Eat Cheese, Drink Summer Beers & Be Merry

By John David Ryan

 

I love beer. I drink it year ‘round. But it’s 90 degrees outside right now. I have a cabinet full of barrel-aged quads and stouts–and most of them will still be there when the leaves start to change. No one’s hammering a Founders KBS or Thirsty Dog Wulver right now. You’re drinking session ales. You’re drinking freshly hopped beer. You’re drinking plenty of pale.

But it’s prime time for cheese, too! Cows and sheep and goats across the world are eating plenty of lush, fresh, green grass. They’re turning it into creamy milk and cheese-makers are producing some of their finest products.

Let’s put the two together.

Go grab some Bijou from Vermont Creamery. Seriously. Do it right now. And while you’re out picking it up, grab a sixer of Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon. It’s the perfect summer wheat beer–not too sweet, not too spicy, and not too heavy. Or, if you want to keep it all in Vermont, maybe try some Otter Creek Fresh Slice. It complements the tangy, metallic flavors in Allison Hooper’s super creamy take on crottin. Bijou is a perfect little button of goat’s milk cheese.

Few things intimidate curd nerds like washed rind cheese. And even the most serious of hop heads can be turned off by a sour beer. Fret not! You can pair the two and simultaneously overcome your fears. Cato Corner Farm washes its Hooligan in brine until it reaches stinky orange perfection. Try it with Westbrook’s Gose or Evil Twin’s Nomader Weisse. The tart, acidic beer helps bring out the creaminess of the cheese.

Everyone loves cheddar. Everyone. If you don’t like cheddar, then you probably don’t like cute kittens, rainbows or laughing babies either. Seriously–what’s not to love about crumbly, intense cheddar? And if you want the best cheddar in the world, you’re probably going to grab Montgomery’s Clothbound English cheddar. And if you are going to pair it with beer, you’re probably going to get an IPA. And if you’re going to get an IPA, you want a hoppy, American beer. And that’s why you’re going to buy some Ithaca Flower Power or Founders’ All Day IPA.

Finally, we come to the easy drinkers. The pale ales. The pilsners. The lagers. Get you some Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale or Stillwater Classique or maybe a Pinkus Ur-Pils. Anyone can love a lighter beer, and they pair beautifully with tome-style cheeses. My current favorite is Margot. This fine Italian cheese is made by 4th generation cheese makers, and it’s washed in BEER! The hint of hops on the outside sets off the flavors of the fudgy interior.

Eat (cheese), drink and be merry.

Boozy Dessert Idea: Beer and Ice Cream

Kevin Brooks is the resident beer geek at Murray’s Bleecker St.

Not the first thing that comes to mind, right?  Who would drop a scoop of chocolate ice cream into pint of IPA or pour a cold one onto a banana split? Garnish their Corona with an ice cream sandwich, maybe?

While I might be on to something with that last one, my point is that the pairing doesn’t exactly leap to mind. Beer goes with the steak dinner, while the ice cream is the cold treat afterwards, right? I mean it’s not like beer works with everything.

Oh, but it does.

I was first exposed to the pleasure of beer and ice cream during a visit to Weyerbacher Brewery in Easton, Pennsylvania. Their imperial stout, Old Heathen, is a punch in the mouth, full of bitter roastiness and intense coffee flavor. I was savoring my fourth sample cup when the bartender suggested pouring it over vanilla ice cream. When I indicated my surprise, she said it was even better with coffee ice cream. My wife and I couldn’t resist and as soon as we got home, we discovered that the bartender knew her stuff. The creaminess of the ice cream cut the bitterness of the beer, allowing the coffee notes to stand clearly on their own, which paired with the vanilla in the ice cream quite nicely.

Now, given the spectrum of flavors available in the brewing world coupled with the nearly limitless possibilities of ice cream flavors, what other pairings work? Surely we can do better than boring old vanilla. (not that there is anything wrong with vanilla., we’ll get to that later)

One of my favorite trends in brewing right now is the ascendance of smoked beer. Smoked porters, pilsners, straight up rauchbiers; I love them all. However, the originals are still the best, and the Schlenkerla brewery in Bamberg has been making smoked beers for hundreds of years. I just recently enjoyed their oak smoked dopplebock, Eiche, which has a milder smoky kick and a rich, chewy sweetness that just begs to be drunk.

So, when I had the pleasure of trying Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream’s Salted Caramel, I knew I had found a match made in heaven. Sweet, salty, smoky… not just delicious, but alliterative as well. I could also have added creamy and luscious, but that would have broken my S streak. But this sundae pairing shows how satisfying a good savory on sweet pairing can be.

That’s all well and good, I hear you say, but what about that IPA you mentioned in the beginning?

