Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stilton and stout - non conundrum

Duo of Stilton-Style Cheeses

One New World, One Old World; with Mâche Salad & Blueberry Syrup

Paired with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

That was one of the pairings at what appears to have been a fabulous dinner Tuesday night at Tallulah's, hosted by Garrett Oliver. The mating of a strong stout - with its big malt backbone and smoky/roastiness - with a blue cheese, especially Stilton, is one of the great beer and cheese pairings.

That is why I disagree with a passage in an otherwise informative piece by the Brews Brothers in the current issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News (Vol. 9, #1, p.9, The Cheese Conundrum).

[Victory Brewing's] HopDevil, despite its name, has too much of a malt backbone and needs more strident hoppiness to overcome fats in the blue cheese [Point Reyes].
No! The problem with pairing the HopDevil with Point Reyes was not the beer's malt; it was its tannic hoppiness. HopDevil would have mated very well with other types of cheeses (such as cheddars or washed-rind cheeses).

The authors note how they were surprised at the difficulty of predicting the pairings. I find that it's often the taste combination of beer and cheese together that changes the character of both.

With blue and strong stout, it's just such a synergistic dance, as the stout's roast pulls the funk from the blue cheese while the mold softens the bitter roast of the stout.

Of course, de gustibus non disputandam, or to put it another way: "The first rule of beer-and-cheese pairing is that there are no rules, 'only enthusiastic suggestions.' "

More from Crafty Combo (Baltimore Sun, 2005):

"Wine struggles with cheese," says Tom Cizauskas, a sales representative for Clipper City Brewing Co. and a veteran of many cheese and beer tastings. The butterfat in cheese "often overwhelms the flavor of wine. And the acidity of wine seems to create an off-putting metallic character in the presence of cheese," he says. Beer and cheese "don't joust with each other in the mouth; they complement each other," Cizauskas says. "The natural sweet graininess of beer brings forward the aromas and flavors of cheese, just as a good hunk of bread accompanies cheese."

Cheese and beer are natural companions, he adds. "The fermented flavors of cheese - cream, nut, slight fruit, funk - all are present to various degrees in beer." Beer, as well, "has its own built-in palate cleanser," Cizauskas says, "the bubbles, or carbonation."

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