by Lauren Townsend for The Aha! Connection
So, I love cheese. I often try to downplay my passion or strong feelings about cheese because they border on fanatical. My first culinary job in Atlanta was as a specialty buyer for Whole Foods. At the time, I was unbridled by the confines of good customer service and was free to just learn about cheese from some of the best. While I love a good wine and cheese pairing, my love of beer, Moondog Growlers and the Burdas (owners of Moondog Growlers) has inspired me to share some of my cheese knowledge and shine a light on what a local beer resource Moondogs is in this short, limited, weekly pairing.
I’m starting with two cheeses on opposite ends of the taste spectrum: Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog and Sottocenere al Tartufo (both available at Whole Foods). Cypress Grove is located in Northern California and produces Humboldt Fog, one of America’s most recognizable goat cheeses. Before you turn your nose up at goat cheese, this is smooth, fudgy, slightly aged, goat cheese with a thin rind and a layer of ash running through the middle is tart but not barn-y. If I was trying to pair with a wine, my first stop would be something bubbly, which makes it a great candidate for beer pairing. I took Trey (manager at Moondog’s) a list of types of beer I thought would go with this beer and he hit it on the head. 1. Red Brick Airbrush Daydream, a tart, citrus, New England style IPA that pairs well with the tang of the cheese. 2. Victory Sour Monkey, is bright and sour with hints of stone fruit that cuts through Humboldt Fog’s creaminess. 3. Burial Beer Co.Death in the Distance is the most user friendly, i.e. least sour. This dry-hopped beer is a lovely compliment to Humboldt Fog and any number of goat cheeses with a sweet, tangy finish.
Sottocenere al Tartufo is so delicious. I’m not a fan of stuff in cheese. Let me explain…I’ve been taught that if you make a terrible cheese; put something in it to cover up the terrible-ness; problem solved. This is not the case with Sottocenere. It is a creamy semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese, covered in beech ash and spices with black truffle in the paste. The cheese is mild and sweet and the truffle is bold and is perfect on it’s own with quince paste or honey. Luckily, I had Trey to help me balance this strong cheese. 1. Against the Grain Retitled Pils is medium bodied german style beer. It’s toasted biscuit/bread-y flavors make it the perfect compliment to Sottocenere. 2. Wrecking Bar Atlanta Altbier is another great local beer with a biscuity, toffee flavor that balances this cheese’s strong flavor as well. 3. Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout is not new. I’ve been a fan forever but it never occurs to me in pairings because it’s flavor is…round, meaning it doesn’t have the acidity you would think needed to balance cheese. When I asked Trey to trade in a Kolsch for something with more flavor, he handed me the Sam Smith and I thought he was crazy. Dark chocolate and malt would seem like an awful competition but it was such an awesome balance. The even bigger surprise was when my husband said that it also paired well with the Humboldt Fog. I thought he was insane. He has shingles, so I figured it has spread to his brain. Lo and behold, he was right. I have no explanation for why it works, but the round, nutty flavors of the stout really balances the Humboldt Fog as well.
When it comes to beer, cheese, and wine, I’m a big fan of going with what you like, unconfined by price or expectation. I think that the most important thing in trying to pair food and beverage is trusting your own taste buds. I’ll be offering some of my favorite cheeses with the help of beer paired by Trey at Moondogs over the next few weeks.