It’s taken nearly eight months of sampling beer and cheese to customers at Westside Market East Village, but I finally had a night where no one looked at the board and said “beer and cheese?” as if the pairing was completely off the deep end exotic. I think they are naturals. The carbonation in beer pairs easily with the salt in the finish of most cheeses to create a refreshing sensation. That and the flavors of most cheeses and beers speak at similar volumes, so it’s rare for one to drown the other out.
I’m a stubborn guy, so Monday’s first pairing was a tweak of one from Sunday that didn’t work as well as I would have liked. I’m still big on the notion that a soft creamy cheese can pair with an IPA. In the bigger picture, I’m unconvinced that India Pale Ales are as food unfriendly as their reputation holds. Yes, superbig hop bombs will overwhelm every foodstuff near it, but more sessionable IPAs seem to me to be versatile. Thus, I chose Knee Keep’s Breaking Bud, which at 6.5% ABV and only 50 IBU is very accessible. I paired it with the Brie Chatelain that we’re trying to move out. The beer has a nice easygoing sequence of citrus and stone fruit flavors at the finish I thought it would pair well with the creamy texture and fungal flavors from the cheese. It must have; the pairing disappeared very, very quickly.
I had enough Breaking Bud leftover to do a second pairing, so I unintentionally got punny. I chose a piece of the Ewephoria, the sheep’s milk aged gouda. Yes, Ewephoria and Breaking Bud. That set off a series of contagious giggles in the store. Aged Goudas tend to have a bit of sweetness in the finish and the Ewephoria features overtones of molasses and vanilla. I’d usually save it for a more hop forward beer but it worked well with Breaking Bud.
For the next pairing I thought long and hard about the beer. It seems to me that I’ve leant really hard on our selection of IPAa and saisons. I wanted to showcase a different style. I chose Victory Golden Monkey, a Belgian tripel. The beer’s cool mouthfeel, muted melon-y sweetness and hint of spice make it a good cheese companion. For the cheese I selected the Marcel Petite Comte as its pronounced nuttiness would balance the complexity of the beer. It worked. People praised the pairing and even the concept.