CABPOM November: Bristol Beer Factory Hefe & Fresh Goat's Cheese

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this month's cheese and beer pairing takes the form of a wine vs beer "smackdown" which was held at Cheese School on October 30th. I've never been a fan of wine; so knew it would be interesting to see whether I immediately picked the beer as the best match in each case. It is worth mentioning that all beers were from a single brewery (Bristol Beer Factory) whereas the wines were from all over the shop. 
Andrew Cooper matched and was arguing for the beers, whereas Matthew Eggens of Averys Wine Merchants fought the corner for wine. There was some good banter between the two proponents and I tried to do my bit with helpful (annoying?) tasting notes and style descriptions of the beers for the drinkers on my table.

The pairings were as follows:

Fresh Ragstone goats cheese with Bristol Hefe (4.8%) vs Reisling

Old Demdike Washed-curd Ewes Cheese with Acer (3.8%) vs 2008 Zephyr Chardonay (13%)

Montogomery's Cheddar with Bristol Vintage 2011 (6.6%) vs Urbina Rioja 1999 Seleccion (13%)

Stichelton with Milk Stout (4.8%) vs Herdade do Esporão Vinho Licoroso (18.5%)

First up was the goasts cheese. This was a wonderfully fresh and creamy little number with a hint of lemon. The Hefe's bubblegum and banana yeast flavours helped to draw out this freshness and cleanse the palate of the sticky cheese. Riesling on the other hand, whilst a tasty drop on its own was too acidic, clashing terribly with the cheese. The beer won this one easily for me
The  vote showed the audience was largely in favour of the beer. 1-0 to beer

The sheep's cheese threw a spanner in the works for all concerned. A very tricky number to pair with and both went for a wild card choice. Acer from Bristol Beer Factory uses Sorachi Ace as its sole hop and is a lemon and bubblegum affair with a hint of hay meadow. The cheese somehow picked up on this hay (milk protein is ultimately from grass perhaps?), drowning out the fruity flavours of the beer and leaving the mouth rather dry. There was also an unpleasant bitter spike at the end. The wine, on the other hand pointed at the sweetness in the cheese and complemented the earthy flavours of the wine with a fruity freshness. Surprisingly I had found a wine I enjoyed and it had beaten the beer.
The vote in the room (read: tent) was overwhelmingly for the wine with only a few beers. 1-1.

The dead heat, beer just wins it!
Picture from Fiona's blog on the event

The next match saw the beer pull ahead again as the majority found Bristol Vintage to be the better match for the cheddar, though many people thought that both drinks overpowered the cheese. Bristol vintages fruity nose and caramel malt bill was less overpowering than the juicy raspberry of the wine. Perhaps a slightly more tangy cheddar could have stood up better. A number of people voted for both wine and beer in this round, with beer just pipping wine to the post. 1-2 to beer.

The final round saw Todd Schneider's blue cheese masterpiece Stitchelton. Unfortunately everyone tried the wine first (really a port) which didn't give the lowly 4.8% ABV milk stout much of a chance. As feared, people couldn't taste the stout after the wine and voted accordingly. I chose to abstain. Final score 2-2.

So an interesting experiment which shows that beer can hold its own against wine and in many cases better it in the cheese matching stakes. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy all four of the wines in their own right, but think had beers been available from a few suppliers beer would have won every round (but then again, I'm biased!) A recent beer vs wine meal at Thatchers Arms was also declared a draw.

And this months cheese and beer pairing suggestion is different to any of my previous with a pale beer and a pale cheese, proving its not only dark beer and blue that pairs well!


  1. Great account of the 'smackdown' Steve. I'm also a big fan of beer with cheese - and you're right a wider range of beers might have given beer the winning edge

  2. Interesting; I just haven't considered 'lighter' beers as being a good match for cheese. Beer and cheese is something I need to swat up on in time for christmas. My mission is to introduce beer with cheese to my family (a captive audience after christmas dinner as they ain't runnining nowhere!).
    Don't suppose you can recommend a cheese or two for the Orkney Dark Island Reserve?

  3. That's a beer on my "to try" list so I'm going from other people' reviews. It sounds like its quite fruity so perhaps cave-aged gruyere and of course, for a beer that strong you need a good mature unpasteurised cheddar, keens if you can get it.