Back in my IPA post, I wrote about Southern Tier’s Oak Aged Unearthly, a shockingly strong IPA that had been de-fanged by a lengthy slumber in an oak barrel. It was the surprise of the tasting, as its lack of hop bite left behind a big, caramelly malt bomb with a solid underlying bitterness. “Pairs well with chocolate,” I wrote, perhaps foreseeing this very problem.

As with any pairing, it’s important to find something with an equally intense flavor that can stand up to the beer. How about Steve’s Brooklyn Black-Out? That sounds intense, let’s see… milk chocolate ice cream swirled with Ovenly’s chocolate stout cake pieces and dark chocolate pudding. So that’s chocolate with chocolate, with chocolate swirled in. Yeah. That sounds pretty intense. The beer and the ice cream work surprisingly well together, with the beer’s bitterness teaming up with the bitter notes of the chocolate while the heavy chocolate sweetness stands out, amplified and accented by the beer’s caramel backbone.

So there’s your IPA and ice cream sundae. Done and done.

But are sundaes the only option? There are so many other ice cream treats out there. What about that most indulgent of sweet treats, the root beer float? It already has beer right there in the name, surely there must be a way to capture that same sweet, creamy, vanilla and spice deliciousness?

The first step is finding a beer with the right flavor and the right amount of residual sweetness to pair with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout is a perfect choice: The addition of lactose, a sugar that yeast cannot ingest, leaves this stout with a mellow sweetness and a creamy mouthfeel. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ve got everything you want: An alcoholic root beer float with that fantastic melted ice cream/beer slurry. A perfect combination for those long winter nights at home.

Beer and ice cream: two great things that go great together. While hardly the obvious pick, a little experimentation will reward you with some surprising flavor combos, as well as a few raised eyebrows when you up end the beer bottle over the giant sundae you’ve just put out.

Ice cream and beer are currently available at our Bleecker location only.

After-Hours Holiday Shopping Event! Wednesday, December 5th 9-10:30pm

After-Hours Holiday Shopping Event

Wednesday, December 5th, 9-10:30pm at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village, 254 Bleecker Street

Join us for an exclusive after-hours shopping event where you’ll

Taste new craft beers and ciders, holiday gifts, and our favorite seasonal cheeses.

Save 20% off all retail purchases, classes, mail order and catering orders for one night only.

Help New Yorkers hit by Hurricane Sandy. Ticket sales will be donated to Food Bank for NYC’s Sandy relief fund.

 

Admission is $10. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Food Bank for New York City’s Hurricane Sandy relief fund.

Space is limited! Signup online.

Questions?Email beth@murrayscheese.com.

Who’s Afraid of IPA’s?

Kevin Brooks is a cheesemonger and self-proclaimed beer geek. This Saturday he’ll be leading a seminar at the Craft Beer Festival in NYC. The beers in this post are all available at Murray’s on Bleecker Street.

IPAs are intimidating.

It’s true. Big, strong and intensely bitter, IPAs are the beer that lets hops shine. Stinking of citrus and pine, they explode on the palate and, if you’re not used to it, they can really scare you off. I remember once in my callow youth when I left most of a pint of Sierra Nevada sitting on the bar, possibly thinking, “that was gross, it probably went bad.” Oh foolish past me!

The granddaddy of IPAs was developed in Burton on Trent in the 1800s. At the time, the British were having difficulties delivering beer to colonies in India.  A long hot sea voyage wasn’t good for the beer, and it was arriving spoiled and useless. Knowing of hops’ preservative qualities and that a stronger beer would be better suited to the trip, brew masters upped the amount of hops they added to the beer, resulting in a strongly bitter brew. It was pale ale destined for India, so they called it India Pale Ale, or an IPA. The name stuck.

There is a massive range of flavors and aromas in the world of hops, and brewers continue to find new ways to unlock ever more bitter and intense brews. Dry-hopping, wet-hopping, hop backs, double hopping, continuous hopping, bar-side hop infusers, all working to wrest more flavor and aroma out of this humble flower. Some hops are added for bitterness, some for flavor, some for aroma, and different kinds of hops are added at different parts of the boil. It’s all very involved.

To ease into the world of hops, I’ve selected three beers that raise us up through levels of intensity. So starting off we have an English IPA, Coniston Brewery’s Bluebird Bitter. English IPAs are milder than their American cousins; they’re hopped less, and English hops are milder, more floral, and less assertive than American hops. They also have cute names like Fuggle. Bluebird stands as a very drinkable, well balanced ale with a sweet backbone, lovely floral aromas, and light bitterness. I like this one paired with a mellow English cheddar with a similarly silly name, Tickler Cheddar!

