I'm not the only person with a hankering for beer and cheese, my friend Scuff is also a fan. I've known him for almost as long as I've been drinking beer but met through a different medium...music. Probably my first Belgian beer experience was drinking a Kwak in a Brighton pub with him. So without further ado, here's a guest post
I'm a lucky chap! I knew things would improve once we'd moved into our new house and I was proved correct when one of my best friends presented me with a selection of fine aged Dutch cheeses as a housewarming present. He won them in a raffle at a pole dancing competition that his girlfriend took him to - how's that for a back story!?
These cheeses might not have been to his taste but fortunately they are very much to mine. I've visited Amsterdam several times and I'm a big fan of the food and drink scene out there. I didn't want to waste this good fortune so I set out to pick up some suitable beers to enjoy alongside my cheese. I'm quite the novice when it comes to beer and cheese pairing, though I'm fairly confident I could bore people sufficiently in a conversation about either one on its own, so I took a few wild stabs and this is what I came up with...
I decided big strong cheese would probably need big strong beers. Unfortunately good Dutch beer is not as widely available as I would like in England and I was rather at the mercy of the supermarkets and a couple of independent off-licences. To the keen beer drinkers out there these will probably seem quite familiar, to everyone else I encourage you to hunt down and try them.
A smooth textured and obviously carefully kept cheese that still managed to retain some sweetness despite the ageing. This was the first one I tried and it was clear from the first bite that these cheeses were of a class that would be offended to be offered up on a biscuit or alongside any condiments. I played it cool on this one and went for something light, but that would hint at all the flavours I wanted to bring through, and picked a De Koninck.
As well as the usual nuttiness that you'd expect from Sheep's cheese this had quite a lingering bitterness to it that came through very strong in the aftertaste so it was going to take something powerful to cut through that. I think I made the right choice by going with a good powerful stout, and they don't get much more powerful than an Ellezelloise Hercule Stout. Strong malty pallate and with a sweetness in the aftertaste that brought out the nuttiness of the sheep's cheese whilst balancing the bitterness.
Last time I went to Amsterdam I bought a huge chunk of this back with me. It's a lovely cheese made with milk from dairies in and around Amsterdam. I knew exactly what beer to drink with it, unfortunately I couldn't find any. My recommendation for this would be the Natte made by Brouwerij ’t IJ (pronounced "Brewery eye"). It's a red/brown double beer, well hopped and with the sweetness of caramel malt that would compliment this traditionally aged cheese well. However I've found that the beers brewed in this converted windmill in Amsterdam don't travel particularly well and you rarely see them in the UK so I made do with one of my favourite beers of all time, Pauwel Kwak. Simply because a) it's a suitable substitute, b) I'm a sucker for challenger hops, and c) I'll look for an excuse almost any day of the week to sit back and enjoy a Kwak in my traditional stirrup glass.
Wow, what a fine cheese this was. All the fine creamy flavour of gouda with a mature bite to punctuate it. This was the easiest pairing for me though. I have always enjoyed gouda and trappist together and I don't care if its 2.5 or 25 years old, I'm not making an exception this time. If this hadn't been a strong enough cheese to look after itself I would have brought in the dijon mustard and a gherkin or two, but as it was this little cheese stood up to the mighty Trappistes Rochefort 8 all by itself. Good for it.
If I was to pick a favourite I would have to say I particularly enjoyed the Old Amsterdam and Pauwel Kwak. The flavours transported my back to fond memories of sitting in Amsterdam's fine drinking establishments enjoying a plate of cheese alongside a fine quality beer whilst deciding which pub to hop to or which canal to stroll alongside next, or whether to simply order yet another beer and a plate of ossenworst and some pickled gherkins.
Scuff Blogs at Scuff's Kitchen
Scuff Blogs at Scuff's Kitchen