Nope. You did not read that title wrong. There is such a thing as an event that pairs wine beer and cheese. The idea of such a threesome may be hard to swallow, yet once you try this trendy approach, you’ll be hooked. The pairings are tricky. You will need some professional help the first one or two times you give this a try, but once you memorize the pairing tips and experience the magic for yourself, the idea of going back to wine and cheese pairings alone will seem b-o-r-i-n-g.
I was lucky. I had two crazy-good teachers to introduce me to this concept. Rich Reich (Brix at the Shore, Long Beach, CA) and Lisa Albanese (Cheese Addiction, Long Beach, CA) spent an afternoon with a panel of wine and food writers showing us the ropes. They made it seem so easy. But, in truth, there is an art to figuring out how to make it work. We tried 5 pairings. Each pairing featured one wine, one beer and one cheese. Each one was better than the next, as the palate gets into the swing of the similarities and differences. Take a sip of wine. Take a bite of cheese. Repeat. Take a taste of beer, take a bite of cheese. Repeat. Compare the flavors, textures and nuances.
Beer and Cheese
The marriage of beer and cheese actually goes way back. During the Middle Ages in Belgium, monasteries were known for their extraordinary beers and cheeses – a staple of their daily diets and income. Today, most beer bars in Belgium serve small bowls of cubed semi-soft cheese sprinkled with celery salt to accompany the beer.
Both beer and cheese have a similar origin, grass. Barley is a cereal grass used in making beer and milk is a by-product of a cow eating grass. As a result, beer and cheese complement each other by sharing some common characteristics in aroma and flavor, while the carbonation in beer also boosts the palate and brings out unexpected nuances in the cheese. What occurs is undeniably an epicurean sensation of divine proportions. Just sayin.
Wine and Cheese
Cheese can make a cheap wine palatable or complement a great wine. Just as with any food pairing, you need to decide if your goal is complementary or contrasting flavors. An opulent wine works well with a triple-cream cheese, while an acidic wine will cut a cheese’s sweetness. Some experts feel that white wines tend to pair better with cheese, but a light-bodied red and cheese pairing is still a culinary treat. Young cheeses often partner best with sparkling wines, crisp whites, dry rosés, and reds with good acidity and vigorous fruit.
Older cheeses need wines with more body and complexity. The very oldest cheeses, those that are the most savory and rich and nutty, pair best with wines that present ample body and structure, and some oxidative notes as well.
Pull this all together to arrive at the most important rule of wine and cheese pairing: Pair by flavor and intensity.
Below I share the pairing event I experienced at Brix at the Shore under the tutelage of owner Rick Reich and cheese maven Lisa Albanese. Rick was responsible for choosing the wines and beer. Lisa was responsible for selecting the cheeses.
Take a sip of wine. Take a bite of cheese. Repeat. Take a taste of beer, take a bite of cheese. Repeat. Compare the flavors, textures and nuances.
Wine -Colonnara 2014 Pecorino, Falerio, Italy.
Beer –Blanche de Bruxelles, Belgium Wit, Belgium.
Cheese – Cana de Oveja, Italian Ewe.
This is like the Queen’s Tea of beer wine and cheese pairing. Think elegant with pinky finger extended. The soft ripened sheep cheese is aged 21 days presenting with a buttery flavor and crumbly texture. Both the wine and the beer were smooth, fruity and easy to sip, making both a perfect foil to the cheese.
Wine- Westerly Fletcher’s White 2013 White Blend, Santa Barbara, CA
Beer –Mayberry IPA, El Segundo Brewery, CA
Cheese – Central Coast Cheddar, California Goat
This was a “taste of place.” Coming from the same area, it was fun to taste these three products together. Tangy, bright, juicy with citrus overtones comes to mind as the common notes of what each brought to the palate creating an integrated rainbow of flavors.
Wine – Domaine Cristia 2014, Grenache Syrah blend from Ventoux, France
Beer- Dupont Saison, Belgium
Cheese – Chebris French Eve and goat. A sheh-Bree from the Pyrenees.
A jump off tasting before we hit the big boys to follow. Switching gears in intensity, the milky nutty cheese went well with the light peppery and lemony notes of the (almost creamy) beer and the cherry notes of the smooth Rhone styled wine with subtle tannins.
Wine – Shattered 2012 Grenache from Maurey, France
Beer – Men’s Room Red Ale from Elysian Brewing, WA.
Cheese – Oorspung Gouda, Dutch cow
Revving up the palate for a bolder approach to the pairings. The 1-year farmstead Gouda presents with caramelized nut flavors and a grassy milk finish. It needed some depth from it partner beverages. The wine was dark, deep and rich with ripe blackberry and cassis notes. The beer was a lovely amber color with a light hop aroma and toasty malt finish. Smart match.
Wine – Saved 2011, Zinfandel blend from Lodi, CA
Beer – Bock, Bock, Double Bock from Hebrew Brewing of Schmaltz, NY
Cheese – Cambozola Black Label, German cow, from Bavaria
The tasting ends with this big production number…big wine, big beer, big cheese. The wine is a blend of …wait for it…take a seat please… 31% Zinfandel, 23% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 2% Mixed Blacks, 1% Ruby Cabernet and 1% Syrah from a who’s who list of regions in California: 28% Monterey, 18% Dry Creek, 15% Mendocino, 16% Alexander Valley, 11% Oakville, 4% Sonoma Valley, 4% California, 3% San Louis Obispo and 1% Russian River Valley. Wow! Not overly jammy or wimpy light, this wine had no problem standing up and shaking a friendly hand with the earthy, blue tone nutty butter cheese. The beer is an Imperial Barrel-Aged American Bock aged in half Jim Beam and half Heaven Hill whiskey barrels. It was smooth, round and had its big boy pants on. Definitely a good match for the robust cheese.
You might want to attend a professional beer wine and cheese pairing first before you do your own. Obviously if you are in Southern California you need to go to Brix at the Shore and the Cheese Addition to begin your journey. Both have affordable classes and pairings. A gift certificate from either makes a unique “experiential present.”
Try Brix at the Shore for New York Deli style food that will blow your socks off. Big portions, affordable prices and real wine and beer knowledge from owner Rick Reich –who surprisingly is on premises most days make this a “bucket list” have to for committed foodies and beer and wine lovers. His pastrami egg roll will rock your world.
Try the Cheese Addiction for the freshest, best selection of unique gourmet cheeses available in the SoCal area. Owner Lisa Albanese couldn’t be more perky, informative and helpful.