Long thought to be the sole dominion of wine, fine cheese has a new dance partner: beer!
No, not the pallid, macro lagers you swill at ball games or that make you and your friends super-sexy (if you believe the advertising), but carefully constructed craft beer.
Spider Bite and Bellport Beer Company celebrated Long Island Craft Beer Week by pairing specially brewed beers with cheeses selected by Slates and Plates of West Islip.
First on deck, a chèvre (fancy for goat cheese) with single-origin honey (pollinated from one, seasonal flower) was ladled onto a rosemary cracker and paired with Bellport Beer’s Summer Ale; a beer brewed with honey malt and special hops that impart a slight note of melon.
I am normally not a fan of these summer beers, but the two complemented each other fantastically! The saltiness of the goat cheese offset the sweetness and thickness of the honey and also served to accent the subtler honey flavors of the beer.
It almost triggered a cascade of gluttony as I wanted to keep eating fistfuls of the cheese and crackers and drink gallons of the Summer Ale! But there was more to be had!
Spider Bite’s N≡N IPA (geekily named for the bonding of nitrogen and a nod to the specially nitrogen prepared hop dust used) was paired with ricotta salata (an Italian cheese made from sheep milk), schmeared with lemon curd atop an oatmeal cracker. This time, the saltiness of the cheese was balanced by the tartness of the lemon and the strong citrus notes of the IPA.
Next was Bellport’s dubbel- a fuller, richer beer with dark fruit tones (think fig and raisins) and a slightly more complex, spicier finish. This was paired with Beemster, an aged gouda, hit with a touch of caramel and saddled atop a banana chip. Weird? Maybe. But delicious!
Bready McBreadface (named jokingly in the spirit of Boaty McBoatface, a British nautical vessel that earned its moniker through a weird, internet contest) is a malty, English-style ale. Low in alcohol and low in hops (uncharacteristic of Spider Bite) it’s toastier, uh… bready, and with slight hints of honey (think of a liquid form of a graham cracker).
Paired with Winnimere (a French-type Munster), placed on a potato chip and topped with a crisp of bacon. I really can’t even begin to describe how good this was!
The pinnacle was the pairing of a truffle cheese perched atop a chocolate chip cookie with loose, dark chocolate nibs. Originally, The Finer Things, a collaboratively brewed chocolate-rye porter was the intended partner. But after careful scrutiny, both brewmasters determined that the beer was not yet ready for release. (It will be available in a week or so).
Instead, a black rye IPA was substituted and did not disappoint in the least. It was toasty, roasty and spicy and played the perfect foil to the sweetness and saltiness of the cheese and chocolates.
Alternatively, samples of Spider Bite’s award-winning Boris (a viscous, dark, imperial stout) were also poured and proved to excel as well.
Throughout the evening, Larry and Brian took turns introducing their beers, providing a back story as well as what one might expect to taste based on their recipes.
Nicole, from Slates and Plates did the same as she described each cheese. She also emphasized that all the ingredients were very common and easily found at your local grocer (banana chips in the snack section? Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies? Local honey?)
The evening was a total hit. Great cheese, with great beer and great friends. What seemed truly remarkable was how craft beer proved to be as versatile as pricey bottles of wine.
And with some ingenuity and attention to detail, one could easily create their own fine pairings. Long Island Craft Beer Week just started. What’s on your menu?