We’re on the road with New Belgium for our Into The Wild Tour and searching out interesting pairings and taste experiences with chefs, bartenders, and brewers we meet along the way. In Seattle we partnered with Chef Angie Garza of The Pine Box for an evening of cheese and beer pairing, and were blown away by the results.
Throughout the evening we saw a diverse line-up of cheeses expertly selected to match the acidity and funk the beers would present. Chef Angie saw the beer menu as a rare opportunity to play with these less-common flavor profiles, “these beers have more notes to play with, accents that you can contrast and highlight with the right cheese.”
We found that to be especially true in two of the evening’s pairings. Oglesheild - a washed-rind, raw cow’s milk cheese from England - paired well with Southern Vine’s bombastic fruit character, and Chef Angie noted the nuttiness of the cheese played nicely with the sumac in the beer—a very unique flavor component to work with. Sumac, like hops, herbs, or other bittering ingredients, provides structure in a beer like Southern Vine, something more simple “quick sours” don’t usually offer. It makes pairing cheeses much more exciting.
A pairing that may have been the highlight of the night, and Chef Angie’s favorite, Whatcom Blue - a spicy, sharp blue cheese - traded roles with the beer and acted as the balancing accoutrement to La Folie Grand Reserve. Rich notes of fig and plum round out this long-aged, nitrogenated version of a legendary American sour. “While most of the beers we paired had qualities to cut the creaminess of the cheeses, for this pairing it seemed that the sharp and spicy blue cut through the sweet and rich nitro beer.”, Chef Angie tells us.
There’s one unmentioned advantage to doing this kind of pairing with New Belgium—Lauren Limbach. The breweries wood cellar manager tends to come with. “To be honest, it was extremely intimidating,” says Chef Angie, “being someone taking their first big step into food and beer working with someone who has almost more experience than years I've been alive. I didn't realize how accomplished Lauren was! And I don't mean in awards, but more of in her experience, time, and passion she has for her industry. It must have been a few days before the event, when I was doing some more in depth research about the beers and Lauren herself that I realized the gravity of the work I was doing.”
If you’re looking to take on the challenge of pairing sour beer and cheeses in your own place, or at home, it’s really that balance between funk, acidity, and creaminess that makes or breaks a pairing. And beers like these are exceptionally good at it. “Beer should absolutely be considered for these pairings,” says Chef Angie. “Beer has the same complexity, depth, and regal potential of wines, and adds its own unique characteristics. Even through beer is itself more approachable to the average person, this doesn't mean that beer is less sophisticated. Considering the light and effervescent qualities of most beers, they are the perfect pairing for something fatty and unctuous like most cheese.”