Recognizable Pairings

David | Blog | October, 25 2012 | No Comment

Each year in August the American Cheese Society holds a conference that includes a judging of the best artisan cheeses in the United States and Canada. Each year in October the Great American Beer Festival is held in Denver and it includes a judging of the best American craft beer.  For me, these events offer another excuse for putting great cheese and great beer together.

Beecher's Best of Show cheese, Flagsheep.

For the past few weeks I have been pondering how to approach the Cheese and Cheers Medal Pairings for 2013, and for the past couple days I have been tinkering with combinations. This morning I saw a Facebook post from Windy City Distributing, one of a couple of Chicago beer wholesalers that have in recent years blessed us with great beers from nearby and from other regions. Windy City is congratulating the brewing companies in its portfolio for the recognition they received earlier this month at GABF. That should be enough to get me off first base in posting some of my thoughts about pairing the award winners.

The Cheese Societies judging includes a best of show award that pits the winners from all categories against one another. In recent years that has been expanded to include a second- and third-place best of show. This year’s Best of Show winner is Flagsheep, a sheep’s milk variation on Flagship, a sort of bandaged cheddar made by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Seattle.  This cheese has an earthy, milky flavor with a hint of lanolin and barnyard. Its texture is slightly dry and crumbly.  I am tempted to put it with an English style brown, and the gold medal winner at this year’s GABF was Sierra Blanca Nut Brown Ale from Sierra Blanca Brewery, Moriarity, NM. I won’t be able to get that beer in Chicago, so I might pair it with a Bell’s Best Brown or the Eugene Porter from Revolution Brewing Co., Chicago.  Sierra Nevada’s fall seasonal is the Tumbler Autumn Brown, which should be available coast to coast. I would think that Flagsheep might sell out pretty quickly, but Flagship should be available at good cheese retailers in most regions of the U.S.

At the Great American Beer Festival, 2012.

Included in Windy City’s list is a silver medal nod to Ebel’s Weiss, a traditional Hefewiezen made by Two Brothers Brewing Co., of west suburban Chicago.  If I were inclined to put together an Illinois pairing, I would try this with another sheep’s milk cheese, Black Sheep, from Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, Champaign, IL. That cheese took first place in the sheep’s milk division of the soft ripened cheese category during the cheese competition at this year’s conference in Raleigh, NC.  Another good match might be Bear Republic’s Cafe Racer Imperial IPA (California, silver), with Carr Valley’s 4-year Cheddar (Wisconsin, 3rd place).

Oh, the possibilities are nearly endless!  Would love to hear from readers trying out their own pairings of these highly recognized products.  For the record, there were more than 1,700 cheeses in competition at ACS this year and more than 4,300 beers were vying for medals at GABF. Next year the Cheese Society conference will be in Madison, Wis., so I will finally get back. I would encourage readers with even a vague interest in cheese to attend the public events that are geared toward consumers. And everyone should attend GABF at least once.

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