Wine and cheese is a pairing is viewed by many foodies as one of life’s great culinary pleasures. Less appreciated is the pairing of beer and cheese. This December, the Thirsties invited Lucy from the blog Life & Cheese and the intrepid brewers from The Garage Project, to join forces to do some serious match-making between their respective loves.
Behind closed doors at the Garage Project, Lucy curated an enticing cheese board featuring an alliance of cheesy goodness from France and England.
As we hungrily eyed up the boards of white gold, Phil from The Garage Project poured us a cheerful taster of Hāpi Daze, and Lucy gave us a run down on how to get the most out of our cheese and beer tasting during the evening. This included the command that bread was only to be consumed as palette cleanser and not as a cheese carrier. Her most memorable piece of advice, however, was on how to make a ‘cheesy highway’ in our mouths for the beer to slosh down.
As we earnestly concentrated on preparing our cheesy highways with a slice of Valançay, a nutty, fudgy raw goat cheese, Phil poured our first match-fit beer, Summer Sommer, the brewery’s ‘love child’ with iconic Norwegian craft brewery Nøgne Ø. As the honey coloured liquor hurtled down 15 different highways, Lucy told us that acidic goat cheeses are good at holding their ground against hoppy IPAs, and their lemony tang complements lightly spiced beers. The Valançay was fresh and springy – a little too young for some palettes. With the addition of a mouthful of Summer Sommer, however, it happily changed seasons. It may not have been love, but a pleasant summer day’s match was made.
Whereas most beer tastings move slowly from light to dark, Lucy threw out the rules with her second pairing. Next inline on the cheese board was a plump, luxurious and silky looking cheese. When cut, it revealed its triple cream gloopiness in all its glory. It’s name was Délice de Bourgogne – a femme fatale of cheese if there ever was one. It was the perfect cheese, Lucy decided to star alongside a dark glass of Aro Noir, the Garage Project’s ‘stout for all seasons’. Fittingly, as the glasses were poured, Wellington’s skies darkened and the asphalt outside the brewery became slick with rain.
I had initially been dubious about the pairing of the Délice and Noir – I was a fan of hard cheeses with stouts. Lucy assured us, however, that ‘the lactic sweetness of triple creams create magic with malty triples, stouts and porters’. We might not have been fully listening by then, however, as the magic had already begun to play out on the cheesy highway which had become a highway to heaven. Everyone fell head over heels for Délice’s seductive charms, and a near perfect match was made between an elegant French import and a beer from the wrong side of the valley.
Two cheeses down, and three to go, and already we had reached perfection. Had the evening peaked too soon? Having delved into the dark side we were back in the sun with Pils ‘n’ Thrills, a citrusy American hopped pilsener. Lucy paired this with Beaufort, a raw, alpine cheese from Savoie, France. Smooth, fruity, nutty and sweet, it is known as a ‘friendly’ cheese and one of France’s, and now Malice’s, all time favourites. True to form, it went with every beer we tried as ‘alpine cheeses have the body to stand up to malty porter and stouts and the sweetness to pair with ESB, lager or pilsners’. However, it was super good with Pils ‘n’ Thrills. Somehow, it made the beer’s citrusy nature, something I typically run a mile from, so much more palatable and enjoyable.
Sometime about now, three young, brazen Argentinian tourists hustled their way into the brewery, proffering an empty Garage Project bottle. They were leaving the next day, and were desperate to savour every drop they possibly could. Ian took pity on the damp trio, refilled their bottle and wished them well for their travels. Meanwhile, back on the cheeseboard we were crossing the channel to England, to a hard, crumbly cheddar and curmudgeonly looking blue.
The cheddar was made by the Keens, a family from Somerset who have been making cheddar since 1899. If you are travelling their way, you can purchase cheese directly from their farm in 25kg, 3kg and 1.5kg truckles (a truckle being a fancier and more fun way of saying wheel of cheese). We didn’t quite have a truckle, but we ate a fair amount of cheddar, for as Lucy decreed ‘its made for beer’. While IPAs complement its sharp kick, malty ESB, stouts and sweet barley wines lure out cheddar’s sweeter side. The Garage Project’s Ian matched this traditional cheese with the brewery’s futuristic Venusian Pale Ale, a zesty beer full of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaf and grapefruit peel and spiced with a touch of Venusian Spear Fungus for that extra special kick.
And then last, but never lest, there was the gnarly old blue – not a Stilton but a Stichelton from Nottinghamshire – a raw milk cheese Lucy had once flown across the world to try, but which she managed to buy more cheaply at Moore Wilson’s for our tasting. Our last cheese of the night was born over a glass of beer.
Legend has it that one evening way back in 2004, a cheese maker with the unlikely name of Joe Schneider was having a beer in a London pub with Randolph Hodgson, chairman of Neal’s Yard Dairy, the cheese-lover’s mecca.
‘Randolph asked, ‘You wanna do this raw-milk Stilton project?’ I said, ‘Yeah, great idea,’ and got another beer. But the idea sunk in – he’d planted it. Later on I thought, wow, could I really do that? It’s like the Holy Grail of cheesemaking, to bring back the quintessential English cheese and make it with raw milk on a small working farm.’
Lucy paired the Stichelton with a beer inspired by another great English tradition, Shakespeare. For the latter we have to thank Peter Gillespie’s sensationally literate and historically aware 10 year old daughter, Maddie, the beer’s creative brains (good parenting Pete). The father and daughter duo first brewed Burning Globe in 2013 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Globe Theatre fire of 1613, during which a man’s breeches caught fire – an incident ‘that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with a bottle of ale.’
As the Globe had been made from oak, Maddie insisted that the beer was brewed with oak-smoked wheat malt. (You can read Maddie’s account here).
Brewed only once a year, Burning Globe is simply too delicious to waste on putting out a fire. Indeed, The Little One pronounced Burning Globe as evening’s stand-out, declaring that she had found her one true Garage Project Beer. In regards to a match for the old blue, however, she thought the Stichelton ‘really hummed’ with the Aro Noir and VPA.
While Burning Globe was much admired all round, and it was agreed that many of the cheeses could be happily eaten with many of the beers, the stand out match for the evening was by total agreement the voluptuous Délice de Bourgogne with a glass of slick Aro Noir – cheese and beer perfection.
With only the nubbins left, the evening came to a close, and we made our way home clutching our cheesy beer babies. Thankfully the rain had stopped.
A big thanks to Lucy and Kate from Life & Cheese and to Phil and Ian from the Garage Project for hosting us. It was a great night, full delicious beer and cheese, passion, history and tall tales. We now feel qualified to make cheesy highways on our own.
All of the cheeses described above, with the exception of the Stichelton, can be purchased from Wellington’s Francophile haven, Le Marche Français. The beers of course can be purchased directly from the Garage Project’s cellar door at 68 Aro Street, Wellington. The delicious bread, which must also get a mention, was baked by Acme.
By The Lady Piemaker