Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 18
Pairing beer & cheese

Jan. 4, 2001

Wisconsin has a new map, highlighting destinations for beer, wine and specialty cheeses across the state. With help from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the small Wisconsin Brewers Guild and Wisconsin Winery Association put together the map.


Strangely, although you may pick up a copy of the "Taster's Guide to Wisconsin" at many Wisconsin Visitors Centers, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism will not distribute the map by mail. Instead, you can get a single copy free by sending a self-addressed, stamped #10 size envelope to Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board-RBP, PO Box 1012, LaCrosse, Wisconsin 54602. If you suspect you'll be anywhere near Wisconsin in the next year or two, we highly recommend you get one of these maps.

The Milk Marketing Board clearly understands the strong link between beer and cheese in Wisconsin. In 1998 it provided the funding for a 16-page full color "Sampler's Guide To Wisconsin Specialty Cheese and Craft Beer." It is full of tips on pairing beer and cheese, tasting tips and recipes.

Some of the suggested pairings:

- Mascarpone, a soft Italian-style cheese, with a Belgian-style Saison. The tangy beer will contrast nicely with buttery richness of the Mascarpone.

- Fresh Mozzarella and and a dark lager. Another nice contrast: In this case dark malts and sweet dairy flavors.

- Monteray Jack with Jalapeno and a bottle-conditioned winter warmer. A big, malty beer will stand up well to the hot peppers and Monterey Jack. A great combo in front of a roaring fire.

- Smoked Gouda and bock beer. Another beer for cool days, smooth yet with enough toastiness to take on the mild smokiness of the cheese.

- Gruyere and witbier. The spices of the Belgian white beer -- coriander, orange peels and other 'secret" choices -- should meld well with the earthy, nutty Gruyere. Substitute Swiss cheese if you want.

- Aged Cheddar and stout. A big stout, with lots of chocolate and black malts so that it hints of coffee, should be handle the the complexity of a well aged, still sharp Cheddar.

Want more specific recommendations? Beer guru Fred Eckhardt conducted a late night beer and cheese tasting last October during the Dixie Cup homebrew competition in Houston, Texas. On his menu:

- St. Arnold Fancy Lawnmower Beer, a Texas Koelsch-style beer, with a Muenster cheese.

- Live Oak Pilz, a Bohemian-style pilsener, with a small pretzel topped with a wedge of apple and covered by Canadian Black Diamond Cheddar.

- Bradley's Riptide Red Ale, an amber, with Japapeno Pepper cheese.

- St. Arnold Cask-Conditioned Amber Ale with an aged Gouda from the Netherlands.

- Bradley's Hopzilla IPA with hot Brie cheese.

- Anchor Porter with Maytag American Blue cheese from the Maytag Farms in Iowa.

- Full Stout Stout with Stilton cheese from England.

- Belgian Trappist Chimay Grand Reserve with Chimay Trappist cheese.

- TwoRows Barley Wine with hot Bavarian Blue Triple Cambazola, a blue Brie cheese.

Tasting notes

In keeping with our cheese theme this week, we've got one tasting note and then a cheese-related recipe for you.

Brewed by Widmer Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon

Perhaps because it is fermented with an ale yeast and then lagered, it has an opening fruitiness (apricots?) that gives away to a rich, roasty middle. Hints of chocolate and long finish. Deceptively smooth an warming, with a hefty 7% alcohol by volume.

Widmer provides several recipes to go with the beer. Here's one:

Winternacht Cheese Soup
yields 6-8 servings
6 ounces butter
6 ounces yellow onion, chopped fine
4 ounces flour
1 1/4 quarts chicken broth, scalding
1 1/2 bottles Widmer Winternacht, scalding
1 1/2 pints hot milk
1 pint heavy cream (hot)
1 1/2 pounds sharp or medium cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
granish, chopped chives

Sweat onions in butter, do not let them color. Add flour. Stir well to make a roux. Cook the roux for a few minutes, but do not let it brown. Add chicken broth and Widmer Winternacht, beating with whip as you slowly pour it in. Simmer for aobut 10 minutes and add cream and milk to thin soup to proper constistency. Whisk in cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chives or green onion.

Serve with more Winternacht.