Sunday, December 16, 2007

14 beers, 14 cheeses

tour guide at Pirates' HouseHere's a 'pyrate' tour guide, dressed appropriately, even off-duty, at The Pirates' House Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. And wearing a Clipper City Heavy Seas eyepatch.

It was 82°F and gloriously sunny with a cool river breeze that Wednesday in Savannah - the 12th of December!

The evening before, 210 miles to the northeast, I had participated at the annual Beer and Cheese Dinner of Summit Wayside Tavern in Snellville, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. And, it was quite an evening: host and owner Andy Klubock paired 14 beers with 14 cheeses.

Clipper City Brewing brought its 2007 vintage Below Decks Barleywine —which Klubock paired with Clemson Blue Cheese — and its 2007 Winter Storm Imperial ESB —paired with Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. The caramelly malt base of the 10% alcohol by volume (abv) Below Decks married well with - and softened- the blue's gently moldy funk and saltiness. I often match strong stouts with blues, but the more salty blues pair better with barleywines. (It's fascinating that Clemson University produces its own commercial cheese. Follow the link above for the history of the cheese.)

Based in Vermont, Cabot Creamery is a dairy cooperative - the farmers own the company. Seriously Sharp Cheddar is my favorite in Cabot's line - an aged cheddar with a good sharp, slightly nutty character, but without the earthy tang of some English aged cheddars. Clipper City and Cabot have partnered together in the past.

The so-called ploughman's lunch in the U.K.Summit Wayside 2007 Beer and Cheese Dinner consists of a slice of hearty bread, some cheddar cheese, and a pint of bitter (that's cask pale ale). Thus this second beer/cheese pairing was a logical one: Clipper City's 7.5% abv Winter Storm is a New World interpretation of a strong bitter.

The other pairings

  • Sweetwater Festive Ale
    Laura Chenel Goat's Milk Tomme

  • Michelob Celebrate Cherry
  • Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar
  • Michelob Celebrate Chocolate
    Meadowcreek Appalachian
  • Redhook Winterhook
    Haystack Mountain Queso de Mano

  • Hitachino Celebration Ale

  • Olfabrikken Porter
    Rogue Smokey Blue

  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga
    Monterey Jack

  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
    Cypress Grove Goat Cheddar

  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2007
    Maytag Blue

  • Highland Cold Mountain
    Nettle Meadow Kunik

  • Terrapin Wake 'n Bake Stout
    Rogue River Blue

  • Samichlaus
    Nancy Camembert
Of notehost Andy Klubock
The A-B rep was insistent that both the cherry and the chocolate beers were to be served at room temperature. Fortunately, Andy served them at cellar temperature. The chocolate was fun; the cherry tasted artificial.

The entrant from Japanese micro Hitachino was listed in the program as being the Celebration Ale, a spiced ale. Served instead was the Classic Ale , an I.P.A. aged in cedar. I had not had this before and found it intriguing. The use of cedar added a spice to the beer which complemented the English hop varietals. Its use was gentle, as opposed to the over-the-top bourbon character of many American wood-aged beers. I don't remember with which cheese it was paired.

Rogue's hazelnut-smoked blue cheese was mated with Olfabrikken Porter. This Danish porter (that is, a lagered porter) was full-bodied, chocolatey, and unctious. The cheese/beer combination -- a contrast, if you will -- was not immediately intuitive, but indeed delicious. (See my comments above about stouts and blues.)

Terrapin of Athens, Georgia has been having difficulties in getting its state brewing license. Spike Buckowski and his (male) staff have been sprouting mustaches as silent protests against the bureaucratic delay. But Spike was optimistic. "Any day now," he told me, crossing his fingers.

Steve of Sweetwater indicated that the brewery is tearing down a section of its roof in order to make room for a couple of new 400 barrel fermenters. To put that into perspective, each of those fermenters will hold the equivalent of 5,480 cases of beer.

Andy has a second Summit Wayside Tavern in Cumming, Georgia. That location celebrated its beers-and-cheeses the evening before.

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