With the release of the first two beers from the new 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, I was eager to hook one up with a cheese. From the brewery, I chose the 5 Lizard, a Latin-style witbier.  Paired it with a cheese that recently came in to West Lakeview Liquors—Toma, from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., in Calif.  I was really crazy about Toma when I first tasted it, and have been recommending it to folks at the cheese counter for the last couple of weeks. I had a feeling these two would make a nice pair.  5 Liz is an interesting spin on witbier, and a nice part of the 5 Rabbit Brewery’s story, which we talked about here last month.

Toma, only the second cheese from Point Reyes, was introduced in 2010.  Like more than 340 other U.S. cheesemakers, Point Reyes was profiled in The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese (2007) written by Jeff Roberts of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. Jeff tells their story nicely.  In a nutshell, about 12 years ago, the three sisters of the Giacomini family were considering whether or not they would take over the family’s Holstein dairy. It was only after agreeing that they would begin making cheese that the next generation took the helm of the family business, and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese was born in 2000.  A cheesemaker was hired from Iowa’s Maytag Dairy Farms, the maker of the storied Maytag Blue Cheese. Point Reyes began with a raw milk organic cheese called Original Blue, and the family has been successfully engaged in the business of cheese ever since. Toma reflects the family’s Italian roots as well as the terroir of its organic farm. A new blue is now in development, with roll-out expected next year.

First the Beer: At our tasting, 5 Lizard poured cloudy and light golden in color. Its thin head dissipated quickly.  Aromas included a clean malt and citrus—maybe lemon zest or limeade. It is made with Pilsner malt, wheat, and noble hops, and spiced with passionfruit, lime (replacing the traditional orange) and coriander. Alcohol by volume is 4.3%. The beer’s flavor started with a clean bready malt, mingling with a wheat tanginess, an assertive lime flavor and a bit of musky passionfruit. A decent hop bitterness followed on the finish. 5 Lizard had a sparkly light mouthfeel, despite what seemed like a low carbonation level. The body was thin. Overall it gave the impression of begin a refreshing and drinkable wit, and the Latin flavors are executed nicely.

The Cheese: Around 150 cows in Point Reyes’ closed herd graze year-round on organic pastures. Only their milk goes into the company’s cheeses.  Toma is a semi-soft pressed cheese made from pasteurized milk. The ten-pound wheels are flat with rounded edges, and are aged more than 90 days. The first time I tasted it I was reminded of Cornish Yarg. For the pairing, the the natural rind had a very light, almost ivory color and a fairly smooth and even complexion. The paste was similar in color to the rind, but a bit more yellow, like a white-ish butter. It had very small holes in the center andwas slightly darker near the rind. The cheese was rather soft and pliable.  Toma’s aromas were reminiscent of a milk plant—fresh milky smells with some tangy, sour notes. There was a hint of mustiness on the rind. The cheese tasted fresh, young and lactic. Fresh milky flavors swirled with a tangy, cultured milk thing.  Its texture was supple, turning creamy and melty in the mouth. It was smooth, with no crystals, but with a pleasant snap to the rind.

Cheese with Beer: For this pairing, I tasted the beer first, and then nibbled some cheese. With the first bite of the cheese a Pilsner malt flavor jumped back in, followed by the fruity flavors of the beer. Put some in the mouth together and as they mingled, with the beer washing over the cheese, more of the fruit flavors come out, and a mixture of the tart notes from both the beer and the cheese. The beer lifted the cheese, and the cheese melted neatly. The clean malt flavor returned at the finish with some of the sour milk lingering. This is a fine example of resonance pairing. I would give the pairing a four out of five. Cheers!

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  1. [...] Wednesday (Aug. 31) at Marion Street Cheese Market, featuring Chicago’s 5 Rabbit Brewing. We paired the Latin-style wit with a wonderful California cheese in early July. Can’t wait to taste some more food pairings [...]

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