The Numbers are In

David | Blog | March, 23 2011 | No Comment

 Tuesday was the first anniversary of the launch of the Cheese and Cheers blog.  So this morning I crunched some numbers. First the basics: We posted 77 times in the first year. Not the frequency I had planned on, but at least it averaged out to more than once a week.  In the “Never Met a Beer/Cheese I Didn’t Like” series we profiled nine cheese and six beer styles, if I counted correctly. 

The first full year of scored pairings yielded three perfect "fives" including Saison de Lenten with Tarentaise.

I covered one conference, and a handful of local beer events. We touched on a couple of breweries entering the Chicago market, at least one new local brewery, a brewery anniversary, and a few  new cheeses from some of the top US cheesemakers.  I interviewed both the new director of the American Cheese Society (Nora Weiser) and one of the pioneers of American craft brewing (John Isenhour) within a couple days of one another.

There were 13 posts that were based on head-to-head analytical parings of specific cheeses and beers, and those pairings were graded on a scale of one to five. In some instances there was more than one cheese or more than one beer, so in effect there were 16 pairings.  Crunching those numbers reveals some interesting tendencies, although admittedly, this is a small sample, and one that is heavily skewed by my personal tastes, our knowledge of what works well together, and a desire to present a nice variety in the pairings we posted.

The highest score achieved was five, with three pairings declared perfect. Four others scored a nearly-perfect 4.5. The lowest score was a one, and that happened only once.  The average of the 16 scores fell to 3.71, and the median was 3.75. Only four of the 16 parings fell below 4.

Of the top seven pairings there were four Belgian-style beers, and three with a heavy British accent–again, perhaps my biases are showing. We didn’t do a lot with hoppy Americans, for no particular reason. Three Floyds’Alpha King and Ska’s Modus Hoperandi each scored 3.5 with a super-aged American cheddar, and I would easily yield to anyone arguing that those parings might be better than that.  I don’t think we paired a single lager, and I believe nothing from Germany (one American Kolsch is as close as we got).  We need to rectify that soon. I am open to suggestions for lagers, and I prefer them malty.

Of the top seven, the cheeses included two clothbound cheddars, two goat cheeses (one fresh, one aged), a washed rind, an Alpine and one resembling a gouda.  The June series on saisons scored well, with a perfect five, and two fours.

Here are the top seven first-year parings:

Saison De Lenten (the Bruery) with Tarentaise (Spring Brook Farm) …………………….. 5.0

Proper (Furthermore) with Willi’s Bandaged Cheddar (Bleu Mont)  ………………………   5.0

Honkers Ale (Goose Island) with Cabot Clothbound (Cabot/Jasper Hill) ………………    5.0

Orchard White (the Bruery) with (Capriago) Bohemian  ………………………………………..   4.5

Weeping Willow Wit (Mother Earth) with Belle and the Bees (Belle Chevre)  ………..      4.5

Duvel (Moortgat) with Goodhue (Pasturelands) …………………………………………………     4.5

Pullman Brown (Flossmoor) with Rush Creek Reserve (Uplands)  …………………………   4.5

This has been a fun and enlightening experience, and one which I hope will eventually dovetail with writing a book on the topic.  I plan to continue into the second year, and I would love to consider guest posts from anyone else out there who is seriously pairing craft beer and artisan cheese.  Look for a few lagers, more blue cheeses, some triple cremes, and some hop bombs in the coming months.

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