Cheddar and Beer…
The cheese and wine crowd that populate a good many social events these days are most likely enjoying relatively good cheese and fairly good wine. The reason for this is simple. A relatively good cheese can make a fairly good wine taste very good. And a fairly good wine can hide the less than attractive attributes of relatively good cheese. This bit of culinary lore was handed down to me many years ago when I was an editor at the Beverage Media Network and spent at least a few days each month attending wine tastings.
Specialty beers (they call themselves “craft beers”) have maintained for quite a while that they are a much better option when it comes to a beverage of choice with cheese.
And so it is that I offer the following notes that were taken when a well-known cheddar cheese (Cabot Sharp Cheddar) was sampled accompanied by what I consider to be the three essential examples of fermented malt beverage; Pilsner Urquell representing the world of lager beers, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale representing the top fermenting fermented malt beverages, and the iconic Guinness Stout.
Each of these three beverages are easily obtainable in most markets and the cheddar cheese from Cabot, being an iconic New England cheese, can be substituted in other regions of the country with locally produced sharp cheddar cheese.
Before the tasting was done I refreshed my flavor receptors with a glass of carbonated seltzer. Before the tasting was done I sampled the cheese with the seltzer to set up a “control” flavor profile. Seltzer was used instead of still water because the carbonation adds a slight acidic tang when sampled with the cheese.
This particular cheese is a firm slightly crumbly texture with slightly astringent qualities that gives the slightly sour lactic tang the ability to contrast with the mouth filling creaminess of the cheese. The seltzer refreshed the flavor receptors in preparation for the beers.
Pilsner Urquell, with an immediately identifiable floral hop aroma and its iconic toasted malt flavors, found immediate kinship with the slightly sour lactic tang of the cheese. However, the toasted malt flavors were rather overwhelmed by the creaminess of cheese.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, with a stronger malt presence and the floral hop flavor spike that is particular to that ale, added sweetness to contrast with the sour lactic tang and yet the floral hop flavors also enhanced that same lactic slightly sour astringency.
Guinness draught, in a bottle, brought an almost smoky flavor to the table. The smokiness turned that slightly sour lactic tang into almost butter like flavor and created a rich interaction was truly remarkable. The transformation of the slightly a strategic flavors in this cheese into a caramel almost butterscotch flavor was dramatic.
At the end of this tasting there is no doubt in my mind that the flavor profile of the Guinness bottled “draught” combined with the flavor profile of the Cabot sharp cheddar developed depth of flavors in both and the synergy was truly remarkably pleasant.
As always, the results of any tasting or subjective to say the least and so I invite your comments and criticisms please leave them below…