I was pleased to attend a beer and cheese class at Pastoral‘s Lakeview store on Tuesday. Beer buyer Ryne Schofstal lead a simple, elegant tasting involving Cheddars and beer. Readers may know that Cheese and Cheers conducts similar events on occasion. In putting them together, I always felt the challenge of limiting the selections to a reasonable number–just because there are so many great things to taste. Ryne is a good editor.
After a wonderful opening beer (Professor Fritz Briem’s 1809 Berliner Weisse) the dozen attendees who squeezed into Pastoral’s tiniest store were treated to three beers, one cider and four Cheddar cheeses that were each delicious and startlingly different from one another. The cheeses were:
* Prairie Breeze, a sweet, creamy cow’s milk number from Iowa.
* Chevre Noir, a deeply-flavored and -textured goat’s milk cheese from Quebec.
* Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar, the gold-standard, Neal’s Yard clothbound from Somerset, England.
* Widmer 6-year Cheddar, a fudgey, fruity American style from across the Cheddar curtain in Wisconsin.
The cider was a dry-ish tart apple example from Crispin, and it was paired with the Prairie Breeze. Chevre Noir cuddled up to the Bierre de Garde (Brasserie Castelain, France). For the Monty’s, Ryne went with Bear Republic’s classic west coast pale ale, Racer Five, and the Widmer was paired with Firestone Walker’s reserved Porter. A good cross-section of beer styles was also part of the plan.
Not surprisingly they all played nicely together. As Ryne noted, cheese loves beer (and cider). On paper, I might have looked to swap the beers of the last two pairings. I usually try shield British Cheddars from assertive American hop bombs. But after tasting them, I think the Racer 5 has enough restraint and balance so that it didn’t step on the Montgomery’s. Also, the fudgey texture of the Widmer complemented the roast in the Firestone Walker Porter. We crossed the pairings and tasted other combos and most of them worked very well.
Ryne, a culinary grad from the beery state of Pennsylvania, has been with Pastoral for just about a year. He plans to conduct similar tastings about twice a month, alternating from the Lakeview to the Loop (Lake Street) locations. Check the website for more details, and you can register for email notices. Pastoral began in 2004 with the Lakeview store and has grown to three Chicago locations including the French Market, at Ogilvie Transportation Center.