Sunday, April 15, 2007

Heavenly Beer - part 3 - and Cheese

[continued from Heavenly Beer - part 2 ]
Smithsonian lecture on the monastic tradition in brewing

A delightful addition to the tasting was the pairing of each beer with different cheeses - except for the Holy Sheet which was the open keg at the end of the event. Presenting these was Michael Kiss, the cheese monger at Whole Foods Market in Arlington, VA. He not only described the cheeses but would point out why they were paired with the beers.

Referring to the photo on the right:

  • At 4 o'clock position is Chimay Vieux (orange-hued) paired with Pecos Benedictine Monastery Monks' Ale.
  • At 7 o'clock position is Saint Nectaire (rind-on) paired with Orval.
  • At 1 o'clock position is Parlick (sheep's milk) paired with La Trappe Quadruppel.
  • At 12 o'clock position is Formet d'Ambert (raw cow's milk blue cheese) paired with Ettal Curator Doppelbock.
  • Just off the plate at 1 o'clock is Whole Foods Caramel Milk Chocolate paired with Samichlaus.
Orval was paired with Saint Nectaire; very earthy and almost rye-bready. When its rind overpowered the beer, I took a second nibble without the rind. Now the beer-cheese combination was spot-on!

The English Parlick was tangy, sheepy, intriguing, and delicious! I loved it with the La Trappe Quadruppel, even though I wouldn't have thought of pairing the two - it was an inspired suggestion from Michael. (He had originally wanted Wensleydale, but that was temporarily unavailable. Protz joked that all the Wensleydale had probably been consumed by Wallace and Gromit!)

Note that the powerful 14% abv Samichlaus (named for Saint Nicholas) was paired with chocolate rather than cheese. This is a beer lagered for 9 months. Its monastic connection is that the current brewery- Schloss Eggenburg of Austria - originally began brewing operations in a monastery. Protz described the beer as piney, resiny, biscuity, guava-fruity, and chocolatey.
At such strength, it is amazing that Samichlaus still tastes like a beer. The brewers must beat the yeast with a paddle and shout at it to rouse it to final fermentation!

Clipper City's Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale was served last as a rich coda. If it had been cheese-mated, I would have chosen an aged Gouda. There may be a geographically minded kinship between the two, but there also is a nutty sweetness and fruitiness to the cheese which is an appropriate foil to the rummy flavor and alcoholic sharpness of the ale.

When Greg mentioned the wry title of Protz's newest book - 300 Beers to Try Before You Die - there was a hearty guffaw from the appreciative audience.

Protz concluded the lecture to much applause:
And so, the story of heavenly beer goes on. The monastic tradition has withstood wars and devastation. It is a miracle in its own right.
[More photos here, or re-read Heavenly Beer from the beginning.]

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