Next up was an emblematic American IPA, Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. American hops tend to be more towards the piney and citric side of things, and American brewers tend to throw a whole lot more of them into the kettle, making for much bigger, more hop forward beers. The West Coast IPA smells like fresh cut grapefruits in the middle of a pine forest, while the flavor is big and citrusy, but still balanced, with a lingering bitterness to let you know what you are drinking. It’s also a touch stronger, at 7.2% abv, so be warned. For cheese picks, this is amazing with the hops-coated Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower.

And now for the bitterest of the bitter, an Imperial IPA. Imperial is a bit of a buzzword in brewing these days, and generally just means “more”, as in “more hops, more booze, more flavor.” Southern Tier’s Unearthly Imperial IPA is no joke, and one of my favorites. Enormously bitter, but with a big malt backbone supporting it, making for an eye-watering, yet still drinkable beer. But Murray’s doesn’t have the standard Unearthly; we carry the Oak Aged Unearthly, which has spent the better part of a year chilling in an oak barrel.

What a difference a year (trapped in a barrel) makes! As beer ages, hop flavor and aroma is the first thing to fade. First the aromas fade to nothing, then the flavors dwindle, leaving behind just the characteristic bitterness. The Oak Aged Unearthly has mellowed out considerably. No piney, no citrus, just a big chewy bitterness that isn’t overwhelming. And when you take a big, balanced IPA and remove the hop character, you’re left with a big, sweet, malty beer. The level of caramelly sweetness is really surprising, and so is how well it pairs with some Mast Bros. Sea Salt chocolate. Who would have thought you could drink an IPA with dessert?

Are IPAs intimidating? Sure. But as with anything else, if you give it half a chance, you’ll find some real pleasant surprises in there.

We’ll Drink To That: Beer & Cheese Pairing Basics

Caitlin and Kevin have insatiable appetites for delicious cheese/beverage combinations and they are out to try them all. Today they share some basic tips for pairing beer and cheese, just in time for your St. Paddy’s Day festivities.

BEER ME

Beer and cheese. The perfect pairing? Potentially. Better than wine and cheese? Undeniably, and we aren’t just saying so because St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon. A wise man once told us that cheese and beer are the same: both are made from grass processed by animals for our (delicious) consumption, and both are ancient methods of preservation. If you’re unconvinced, try this mental exercise: Think of your favorite cheese, and the creamy rich texture that coats your mouth. Then imagine a glass of crisp, lightly effervescent,  golden-brown lager. There, now you get it.

BEST BETS: TIPS FOR CHOOSING BEER AND CHEESE 

When pairing cheese and beer, it’s important to stay away from super hoppy beers. You may love that eye-watering Double IPA, but it’ll overwhelm any cheese you want to munch with it. Stay closer to the malty side of the fence: Stouts, bocks, ambers and pilsners. Stouts and porters are particularly cooperative, as their roasty-toasty character works well with many cheeses.

On the cheese side, go for cheese that will stand up to your beer. Delicate cheeses are easily overwhelmed, so you wouldn’t pair these with anything too intense. Texture-forward cheeses, such as Fromager d’Affinois or a triple crème can get lost against even the mildest of beers. Instead, think alpine-style, washed-rinds, and thistle rennet options – in other words, stuff with serious flavor.

WHAT WE LOVED

Alpine cheese, such as Comte or Gruyere (cave-aged for sure), pairs well with a rich Stout. The roasted character of the stout, which can frequently have notes of chocolate or coffee, marries perfectly with the sweet, caramelly, cooked milk of an alpine cheese. This weekend we tried a few new beer and cheese combos. Our favorite pairing was Spring Brook Tarentaise with Two Brothers North-Wind Imperial Stout, the fruity American alpine mixed delightfully with the clean notes of the Stout. And for a truly seasonal treat, you can’t do much better than our new, limited edition Cavemaster Reserve Across the Pond. It’s washed in stout, so beer is its natural companion – get it while it lasts!

The best thing about beer is that it’s a wonderfully forgiving accompaniment, so DO try this at home. As long as you take care to match flavor intensity odds are you’ll have a delicious duo. Throw some cured meats, olives, nuts or dried fruit alongside, and dinner is served.

Caitlin Griffith is a cheesemonger at our Bleecker Street store, and in a few months she’ll boast a MA in Food Studies from NYU. Things she enjoys in excess: wine, radishes, list-making, garlic, and salt water.

Kevin Brooks is head monger at Bleecker Street and also shares his merchandising expertise in Murray’s Kroger outposts. His iPod is full of metal, and his brain is full of thoughts on beer, burritos, and Settlers of Catan.