Sunday, June 20, 2010

Don't forget the cranberries ... or the glasses

Last night, I forgot the cranberries.

I was the guest speaker at a beer-with-cheese tasting, a charity fundraiser. Just before begining, I silently reviewed my talking points.

How is beer made? How is cheese made? Why pair cheese with beer? Do your beer a favor: drink it fresh, and drink it from a glass, not from a bottle. If you drink beer from a bottle, you won't be able to smell the aromas, a major contributor to flavor.

To facilitate the last point, I will often bring 5 ounce dessert wine glasses to a beer tasting.

The bulb holds 4 ounces of beer, a good sample size when several beers are to be tasted. The taper concentrates the aromas. The flare allows the drinker to smell the aromas (without dipping a nose into the beer!).

But last night ... I had forgotten the glassware. The host (the event was held in a private home) graciously pulled out 20 or so wine glasses, and the tasting proceeded.

Tasting cheese (and beer)

On the right: a triple-creme, to be served with Allagash White. The clue is in the name. A triple-creme or cream has a high concetration of butterfat. The acidity and coriander spice of the beer both cuts through and sits well with the cheese.

On the left: a 3-year aged Gouda, to be served with Brooklyn Lager. Aged Gouda's sweet caramel nuttiness plays off the slightly sweet toasted notes of the beer.

Not pictured:
Danish Blue, served with Abita Turbo Dog (brown ale). Even though the beer has a dark caramel sweetness, its roasted notes soften the 'funk' of the blue cheese, and vice-versa.

Humboldt Fog goat cheese, served with Duchesse de Bourgogne (Flemish sour red ale). A deliciously tangy cheese, the Humboldt Fog tasted appropriate against the tart almost cherry-fruity character of the Belgian beer. This pairing elicited the greatest number of comments: some quite favorable, some not so.

Époisses (washed rind cheese), served with Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 (IPA). The, shall we say, 'stinky' aromatics of the cheese mated well with the pungent aromas of the American hops.

Oh, yes, about those cranberries.

For almost every childhood Thanksgiving I can remember, as we would push ourselves, sated, from the table, the meal ended, our mother would call us back: "Oh, I forgot the cranberries." We'd sit back down, and eat some more. Whether intentional or not, this ritual seemed to repeat itself every year. It became a family mantra for "be prepared."

Last night I forgot the cranberries, that is, the beer glasses, again.

  • The book in the above photo is Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. It's an instructive and entertaining primer on just that.
  • Caveat lector: As an employee of a beer & wine wholesaler in northern Virginia, I sell the beers of Allagash, Brooklyn, Abita, and Heavy Seas (but not Duchesse de Bourgogne).

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