September 19, 2008

My Epicurean Adventure Part 2, Beer and Cheese

When the cat is away the mouse will play and I got a chance to be a very naughty mouse. Without my beer-hating husband and dairy-allergic son, I spent my Friday afternoon as a Foodbuzz correspondent at Traverse City's Epicurean Classic nibbling and sipping beer and cheese. It was an indulgence almost too good to be true!

After spending the morning enthralled but shivering and freezing my way through several demonstrations in the outdoor tents, I decided to pop in one of the indoor tasting rooms to see if the presentation was worth staying for. The tasting class I ended up in was Beer and Cheese, held by Rex Halfpenny. Halfpenny publishes the bi-monthly Michigan Beer Guide. In this tasting 8 beers would be paired with 8 cheeses in the manner of a traditional wine and cheese tasting. The beginning seemed interesting enough and my toes were starting to thaw so I stuck around.

Halfpenny began with some of his thoughts on modern beer drinking:
-It's a shame that we've lost the ability to buy beer by style.
-Beer needs to get out of bottles and into glasses so that we can appreciate the aromas, aroma determines 80% of the perception of flavor.
-Beer in single serving bottles is by nature better suited to pairing with individual meals in restaurants.

The beers from the tasting

We then moved on to tasting first the beer alone and then with the chosen cheese.
Here is the rundown of the beers and cheeses:

1. New Holland Lucid (a German Kolsch) w/ Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella
2. Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale w/ French Comte Gruyere
3. Bass Ale (an English-style brown ale) w/ French Chevre
4. Lindeman's Framboise (a Belgian Lambic) w/ Brie
5. Hoegaarden (a Witbier) w/ French Mimolette
6. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (a Farmhouse ale) w/ Epoisse
7. Delirium Tremens (a Strong Pale Ale) w/ Barrel Aged Feta
8. Anchor Old Foghorn Barley Wine w/ Maytag Blue

The cheeses (clockwise from 12 o'clock:
mozzarella, feta, chevre, gruyere, Mimolette, brie, blue, and Epoisse)
The beers (1-8 from the left)
It was interesting to take more time than I usually do smelling and tasting the beers and comparing them with and without the cheese. I wasn't very fond of the New Holland Lucid and Bass Ale, both seemed overly bitter. I liked the Delirium Tremens and the Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere a lot. The cheeses that accompanied them (the Epoisse and the aged feta) were good matches in my opinion. Flavors in both the beer and cheese were enhanced. My favorite of the tasting was the Hoegaarden white beer. I loved the spiciness of it. The Mimolette that it was pared with reminded me of aged Gouda, with a similar nuttiness and crunch. The cheese brought out the fruity qualities in the beer. In the tasting pavilion I found the Michigan beer brewers. My favorites there were the Whaleback White from Leelanau Brewing Company and Nicie Spicie from Shorts. I liked both of these even more than the beers from the tasting. I guess I had a hidden desire for spicy beers. I went shopping last night at Vince and Joe's Market in Shelby and found Whaleback White and Delirium Tremens. I also picked up Jolly Pumpkin's Calabaza Blanca and Biere sur Lie's Blanche de Namur (with licorice!). I can't wait to try the new two.

Michigan Brewers at the Epicurean Classic: