October 17, 2013 by odbrie
So here we go with round 2 of pairing! Sours and Blues. Originally, the pairing was supposed to have only one beer, but the Rodenbach Grand Cru didn’t pair well with a few of the cheese and I happen to have a Duchesse De Bourgogne in the mini fridge so we drank two!
First the cheeses. Going from 1 o’clock and then counter-clockwise (stupid, I know. This is how my brain may work) Black River Blue, then Caveman Blue, and finally Point Reyes Bay Blue. We had Black River Blue at the house. It’s a standard, mild, everyday blue from North Hendren Cheese Co-op in Wisconsin. SCONNIE! Pasteurized, cow, aged 2-4 months. Second is the Caveman Blue from Rogue Creamery. Rogue is a creamery from Central Point, Oregon. It’s a sweet, creamy cheese with a natural rind. It has caramel and vanilla undertones but still has a strong blue flavor. Raw cow’s milk and cave aged for at least 6 months. Third, Bay Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead. Off the bat it remind me (and most!) of Stilton. It’s great. I was able to taste it month ago at the Fork (the restaurant/event room at Point Reyes Farmstead). Man, is it fantastic. It has a sweet, mellow flavor with a fudgy texture. It has earthy, nutty, and salty notes. It’s pasteurized cow’s milk, natural rind, aged over 90 days.
Now to the beer, we have two options this time:
A little bit about each beer. Rodenbach Grand Cru is from Brouwerij Rodenbach in Belgium. It’s a sour red that is available year round. The Grand Cru is a blend of 1/3 young beer and 2/3 of beer aged 2 years in large oak vats. The proportion of oak matured beer contributes to its fruity taste and complexity compared to its younger counterpart. The beer has a pretty clear pour with a nice deep red color. There is a high sweetness of cherry on the first sip but then it becomes more tart. Second, we have the Duchesses de Bourgogne, a Flanders Red Ale. This is a blend of 8 and 18 months old beers following the careful maturation in oak casks. It also pours a deep red/purple color, but as you can see by the picture it’s a bit more transparent the Rodenbach. It has a subtle, sweet flavor with a nice tart finish. Both of these beers are slightly higher in carbonation, which will be good in this tasting because the blues that I picked are quite dense. The carbonation in the beer will help cleanse the fattiness of the cheese off the tongue. Both of these sours are great to drink when first breaking into the sour world.
Let’s get tasting! First we are going to start with the Black River Blue. and the Rodenbach. The Black River Blue is super mild and honestly, the Rodenbach completely wiped the flavor of the cheese away. Same goes with the Duchesses. Honestly, this cheese is not meant to be paired with such sours. I would use this particular cheese in cooking rather than a cheese plate.
Second, the Caveman Blue. This cheese is sweet and fruity for a blue. At first, we all agreed that the Caveman Blue went splendid with the Rodenbach. The pairing of the sour to the blue brought out the sweeter taste in the cheese. However, I found that the beer caused a bit of a lingering bitter finish that the cheese alone did not have. When I had the cheese with the Duchesses all the sweetness, plus a hint of vanilla, was complimented but the bitter finished dissipated. I think overall I thought the Duchesse de Bourgogne was a better pair. What I did like is that both beers washed away the denseness of the cheese. Both brought out the complex flavors of the blue, but one just paired better.
The Bay Blue was last. This particular wheel was not as strong as I had remembered but it was still delicious. We tried the Rodenbach first and unfortunately it did not pair with the Bay Blue. It overpowered the cheese and you could not even taste all the deliciousness of the cheese. The Bay Blue does have sweetness to it, but it also has a more nutty, earthy flavor like a Stilton. The nutty, earthy flavor was not brought out by the sour. When we tried it with the Duchesses the pairing was a bit better, but nothing exceptional. I would like to try this cheese with a milk stout because they are sweeter, but with a bit of a roasty characteristic.
After all was said and done, we decided the Caveman Blue went best with the Duchesses. Determined to have a perfect pairing with the Rodenbach, my roommate suggested trying the crumbled Gorgonzola in the fridge. Inspired, I grabbed the blue and a bit of locally sourced honey we had purchased. This honey is amazing because it is slightly sweet with underlying fennel flavors. The Rodenbach brought out the sweet flavors in the Gorgonzola as well as inspired the hint of fennel in the honey to approach the surface. This lingering fennel and honey flavor cut the slight bitter finish on the beer.
Top winner with each beer:
Rodenbach Grand Cru: Gorgonzola and Honey
Duchesses de Bourgogne: Caveman Blue