As promised, today we’re pairing Furthermore Brewery’s Brit-traditional Proper with two cheeses from neighboring cheesemaker Bleu Mont Dairy. From what I’ve seen and tasted of Furthermore and Bleu Mont they are kindred spirits as well as geographical neighbors. With Monday’s post I gave you the story behind Furthermore, a four-year old brewery in Spring Green, Wis.
Bleu Mont too has a rich story, and eventually, I’ll do a profile, but for now here’s the nickel version:
Bleu Mont is owned and operated by Willi Lehner and Quitas McKnight. Lehner is a cheesemaker with no milking animals, and no creamery. He makes the cheeses himself through arrangements with a handful of excellent area creameries. Lehner does possess several attributes which have made him a rock star of Midwest artisan cheese. First, a couple of generations of cheese knowledge, and a lifetime of experience making cheese, are combined with a creative energy and imagination. Secondly, a good place in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region (west/northwest of Madison) and that area’s artisan cheese community means that Lehner has some great milk supplies (mostly organic and pasture fed) and the capacity to make cheese. Finally, a sizable aging cellar was constructed on Lehner’s farm property just a few years ago, and Lehner has learned affinage–the art of finishing and aging cheeses–from experts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Willi’s cheeses, including the notorious Earth Schmier, the Bandage Wrapped, Lil’ Wil’s BIG Cheese and his Gouda, have made Bleu Mont a not-to-be missed feature at Madison and other area farmers markets. They have also brought home numerous ribbons from national competitions.
For the pairing, I selected the Gouda and the Bandage Wrapped, both of which are currently available at Marion Street Cheese Market.
First the Bandage Wrapped: The cloth was removed from the bandaged wrap wedge when it was cut from the wheel. The under-rind is left looking rather reptilian—darkish earth tone spots over a paler background. The paste is darker where it is closest to the rind, but golden elsewhere, with visible white crystals. The aroma suggests sweet milk and caramel, with surprisingly little of the root cellar aroma you get with many clothbound Cheddars. The flavor is sweet-creamy, with a nice hint of salt to balance. Fruity notes include pineapple and mango. The texture is dense and toothsome, melting to fudge, with some crystal chunks.
Next the Gouda: This cheese is dome shaped, with a beige, mottled, natural rind. The paste is yellow-gold with an oily appearance, visible crystals and tiny fissures. The Gouda is earthy on the nose with some tart, sour cream/yogurt aroma and some fruit. The flavor, too offers buttermilk, or cultured dairy, some tropical fruit. Salt is pronounced and perhaps enhanced by the texture, which is dry-ish, and firm compared to the Bandaged. There is a big milk fat feel in the mouth, but it dissolves quickly. At the dark edge of the paste near the rind, there are some serious earthy, root-vegetable flavors.
The Beer: Proper pours fairly quietly, with a golden-amber color and a firm white head. It offers good clarity and the soft carbonation is visibly apparent in the bubbles. The aroma is grainy, even grassy and clean. Hop aroma is very restrained. The body is light to medium, with just a moderate amount of carbonation prickle. The flavor is bitter-forward with a nice balance of toffee malt and moderate sweetness. Notes of iron in the finish.
Beer and Bandage Wrapped: The fudgy texture of the cheese anticipates the beer and the sweet cream is just dying for the beer’s clean bitterness. Together, the cheese melts with the beer turning extra fudgy, and the sweet cream flavor blends with the beer’s malty backbone and then re-emerges. This is about as good as it gets. I would give it a perfect 5 out of 5.
Beer and Gouda: The saltiness of the Gouda carries over to the beer and is accentuated. The drier texture dissolves more than it melts in the mouth. The earthy flavor of the cheese kind of interferes with the balance of the beer, perhaps masking the malt. A bigger, sweeter, maltier beer might work better, or even a full-flavored, fruity farmhouse ale, like Goose Island’s Sofie. Call it 3 out of 5. Interesting note: there is the suggestion of beer and pizza in this marriage.