Beer and cheese, a great combination.
Wine and cheese parties have been around for decades.
Other than beer aficionados, not many people have experienced a similar festivity with beer. Along with that, many women are not familiar with beer styles other than Bud, Miller, or Coors—all standard American lagers. I’ve heard friends and women in my family remark that they “don’t drink beer.” Being a beer lover, I find this puzzling—that women are somewhat reluctant to give beer styles a try. There’s a world of flavorful beers that many women are missing out on—not realizing that beer can be much more than the “fizzy yellow stuff” that they’ve come to turn up their noses.
One book published last year follows this thought; “He said beer, She said wine,” by Marnie Old and Sam Calagione. It’s an interesting read for me—playing up the virtues of beer. In many cases, beer makes a better complement with foods.
Last week, Ginger Johnson came to Kansas City to hold three events for women to talk about beer. I met Ginger at the Craft Brewers’ Conference in Boston this April; she gave one of the two presentations about ways to market beer to women. Ginger has a bIog that I now follow, called “Women Enjoying Beer.”
I played the part of a Kansas City tour guide one day, meeting Ginger, her husband, and friend/associate Deidre at The Better Cheddar—to try pairing some beers with cheese. I arranged our visit in advance with the Manager, Cheryl Harrington. She was very gracious in providing cheese samples in the shop.
Cheryl admitted to being a novice to the world of beers, having much more experience with wine & cheese. Kelly Gibbens, writer for Tastebud magazine, was also on hand. I have spoken with her several times about beer/cheese pairing. From my reading and Kelly’s suggestions I’ve begun to share this experience with women in my circle of friends.
I chose to try three different brands of India Pale Ales for our pairing.
* Moylan’s IPA
* Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
* Boulevard’s Single Wide IPA
For those unfamiliar with IPA’s, it’s a style that originated in England, with a generous dose of hops as a preservative to allow it to be shipped to India. American versions of IPAs have the fragrant, citrusy aroma of hops grown in the Yakima valley of Washington. The style has become very popular in recent years. I cooked up an IPA homebrew with my son in his off-campus apartment in Columbia last week; the kit we used required five additions of hops during the 60 minute boil—he enjoyed the aromatic scents steaming off the boiling kettle. We’ll see how well it compares to these outstanding commercial IPAs.
The first beer we sampled was Moylan’s. It’s won several medals and was an especially hoppy beer—in both aroma and flavor. To my perception, Moylan’s was more like a double-IPA (twice as much hops as a typical IPA). I met the brewer of this beer last year while judging at the Great American Beer Festival. Denise Jones is one of the few women brewers in the US. Her brewery is in Novato, California. Because they are near where hops are grown, Northern Californian breweries are known to give a big hop emphasis to their beers—made to appeal to the “hop heads” in that area.
I showed our group the technique of putting your hand on top of the tasting cup, swirling, and then taking sniffs of the resulting “cone of aroma.” Cheryl was especially surprised at the hop aroma and flavor, and appreciated this new beer discovery. She served us three samples of cheeses, per my suggestion:
- Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar
- Aged Gouda
- St. Pete’s Blue from Minnesota
We all agreed that the aged Gouda was the best choice for Moylan’s—the strength of the flavor in the cheese was a good match for the flavor intensity of the beer.
The second beer was Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, made near Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s the 2nd highest rated American IPA on ratebeer.com; the members in my homebrew club rave about it. The group sampling with me remarked on the floral aroma of Bell’s and we found that it matched best with the mild blue cheese.
Finally, we sampled Boulevard’s new IPA, called Single-Wide. The name followed their popular double-IPA, which was named Double Wide. We all noticed the lighter color of this version, and the wonderful grapefruit aroma—a good experiment would be pairing it with segments of grapefruit. The best choice of pairing for Single-Wide was the sharp cheddar.