Starting Point: Matching Intensity

David | Blog | November, 07 2011 | No Comment

Last week we posted a pairing that featured Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese matched with Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, and what a match it was! The creamy, texture and puckering flavors of the cheese went hand-in-hand with the full, sweet malt and big citrus and pine hops of the beer, and we scored it a perfect Five of Five. But the most important facet of this pairing is one we made quick mention of — intensity. You simply can’t get from Zero to Five if the intensity of the beer and the cheese aren’t in close proximity.

As we wrapped up the tasting and note-taking for the pair we threw in a couple other beers to see how they might fair with the Point Reyes Blue–a Sam Adams Triple Bock (a big sweet thing that tastes like a cross between strong beer and maple syrup) and a Thomas Hardy’s Ale (a classic English Old Ale) both about 20 years of age. The heavy bodied, sweet Triple Bock tasted remarkably similar to when I first tasted this beer some 16 or 17 years ago. It’s a beer with some quirky charms, and one that comes with a lot of sentiment for me. But it ran right over the cheese. Sure, that sweet flavor should have been a nice contrast to the angular acidity and salt of the blue cheese — I love drizzling honey on blue cheese. But the Triple Bock is so rich and so sweet, it leaves nothing in its wake.

The Thomas Hardy’s had the opposite problem. It’s a very nice beer, but very English. At nearly 12% ABV you might expect this beer to stand up to nearly any cheese, and it flirted with the Point Reyes.  But the Hardy’s is actually (ours was a 1991) is actually quite restrained, perhaps even delicate, at least for a beer of such strength. In the end, it’s lovely maltiness kind of got stepped on by the saltiness of the cheese. There is a cheese out there for these beers, but this just wasn’t it.

The takeaway from all this is that in pairing cheese and beer, it is pretty easy to find a good matches, but before you even try to put a pair together, think about intensity of flavor first.

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