Beer and Cheese Round 2

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014

The leadup to an exam is never much fun. For me it generally consists of nervous pacing and mumbling intermingled with sporadic dives to my binder to find that equation that will surely come up (but never does). I then make my way to uni, clearing my head with a bit of music before realizing that I left far too early and am forced to sit and wait outside the exam hall for 20 minutes while my course mates and I make each other even more anxious by bringing up one thing or another that one of us had completely forgotten to cover. And I pay for this crap.

The good news is that as soon as I sit down all the stress and anxiety floats away and I reach a point of transcendental clarity. But on this occasion — after I had spent ten long minutes filling out my name, registration number, degree, eye colour, shoe size, favourite breakfast cereal, and choice superpower in triplicate — I looked up at the clock, then around at a hallway full of university-educated people who still hadn’t managed to find their seats and I was suddenly hit by another worry: ‘Am I going to be able to get out of here in time to get the cheese for tonight’s tasting?’

Of course, I shouldn’t have worried: not only are my speed-cycling abilities the stuff of legend, but Sam and his fellows at Herbie of Edinburgh know their stuff so well that I was in and out in a trice; laden down with a variety of sumptuous cheeses that cast a very potent aroma all around the shop even before I cut them up for Beer and Cheese Round 2.

1) Schneider Unser Original paired with Pecorino:

While Schneiders Hefeweizen is not as unrestrained in the banana-y, bubblegum-y aromas as some other German wheat beers, it has much more clove and spice on the back end of it. All together, it is a creamy, light and refreshing beer and I was looking for a cheese that might duplicate some of those qualities. The Pecorino’s ewe’s milk origins were prominent to say the least, but underneath the farmy nature of it lingered a fruity, pineapple aroma and a definite sweetness that I sought to meld in with the beer.

2) BrewDog ‘Punk IPA’ paired with Blue Stilton:

A few days earlier I had tried Punk for the first time in a long time and realized I had totally forgotten the huge amount of tropical fruit, pineapple, lychee, and citrus with which it hit you in the nose. A light caramel breadiness then finishes with a distinct bitterness. I decided it had to go in the lineup and I was equally determined to find the blue cheese pairing that I had just missed the month previously. Knowing that balance was key I settled on a Stilton that had a floral tang but a definite sharp saltiness on the palate which cut through the sweetness of the beer while also reining some of the bitter finish.

3) Thornbridge ‘Sequoia’ paired with Comte St. Antoine:

Since it was the ultimate champion of the last pairing, I felt I owed it to this week’s tasters to give them a definite winner. Once again: a sweet nuttiness in both beer and cheese set them on a parallel course to one another for the length of the run.

4) Stewart ‘St. Giles’ paired with Westcombe Cheddar:

Given the inherent ‘Britishness’ of this bready, toasty, slightly smokey Scotch Ale I opted to go for a textbook (but no less remarkable) British cheddar. The end goal was a theoretical ‘grilled cheese sandwich in a glass’ type of effect, and though it worked remarkably well I’d probably pass on dosing in the tomato soup.

5) Brasserie Dupont ‘Avec les Bons Voeux’ paired with Brie Meaux Gillard:

What is a cheese event without a gooey, sticky Brie? Bons Voeux is similar to Dupont’s well-known ‘Saison Dupont’ but amped up to 11 (or at least to 9.5%). The standard earthy spice of the saison is complimented by a hefty, sweet alcohol hit that is rounded out by a massive kick of carbonation. Meanwhile, the cheese seemed to have a similar complexity, with all the heavy, funky, mushroomy, oniony characteristics giving you everything you’d expect in a hearty entree. The two elements seemed at once to both compliment and juxtapose one another, giving an odd cyclical experience wherein as one flavour was amplified or taken over by another it immediately returned from a different angle.

6) Brouwerij van Steenberge ‘Gulden Draak’ paired with Aged Gouda (2 years):

Being the huge beer that Gulden Draak is (it checks in at 10.5%) it needed a big cheese to support it. Thus, I again went for an aged gouda, with the smokey sweet barbecue qualities that I thought matched up very nicely with the bold, raisin, dried fruit, and wine-like characteristics of the beer. Though both were heavy hitters, the match was not a head-on clash of Titans, as there was a subtle interplay of salt and sweetness occurring in the background as well.

Once again, I conducted a triple-vote on this occasion. Punk IPA claimed the top spot on the beer side of things while there was a tie between the Stilton and the Comte for favourite cheese of the night. The pairing vote was contested to a much greater extent than the previous tasting at Dalry, but the Punk-Stilton pairing ended up winning the hearts and minds of the majority this time around.