October 8, 2013 by odbrie
Alright, I have been a busy lady in the last 6 months and have not posted. At all. Lame. But, I am back. I recently moved to the glorious West Oakland and have found roommates who actually love food, drinks, and most important CHEESE! Weekly, we will start having cheese and beer pairings at the house. Some will work out some will not. This its total trial and error. I am picking beer based on one cheese (see my post from September ’12 One Beer One Cheese). If I have similar cheese in my cheese drawer the pairing will consist of mulitiple cheeses. If I do not one cheese will do. This time the basis was Alpha Tolman.
Quick facts about Alpha Tolman. It’s from the Cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, VT. Like many Jasper Hill cheeses, it is named after a historical figure in Vermont. Alpha Tolman was a turn of the century philanthropic dairy farmer in Greensboro. It’s an Alpine- style cheese (cooked and pressed curds) created out their cheese makin’ outpost Food Venture Center. It’s a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged 8-12 months, and comes in a gorgeous 20lb wheel. It has a smooth and rich mouth feel with nutty, meaty flavor notes. It really hits on that umami flavor that so many people love. If you are at a store or cheese shop pick it up. Seriously, look at the rind and the paste:
Ok so enough about the cheese. Let’s talk quickly about the other two cheese. I had some Kaltbach Gruyere reserve and Comté in the fridge so I figured we’d do a tasting with all three. TRIPLE THREAT! It’s 3 Alpine cheeses vs one beer. And that beer? CELEBRATOR!
Celebrator is from Ayinger Brewery in Germany and is a classic Doppelbock. It’s always available and is inexpensive. Plus, it’s a great example of a classic Doppelbock. It’s a deep dark red almost black looking. It also has a good amount of caramel color head. It smells of sweet(SWEET!) raisins, molasses, and chocolate. Sweet malt flavor hits the palate immediately with a nice bitter finish. It’s rich and creamy like a fresh little cup of espresso. The mouthfeel is medium which is deceiving because I thought it would be thicker due to the color. Overall, a perfect Doppelbock.
Now the tasting. We tried the cheeses in the following order: Alpha Tolman, Gruyere, and then Comté. I did make a cheesemonger 101 mistake and I didn’t taste the cheese before plating. You see, I thought I had bought both the Gruyere and Comté at my Whole Foods so I knew the Comté was a bit stronger (having cut both wheels the day before). However, I was wrong. The Gruyere was from Berkeley Bowl and was stronger. Oops! Next time this won’t happen.
So here are the results. The Celebrator totally overpowered the Alpha Tolman. The nutty, meatiness in the cheese was completely lost when mixed with the beer. The beer did not do this beautiful cheese any justice! The second taste, the Gruyere, wasn’t that great either. This Gruyere was way too overpowering. It made the finish on the beer too bitter and the sweet raisin and caramel flavors disappeared. The strong flavor of the Gruyere and the sweetness of the beer were like two negative charges. They bounced off each other quickly because they did not belong together. Now for the perfect pairing. The Comté and the Celebrator (TA DA!). It seemed like the semi-strong Comté complimented the beer best. The beer brought out the nutty, meaty flavors in the cheese and the cheese brought out the rich caramel and molasses in the beer. This combo was like a positive and negative charge. They bonded together to bring out the best flavors in each. There was nothing off at all and the flavors balanced out. I liked how the Comté dulled a bit of the sweetness in the Celebrator and made the mouthfeel richer and creamier. I found the perfect pairing for Celebrator!
To end the tasting we pulled out a Downtown Brown Ale and Cinnamon mustard I had just made and tasted it with the cheeses and beer. Luckily, because Alpine cheeses are meaty, mustard is a completely agreeable accompaniment. Also, the cinnamon(and other secret spices) in the mustard complimented the Celebrator. It was delightful. Just wish the mustard would have come out earlier in the tasting. It was a great tasting all around.
Now, to find that perfect beer for Alpha Tolman. Guess I have to keep eating that cheese and drinking beer with it…..