This was the lineup for the most recent Masterpairings at Stone Brewing Co. with the one and only Dr. Bill. A man known for searching for extremes in the world of beer, food, and wine. While blue cheese and stouts are not an uncommon pairing, 7 in a row is...well, possibly coma-inducing.
When I first looked down at the plate, I was reminded of the movie, French Kiss, where Meg Ryan happily gorges herself on French Brie on a train ride through the countryside. Then suddenly, she starts to feel it, and screams in pain, "LACTOSE INTOLERANT!!!!!"
After a little giggle, and knowing my incredible tolerance for cheese (Come on, I managed a wine shop for years!), I gleefully dove into the treasure. After all, one man's misery is another man's happiness, right? And believe me, this was a group of happy little campers.
Tasting note: When assessing cheese, take your knife and get that hunk of goodness right up to your nose. I mean, really smell it. Just like a wine or beer, cheese can have incredible complexity, and you don't want to miss anything in your pairing!
Fourme D'Abert paired with Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast: This mild blue is injected with Vouvray, a Chenin Blanc sweet wine from the Loire Valley of France. It's creamy sweetness brings out the smokiness of the beer, previously undetected when drinking solo. Initially, you get lots of coffee and vanilla bean. The bitterness on the finish remains in both samplings, but the roastiness of the malt emerges strongly after the cheese.
Bleu D'Auvergne paired with Stone Smoked Porter, 5.9% ABV: Ohh, lordy, I LOVE this cheese. Always been a favorite of mine. It smells of hay, cow pasture, and horse stable. So wonderfully pungent. And what a wonderful pairing! The cheese brings out the nuttiness on the aroma and the sweetness of the porter. Yum.
Verde Capra paired with Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel, 9.5% ABV: This cheese is so creamy and delicious! And there's an underlying reason I have an instant love of it. It's made by a Taleggio producer, another cheese I adore in all of its stinky, pungent glory. The luscious creaminess is all there.
Now, THIS is interesting....I have had the Peche Mortel several times, and always find it a bit overwhelming in its coffee-ground-like forcefulness. It's incredibly strong in aroma and flavor. But this cheese brings out a bitter chocolate note I have NEVER gotten before. Wonderful! This beer is better with cheese than on its own. Remember that.
Roquefort Papillon paired with Port Brewing Older Viscosity, 12% ABV: Definitely a more intense cheese than its predecessor, this is a sweet, nutty, musty cheese with an interesting brightness I liken to lemon on the nose. Aha! It has a tangy lusciousness I enjoy, with a saltwater aspect on the finish.
Older Viscosity is a whopping 12% and whoa, it's intense. CLICK HERE to see my first experience with this beer last year. Caramel, molasses, dark dried fruit. What I love about this pairing is the emergence of the saltiness of the cheese against the sweet intensity of the Port brew. What I initially marked as a sweet cheese now becomes a saltier offering. Nice.
Gorgonzola Dolce paired with Djaevlebryg Gudelos, 8.9% ABV: Don't even ask me to pronounce this Danish beer for you. The extremely rare beer, meaning "Godless", was paired for an Atheist festival in Denmark. Ahem. Alrighty then.
FYI: Gorgonzola Dolce (dolce meaning sweet) is world's apart and above the crumbled stuff you get on salads. Do yourself a favor and try this deeeelicious cheese. Creamy, sweet, and smelling beautifully of hay and grass.
The beer is also sweet, with aromas and flavors of dark brown sugar, blackstrap molasses, and vanilla. This is a pairing of like and like, and it is absolutely lovely in its unapologetic decadence.
Valdeon paired with Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, 8.7% ABV: Hands down, the most intense cheese of the evening. Crazy intense, to be honest. If you have ever had Cabrales, it's similar. Leafy aroma and flavor from being wrapped in chesnut leaves, this is not a cheese for the faint of heart.
But I thoroughly enjoy the pairing, as the the wonderfully herbal notes of the Black IPA perfectly align with those leafy notes of the cheese. Wonderful! Expertly done.
Colston Basset Stilton paired with Struise Black Albert, 13 % ABV, AND De Molen Bommen & Granaten (Bombs & Grenades) 15.2% ABV: What a powerhouse ending to this incredible tasting! Stilton, a classic blue cheese, beautifully highlights the already present coffee and dark chocolate notes of the Black Albert. But here's the magic, it also brings into relief licorice and anise notes in the brew.
The De Molen has interesing woody notes, along with apricot, fruit stand, bamboo, and sweet honey notes. And yes, you read that right. It's 15.2% ABV. Discovery of the evening? It paired PERFECTLY with the Gorgonzola Dolce. I am talking sublime here folks.
Was I in a blue cheese coma after all of that? Kind of. So Dr. Bill had the solution....a sour. And out came the wonderfully flavorful, refreshing Hanssens Oude Kriek. Two words: Barnyard cherry. Meaning: hay, wet soil, and cherry. A combination I simply adore, and the ideal ending to the evening.
Thank you Dr. Bill for yet another deliciously impeccable Masterpairing.