A little while back*, Livability.com rated Charlottesville as one of its “Top 10 Beer Cities.” Now, the list is open to some criticism, for sure – our town is referred to as “Charlotte” towards the end of the article, and I have to agree with one commenter that the list should be called “Top ten unexpected beer cities.” How else do you explain the lack of any cities in California, Oregon, or Colorado? And Albuquerque as #1? I lived there for a bit, and it is a great town, but calling it the #1 beer city in the country seems a bit of a stretch.
Regardless, we’ll revel in the attention when we get it, and Charlottesville is a pretty great place for beer. Besides, this gives me the chance to combine two of my passions, and talk about pairing beer with cheese.
Cheese and wine pairings are everywhere, and no one would deny that they make a classic combination- a nice port with your Valdeon? Tempranillo with the Ossau Irraty? A little bubbly with the St. Angel? Divine.
But pairing cheese with beer can open up whole new avenues of taste, and this trend has been gathering more cred with the foodie crowd. There’s lots of good info out there: Artisanal has their pairing tips, and Culture has a really nice American Craft Beer & Cheese guideline.
Since we’re celebrating Charlottesville-area beers, though, I thought a few pairings based on local selections would be appropriate. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my own favorites.**
A creamy, moderate intensity washed-rind cheese like Taleggio*** is really complemented by the hoppy bitterness of an IPA style beer, like Blue Mountain’s Full Nelson. If you really want to up the ante, pair Starr Hill’s Double Platinum with Meadow Creek’s Grayson. Not for the faint-hearted.
Looking for something more approachable? Try one of the local wheat beers (Starr Hill’s The Love or Blue Mountain’s Rockfish Wheat) with one of the local chevres from Caromont or Goats-R-Us. The lightly spicy, fruity beer is wonderful with the bright acidity in the fresh goat’s milk cheeses.
Not ready for spring yet? Cozy up with either the Blue Mountain Evil 8 or Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout and Beemster’s X-O Gouda. The rich butterscotch notes and subtle saltiness in the cheese brings the beer’s dark malty and roasted flavors to the forefront. Just add a fire, and savor our last few days of winter.
I could go on all day. As with anything, though, the best way to find what you like is to experiment. Come in and talk to us about your favorite beer (or bring one to sample- I promise I won’t tell), and we can find the perfect cheese pairing for you. Prost!
*Ok, this list actually came out in January, I believe. Sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger.
**Note that these are local bottled beers only. Devil’s Backbone, South Street, and Wild Wolf are all great breweries, but they’re not as widely available, and they rotate more frequently. So, you’ll just have to take your cheese to them to find your own great pairings. I imagine that if you share your cheese, they’ll be happy to help you out. Be sure to tell us what you discover!
***The Quadrello di Bufala is another great choice- basically a Taleggio made with water buffalo’s milk, it is richer and more flavorful than the traditional cow. Availability is limited, so grab it when you see it!