Friday, 23 July 2010

Beer and Cheese Matching with Garrett Oliver

Last night I was lucky enough to be one of 70 people who were invited to the White Horse in Parsons Green for a beer and cheese matching with Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
This event was probably one of the most exciting beer events of the year as Garrett doesn't get over to the UK very often and it attracted the great and the good, the nameless and the downright shameless of the beer world, oh and me!
Having just shlepped all the way across London in the muggy heat of the tube I decided to be sensible when I got to the White Horse and ordered a Dark Star Hophead even though there were people enjoying the Dogfish Head beers that were also on tap!
I was enjoying the conversation with Des now of Coppertun and Chris Pople who writes the popular Cheese and Biscuits blog when I realised everyone was going upstairs for the tasting so up we all went. I was also talking to Brewdog Emperor James Watt who wasn't at all badly behaved irritating(must have been ill or something ;-p) but was back to his eloquent and friendly best. He did however let on that when they open the Brewdog bar in September(ish) they're going to have a tattooist on site to Brand you with Brewdog should you feel the need, also if you do you'll be able to drink in the bar for free for life! That's a bit tempting although I'm not sure that I'd visit Aberdeen often enough to make it worthwhile.
Anyway on to the tasting, Garrett Oliver is a master, Brewmaster, Ring Master and probably Jedi master. The force is strong with this one!
We started off with the single hopped Soraci Ace which was matched with Roasary Goats Cheese - now it should be noted that I'm not, or rather wasn't a fan of goats cheese until last night. I've long known that beer and cheese match very well but this first pairing was phenomenal. The Beer is a Belgian style Saison with Lemongrass and Lemon peel on the nose. when you taste the cheese the creaminess of this goats cheese works perfectly with the dryness of the beer. Great Match!
Garrett pointed out that the guys at Brooklyn only make beer that they like to drink which frankly in my humble opinion makes them geniuses. People make better beer when they want to drink it, after all why make shit beer if you have to drink it afterwards?
The second match was Local 1 with Brillat-Savarin cheese, now rather than not being a fan of this cheese, I had never even heard of it! At this point I wasn't at a beer and cheese matching, I was at a cheese discovery! The cheese itself is a triple creme style cheese which is awesome - Dredge would FABPOW this one for sure! The Beer is a strong pale ale(9% abv) and comes in a cork and caged bottle. The first thing that hit me about this beer was the nose, there was a distinct grape quality to it and an almost ribena-ish hit as well. Lovely. In the mouth there was tonnes of grape for my palate and I love grapes! The cheese really helped bring out the alcohol of this beer and even more grape, another 'grape' match(sorry).
The third pairing was Hereford Hop and Brooklyn Lager. Now Brooklyn Lager is a Vienna style beer that was first produced in 87/88 and was the first beer at Brooklyn but I wasn't sure that this match worked completely, it's one I may have to experiment with at home. I found that the lager didn't really come through on this on as the cheese was a tad too strong but as a craft beer the Brooklyn Lager stands on it's own as a great beer. I took another, smaller bite of the cheese and sipped the lager and it seemed to work a bit better, again, a match to try at home.
Next we had the Brooklyn Brown Ale with Ossau Iraty cheese. The beer has a caramel malt which brings out the lovely roasty/chocolatey flavours. It's almost homely roasted flavours would really combine well with roasted veg and meats. Garrett then pointed out that if you break the cheese and take a sniff you'd smell Lanolin or a wet wool coat after a rain storm, the 'English one' of my bosses made some quip about Welshmen that got a (very) cheap laugh, cheeky b****rd. Anyhow back to the pairing, again this is one that I wasn't overly keen on this one, maybe because my palate is too under developed but for me it was the complete opposite of the previous match, the beer completely overwhelmed the cheese.
Note : at this point there was a break of a couple of minutes because the cheese or the beer(unsure which) wasn't quite ready, during the break a gentleman who looked a bit like a politician came round to each table giving out cards with HIS business on it - advertising at someone else's presentation, hmmm, arrogant, rude and generally fucking irritating, this gentlemans name? Rupert Poncenby, for my part I think his actions were out of line and he's not someone I would actually give any time to if I have any choice. Bad Form Poncenby.
Anyway, rude bastard aside, onto the next pairing and this one is pretty spesh!
Dark Matter with the Ossau Iraty cheese again and this one really worked well. The beer has grape and blackcurrant flavours and the cheese has hints of vanilla and coconut. The Ossau Iraty seemed a lot drier with this beer and it really helps this pairing with the sugaryness of the beer.
Next up is the Brooklyn EIPA and Montgommery's Cheddar. The beer didn't have much aroma to speak of but it's bitter and really works well with the cheddar, the beer has been heavily dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings and holds it's owm against a strong cheddar like the montgommery. I'm not sure exactly why this works so well but it really does!
Over on the other side of the room I see John Cryne nodding off, oh well can't keep everyone happy I suppose!
The last match of the evening was my favourite, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with Colston-Bassett Stilton. The beer has big marmite and unsurprisingly chocolate characteristics with hints of coffee too. The cheese is very bitter, very soft, almost sweaty and at this point Garrett declared 'People that don't like Stilton are bad people' and I wouldn't say I'd agree with that but this match works extremely well and I had to have seconds!
Garrett also pointed out that he sometimes serves this beer with a barley wine as it works so well, beer with beer? really? well I guess that breaking new ground is what craft brewing is all about and I'll have to try that match in a couple of weeks when I put the Thomas Hardy's Ale on tap at The Rake! He also said that even though there are many more styles of beer than there are wine, beer lists are still Passe in bars, pubs and restaurants, as wine is still number one when it comes to food matching.
That's all for now, this was a great evening, I felt privilaged to be there and would like to extend my thanks to The White Horse and Garrett Oliver for hosting such an interesting evening.

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