|Image used with permission via Rogue Ales and Spirits|
At the 2012 Great American Beer Festival this past October, nearly 50,000 people descended on Denver to sample over 2,700 beers from nearly 600 American craft breweries. What blew me away though, more than any hopped-up IPA or high gravity Belgian quadruple, was a series of beer and cheese pairings that left my palate in a state of shock.
During the Saturday afternoon session of GABF, the American Cheese Society and Atlanta Foods International presented a seminar titled, “The Best Wine for that Cheese is Actually…Beer,” in which five phenomenal, award-winning cheeses were paired with five world-class beers from Utah’s Uinta Brewing Company. I was thrilled to learn that a similar event will be presented this weekend in Asheville.
Michael Landis, Steve Kuftinec of Uinta, and Susan Greene of the Global Brewers Guild held nothing back as they guided everyone through the tasting. I actually stumbled randomly into the event, and all the cheese samples had already been handed out. Luckily, some generous festival-goers allowed me to share theirs.
Each cheese and each beer was a masterpiece by itself, but put together, each combination was mind-boggling:
- MouCo Ashely & Uinta’s Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner – MouCo, from Ft. Collins, Colorado, won a Gold Medal from the American Cheese Society for their Ashley soft-ripened cheese. Covered with a thin layer of vegetable ash, MouCo Ashley is a mildly sweet and complex cow’s milk cheese that stands up surprisingly well to the big, yet moderately hopped Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner (9% ABV, 30 IBUs).
- Fiscalini 18-Month Aged Bandage Wrapped Cheddar & Uinta’s Detour Double IPA – Fiscalini Farmstead’s Bandage Wrapped Cheddar is a multiple award-winner for ACS’s “Best Farmhouse Cheese in America.” The Modesto, California, dairy farm and creamery is family owned and operated. Wrapped in cheesecloth and aged for 18 months, the Bandage Wrapped Cheddar produces buttery, grassy, and savory flavors, not at all overpowered by Uinta’s dry Detour Double IPA (9.5% ABV, 75 IBUs).
- Caves of Faribault St. Pete’s Select Blue & Uinta’s Cockeyed Cooper Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine – St. Pete Select Blue may be a little hard to find. It’s a “super premium” cheese, aged in caves near Faribault, Minnesota, for a minimum of 100 days. The bourbon and vanilla notes from Unita’s Barley Wine (11.1% ABV, 65 IBUs) play very nicely with the cheese’s creamy texture and sharp funky notes.
- Shepherd’s Way Farms Friesago & Uinta’s Dubhe Imperial Black IPA – Friesago is Shepherd’s Way Farms’ original sheep’s milk cheese. First made in 1998, this cheese has been named a “must try” by Food & Wine magazine. Mild, buttery, and a little nutty, it was surprising how such a light cheese could be so rich and stand up to the huge Black IPA from Uinta (9.2% ABV, 109 IBUs).
- Beehive Cheese Company Barely Buzzed & Uinta’s Labyrinth Imperial Black Ale – In my opinion, they saved the best for last. This final award-winning cheese from Utah was hand-rubbed with espresso and lavender, which in combination with the complex and rich Labyrinth Black Ale (13.2% ABV, 56 IBUs) produced flavors unlike anything I’d ever tried before.
Ashevillians: If you haven’t already bought a ticket for tonight’s pairing or tomorrow's beer dinner, I highly recommend you do so. We should see some fantastic pairings using some local and regional beers and cheeses.
Everyone else, you can recreate the above tasting and blow away your next dinner guests. Track down some local substitutes to create a totally unique beer and cheese tasting of your own.
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