As a representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company, I was invited to conduct a tasting of organic cheeses and organic beers at My Organic Market (MOM's) in Alexandria, Virginia on Saturday, 12 July.
One of the cheeses was Grayson.
Grayson, one of my favorite East Coast cheeses, is from the Meadow Creek Dairy of southwestern Virginia in the town of Galax, Virginia, just a few miles north of the border with North Carolina.
Grayson is unpasteurized, or in foodie parlance, a raw cow's-milk cheese. It also is a washed-rind cheese. From the American Cheese Society's website:
“Washed rind” is used to describe those cheeses that are surface-ripened by washing the cheese throughout the ripening/aging process with brine, beer, wine, brandy, or a mixture of ingredients, which encourages the growth of bacteria. The exterior rind of washed rind cheeses may vary from bright orange to brown, with flavor and aroma profiles that are quite pungent, yet the interior of these cheeses is most often semi-soft and, sometimes, very creamy. Washed rind cheeses may be made from both pasteurized and raw milk, depending on the style of the cheese and the cheesemaker producing them. Cheeses in this category include some tomme-style cheeses, triple-crème, and semi-soft cheeses, similar to Epoisses, Livarot and Taleggio.
Grayson is very pungent. If this weren't polite company, we might label it a stinky cheese. The entire area surrounding my table at MOM's was indeed redolent of the cheese. Think barnyard, stinky socks. You'll either love it or hate it. And that in fact was the case with the folks who tasted the cheeses and beers on Saturday.
Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale was paired with the Grayson (as it was recently at SAVOR -- the national beer with food event recently held in Washington, D.C.). The American hop bounty of this India Pale Ale (I.P.A.) provided an pungent aromatic complement to the cheese.
Loose Cannon is not an organic beer but the other two Clipper City beers poured on Saturday are.
Oxford Organic Ale Raspberry Wheat was served with an organic brie. Subtly redolent of fruit, the beer finishes tangy and wine-like, characters that cut through the gentle butterfat of the brie.
Oxford Organic Amber Ale was served with a Gruyere cheese (not organic). The nut-brown character of the beer's toasted malts paired well with the nutty flavor of the cheese.
As a beer and cheese fan mentioned at the table, organic is important, but 'beer-miles' matter as well. If a food, such as beer, is created from organic ingredients, but shipped thousands of miles, environmental harm from carbon fuel emission may outweigh the original good.
In other words, drink locally. As Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association put it on his blog, Beer Examiner:
The average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery. Taking the effort to locate the brewery that’s beyond the glass at the end of your arm is an accessible endeavor.