CABPOM June: Riptide Stout and Cashel Blue

Finally the first of many cheese and beer posts has arrived! CABPOM stands for "cheese and beer pairing of the month" and takes inspiration from Mark Dredge's Food and Beer Pairing of the week "FABPOW" invention. Actually, his first match was a CABPOM too!

After Glastonbury Festival was over I had a few days to spare before having to head back to Northern Ireland. I used them to my advantage to return to my old stomping ground Southampton.  I visited my favourite local then visited the excellent beer shop Bitter Virtue , where I may have spent slightly more than I had intended...ahem. I also visited my favourite supermarket Waitrose (none of these in Northern Ireland yet!) where I purchased a number of different cheeses. What followed was an evening of food and beer matching fun alongside an interlude of pouring unusual beers for a bewildered French student.
I’ve matched cheeses and beers before, but this time I also took a look at some of the ideas in the brilliant book “The Brewmaster’s table” by Garrett Oliver and the Brewers Association’s Food and Craft Beer Leaflet. The matches and their relative success were as follows:

First up was Schlosser Alt and Old Amsterdam Gouda. The maltiness of the beer worked well with the fruity flavours in the cheese, which was consumed rind and all. Perhaps an un-aged gouda would have been better as some of the subtleties of the beer were lost in the power of the cheese.

This Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese was chosen on the tenuous link with manchego, a sheep milk cheese from Spain and its apparent ability to match with Dunkelweisse. It too had a fruity flavour like manchego and less saltiness than a normal pecorino which would have been undesirable with this beer. The match was tasty but not outstanding.
The next match was more interesting, a head to head porter and cheese comparison from both sides of the Atlantic. First up was Salopian Entire Butt, but that was swiftly followed by an Anchor Porter. Two French-named cheeses were chosen as potential matches, Swiss cave aged gruyère and French Comté (an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese). Each cheese worked very well with a single beer and jarred with the other. Salopian paired perfectly with comte, the sweetness of the cheese balancing the roasted coffee and acorn notes from the beer. The richer, stronger Gruyere on the other hand was the perfect accompaniment for the stronger anchor porter and moderated the rich toffee flavours which may be off-putting if drunk alone.

The next match was another wildcard that worked particularly well in my opinion Duchesse de Bourgogne and Tallegio. The soft and salty washed rind cheese helped to balance the sour wood flavours in the Duchesse and bring out the sweeter malt character of the beer. On the other hand the beer moderated the washed rind character of the cheese meaning the texture could be fully appreciated.

Turning up the intensity the next match brought together Brewdog Riptide Stout and Cashel Blue cheese. I eschew the conventional wisdom and always match blue cheeses with stouts rather than the usually suggested barley wines. Unlike stilton, cashel blue is a less pungent blue cheese, using Roquefort mould with a mellower taste. I love how the saltiness of blue cheeses works well with dry stouts but the hops in the riptide really added another dimension to this pairing. The chocolate flavours of the beer also complemented the fruity blue veined character in the cheese.

Having set our taste buds tingling with previous combo we had to go for something pretty distinctive.  Schlenkerla’s Rauchbier Marzen matched with smoked cheddar hit the spot. The oak wood smoke from the cheese accentuated the beech wood smoke in the beer and the beer turned the already mature cheddar into something vintage. Smokey foodstuffs may be an acquired taste but I love them. (No phenolic whisky for me though please!)

What better way to finish off the evening than a bottle of the new batch of Fuller’s Gale’s Prize Old Ale (2011). Plenty has already been said about this beer; so I’ll avoid lengthy analysis here but it is certainly one to be savoured for its complex interplay of malt and aged wood character flavours and a hint of lactic acid from barrel flora. A complex beer had to go with a complex cheese so the Cashel blue was brought into play again and scored another hit. Looking forward to my comparative tasting of original 2006, Horndean brewed, London Bottled 2007 and Fullers brewed and bottled 2011 later in the year. Stay tuned folks!

Prior to this tasting I already knew which cheeses I enjoyed but some of the matches took these to a whole other level. Favourite matches of the evening were Cashel blue and Riptide and Salopian and Comte. Cashel and Riptide just pip the post as CABPOM. The only one I’d probably avoid in the future is the pecorino and dunkel but would like to find a better match.

With hundreds more potential cheese and beer combinations out there this is to be the first of many blogs on the subject. For anyone who has not matched cheese and beer before, or not ventured beyond the conventional wisdom of Stilton/ strong cheddar and barley wine I strongly urge you to explore further!

None of the images are my own as I managed to kill my camera’s memory card at Glastonbury. Images taken from linked websites.

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