Is it any wonder that beer and cheese pair so well? Think about it: Cheese goes with bread. Beer is bread. Cheese goes with beer. But this is a wonder you need to discover for yourself.
In Oregon, where dozens of small and large cheesemakers dot the landscape from Madras to Tillamook, opportunities to pair your local cheeses with local beers are endless.
In October, we attended The Wedge at the Green Dragon, where Oregon’s creameries showcased a variety of cheeses. We spent one of Oregon’s beautiful fall days talking to cheesemakers, tasting their specialties, and thinking of specific Oregon brews that would pair with the cheeses.
Our Beer Champion, Will Oberst-Cairns, compiled the following suggestions. Following Will’s suggestions are pairing suggestions from a few other cheesemakers. For more information about Oregon’s cheeses, visit the Oregon Cheese Guild’s website, www.oregoncheeseguild.org.
1. Don Froylan brand Mexican Cheese, Queso Botanero, from Ochoa’s Queseria Creamery in Albany makes an authentic Willamette Valley pairing with Ninkasi’s Spring Reign. The cheese is a soft white spiced up with cilantro and onions, while the Spring Reign is a light-bodied, lightly bitter – a quite floral spring brew. The flavor of the Northwestern hops such as grapefruit and citrus have always coupled well with Mexican dishes that feature cilantro. During your next taco run, pick up one of Oregon’s light-bodied IPAs or pale ale .
2. Ancient Heritage’s “The Pearl” from Madras pairs nicely with a full-bodied Imperial IPA such as The Hop Head from Bend Brewing Company. The Pearl had a surprising bitterness to it but also had a smooth creaminess indicative of the soft ripening. The sweetness of the body of the beer went with the creamy spread and the bitterness of the two was harmonious. The added layer of complexity that came from the citrusy hops and the creamy texture were like fruit and cream; a great brunch-time pairing if ever there was one.
3. Full Circle Creamery’s “Sharp Raw Cheddar” produced in Scio pairs nicely with the Caldera’s Belgian Dubbel Ale. This pairing works because of its opposing nature. The sharp cheddar is a strong poignant presence akin to a bitter herb, while the dubbel is a sweet candy-esque brew with a smooth body. The sweetness of the beer helps to bring the flavors closer to a refreshing middle ground in much the same way you would dip hot wings in blue cheese sauce. This pairing works by balancing sweetness with bitterness.
4. Rogue Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue Cheese, from Central Point, pairs with a paired with the Jabberwocky ale from Walkabout Brewery, just a few miles away. It is almost as though this pair was made for each other. The Jabberwocky is a rich and strong English ale with a smooth and sincere sweetness that melts in your mouth. The Echo Mountain is a rich blue cheese that has a ton of great moldy flavor with a layer of sweetness brought on from aging. To hell with crème Brule – this cheese and beer makes for a fantastic autumn desert.
Cheesemaker’s suggestions: Although most of the cheesemakers at The Wedge had not thought seriously about pairing their cheeses with Oregon beers (for shame!), a few had these suggestions:
Pat Morford of Logsden’s River’s Edge Chevre, paired her Sunset Bay chevre, a soft, ripened goat cheese, with the Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar, a brown ale. Sunset Bay is so named for its sunset-colored streak of Spanish smoked red paprika running through it. Morford said her farm has been raising dairy goats since 1959. Rogue’s website mentions pork and beef pairings with its brown ale – we didn’t see anything about goats, but trust Pat’s judgment.
Rod Volbeda of Willamette Valley Cheese north of Salem paired his mildly sweet gouda with Pelican’s Tsunami Stout. The best pair, Volveda said, is with the gouda that is actually soaked in the stout during the cheese hooping (cooling) process, creating a beautiful brown marbling effect on the surface of the cheese. Willamette Valley Cheese makes several styles of gouda.
Vern Caldwell of Pholia Farm in Rogue River pairs his Takelma goat cheese, its rind washed with annatto, with Oakshire’s Big Black Jack, an imperial chocolate pumpkin porter. Takelma is a traditional rennet cheese aged up to 5 months. Caldwell said that Oakshire brewer, Matt Van Wyck, suggested the pairing. That’s a pretty reliable recommendation.