barrel-aged/blended Kilt Lifter
  2. Eel River: IPA
  3. Mad River: John Barleycorn Barleywine 2008
  4. Sierra Nevada: Glissade Golden Bock

What’s interesting to me is that I chose all four of the beers from Mad River Brewing, and similarly last year I picked four of the five beers from a single brewery: Bear Republic. What that suggests is that while palates do differ, we tend to be in sync with them, that is my palate was similar to whomever chose the pairings last year at Bear Republic and this year at Mad River.

Cynthia Kralj at a table w/ Bruce Paton & Denise Jones
Bistro co-owner Cynthia at one of the cheese-off tables.

Hat’s off once more to Vic and Cynthia for coming up with such a simple yet effective new way to approach cheese and beer pairings. It’s such a great way to educate yourself about cheese and beer and at the same time have an enormously fun time. I really hope to see more of this type of event in the future.

Below is a slideshow of the Bistro Cheese-Off. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

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  • Tom Meyer

    Damn Jay you eat and drink well

  • Rod Santos


    Was this done in a “blind” format? I’m hosting a similar tasting next month, and wondered if you thought that worked. Hats off to the Bistro, as usual.

    Cheers~ Rod

  • jbrookston


    Yes, it was done blind, at least as far as the beers were concerned. We did know what cheese we were eating. Yes, I think it worked very well.