A few weeks ago I asked the folks at Sartori Cheese, Plymouth, Wis., if they would put me on their mailing list, and send some samples of their award winning Bella Vitano cheeses so that I could pair them with some beers and write about it. Low and behold, one day a nice big box showed up on the doorstep.

Inside there were three or four cheeses from Sartori, including a couple of Bella Vitanos, and three different Leinenkugel’s beers. The beers come from the Miller-Coors owned Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., located not far from Sartori, in Chippewa Falls.  Along with a Leinenkugel Classic Lager were two wheat beers. I choose the Honey Weiss and the classic lager to put with Bella Vitano Gold (the base, Italian-style cheese) and the Black Pepper Bella Vitano.  These are nice, approachable beers and cheeses, and they created some very pleasant tasting experiences.

Bella Vitano Gold w/ Classic Lager

First the cheese: The heavy plastic wrap leaves a shiny appearance, but when the pale yellow cheese is broken the curds are visible along with some crystals. The cheese gives has a sweet aroma–sugary and caramelized. It has a medium-firm mouthfeel, with some crunch, and some oily moisture. It offers pleasant sweet and nutty flavors, with very little salt. There is a sweet-creamy finish to the Bella Vitano Gold.

The Beer:  The Classic pours straw to pale golden. A loose, fluffy white head collapses quickly to a tight head that eventually dissipates.  It is extremely clear and bright. The beer presents a grainy malty aroma, slightly grassy, with a hint of floral hops, and maybe a little butterscotch. The flavor is malt forward, very clean, with just a hint of bitterness. No hop flavor. Malt mingles with the bitterness. It’s a light subtle flavor that finishes clean.  It has a light mouthfeel and a high level of carbonation.

The sugary sweetness of the cheese masks the malty flavor of the beer, but pulls out the bitterness. Then the sweet cheese flavors re-emerge. The cheese lifts and dissolves quickly in the fizzy beer. Then the malt comes back.

Overall this is a nice combo:   Simple flavors, well-spaced and they all seem to let each other play.  3.0 out of 5.

Black Pepper Bella Vitano w/ Classic Lager

The cheese: This version is slightly darker near the rind, and crusted with black and brown pieces of course ground pepper.  The aroma remains sweet. The sweet flavor still dominates, with just a hint of pepper flavor at the rind.

Beer and Cheese together:  The pepper is nearly lost in the clean flavors of the beer here, so the overall impression is similar to the first pairing.  Would also rate this one 3.0.

Bella Vitano Gold w/ Honey Weiss

Honey Weiss Appearance:  Very clear medium golden color. White head collapsed and disappeared. Aroma: Malt aroma mingled with a hint of wet dog–probably a bi-product of honey fermentation of residual honey.   Flavor:  Clean with a hint of tartness and little bit of malt. Bitterness is way in the background as it should be. Very clean finish. It’s a nice, unassuming beer.

Cheese and beer together: Nice creaminess when combined. Flavors do not clash, but not much happens, although some bitterness is drawn out. Pleasant, but not a lot of fireworks. We’ll call it a 2.5

Black Pepper Bella Vitano w/ Honey Weiss

With a big hunk of the peppered rind washed with the Weiss something nice happens. The pepper contrasts nicely with the easy sweet flavor of the Weiss. All the pleasant interactions of the previous pairings are there, but the pepper contrasting with the sweet tangy wheat flavors adds just a little punch. We can give this one a 3.5.

These cheeses and beers are widely available, and reasonably priced.  I am not a beer or cheese snob, and I can say without snobbery that these are nicely-made products with good flavors, but that they are intended to appeal to a broad audience rather than the most adventurous. If you are looking for more adventure, both Sartori and Leinenkugel offer that too. I enjoy Leiny’s Big Eddy, a special release, imperial stout.

Sartori’s Raspberry Bella Vitano is made with New Glarus Brewing’s Raspberry Tart beer, and I am looking forward to trying one of the newest additions to the family, Cognac Bella Vitano, perhaps with a Belgian Strong Golden. If you need more recommendations look for the nifty pairing guide on the Sartori website.

If you like this post please share it with others
Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Twitter

© Copyright Reserved Cheese And Cheers 2010. | Site Admin | Log out
Design by: Yoshz