On the first truly sunny Sunday in Seattle, a group of serious beer lovers forsake the sun to answer the question: What is the best beer and cheese pairing? The unanimous choice was…

Beer SessionBefore we get to the winner, what was compelling enough to get this group of beer lovers off their bicycles and down from their hikes to come inside for beer and cheese? The Brew Site publishes sessions, with different hosts selecting a beer topic for the first Friday of the month. For May 2011, the Brookstone Beer Bulletin threw down the gauntlet for the Great Online Beer and Cheese Off.  I loved the topic and grabbed the opportunity to share Washington beer and cheese with friends. The idea quickly gathered enthusiasm and outgrew the capacity of my  small house.   We decided to hold the great beer and cheese challenge at Wine World Warehouse and open the challenge to international beers, retaining a focus on Washington brews. Ed and I provided a number of Washington beers that we purchased at Fremont Brewing and Wine World:

  • Dick’s Brewing Barley Wine and Grand Cru
  • Foggy Noggin Anniversary Ale
  • Fremont Brewery Abominable, Solstice and Wheat growlers
  • Pike Brewing Double IPA and Old Bawdy Barley Wine
  • Silver City Brewing Imperial Stout and Scrooged
  • Two Beers IPA

I also added a bottle of Duchesse de Bourgogne from Wine World into the mix. (I know it isn’t a Washington beer, you can beat me up about it later if you don’t love that Flemish red ale with beer with cheese.)

beer challenge

Around the World Beer Challenge

In addition to the beers that Ed and I supplied, each guest brought a bottle or two, or a growler of beer from all over the world:  ranging from French Saisons to quadruple belgian ales from the Netherlands to Canadian beers with a bit of maple to another growler from Fremont Brewing down the street.

The “official” cheese challenge included three cheeses but one of them was a Wisconsin cheddar that was unavailable in Washington. We substituted that with a New York aged cheddar and at Chef Lenny’s recommendation, we added two additional cheeses from Wine World: a Manchego and a French Comté.

Our cheese line up included:

Maytag Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese

  • Humboldt Fog
  • Manchego
  • French Comté
  • New York aged Cheddar
  • Maytag Blue

Best Beer and Cheese pairing:

Humboldt Fog and Fremont Abominable Winter Ale

Fremont Abominable Winter Ale and Humboldt Fog

Fremont Brewery 2010 Abominable Winter Ale + Humboldt Fog

For every single person that tasted this delicious beer and cheese pairing, this was the hands down, no arguing favorite of the group. (We ran out of this great Washington beer before the last of the bicyclists made it in.)

This seductive winter ale has more than a touch of bourbon in it that was a great complement to the slightly creamy Humboldt Fog cheese. Humboldt Fog is frequently mistaken as a blue cheese but it is a soft goat cheese. It is edible coating of vegetable ash that gives it the distinctive lines in the center and under the rind.  This cheese is smooth with a bit of twang that was a great complement to the intoxicating smoothness and complexity of this winter ale.

Best Overall Cheese for Beer Pairing:

French Comté

This cheese complimented almost every beer that it was paired with.  The comté cheese wasn’t always the best pairing but it never truly detracted from any of the beers.Some of the other cheeses wiped the flavor out or made the beers very bitter.

Best Overall Beer for Cheese Pairing:

Duchesse de Bourgogne

Meeting the Duchesse for the first time

Duchesse de Bourgogne

I took a little heat for purchasing this beer but I am so glad that I did!  One of the highlights of the afternoon was watching people falling in love with this beer and how it paired so great with the cheeses. George needed to step away from the bar to one of the VIP lounge club chairs, to savor his first acquaintance with the Duchesse de Bourgogne.

It wasn’t a perfect match with the potency of the Maytag Blue cheese but this Flemish sour ale excelled with all of the other the other cheeses.

Best Beer paired with Humboldt Fog

Fremont Brewery 2010 Abominable Winter Ale with Duchesse de Bourgogne a strong second. This goat cheese was rocking those two beers.

Best Beer paired with Maytag Blue

Pike Brewing 2009 Old Bawdy Barley Wine

This was a late discovery into the afternoon. We were working hard to find beer pairing with the Maytag cheese to make us sit up and take notice when Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, Pike Brewing, came in from their tandem bicycle adventure. Rose Ann was delighted to see a 2009 Old Bawdy Barley Wine available. That extra time in the bottle tamed the more aggressive hop edge, preventing it from battling with the bold blue cheese. The Pike Old Bawdy paired better with the Maytag blue than the other barley wines we had open because of that.

Best Beers paired with Manchego

We didn’t get a consensus on a single best beer for the Manchego cheese as a group but several people enjoyed the Fremont Brewing Solstice with this cheese as well as the Bière de Mars and Fremont Wheat Beer.

Best Beer paired with Comté

The nuttiness of this cheese brought out the nuttiness of the Granville Island Maple Cream Ale. It was good with most of the beers but I particularly remember it with the Duchesse, the Dick’s Grand Cru, Foggy Noggin Anniversary Ale and the Quadrupel Belgian.

Best Beer paired with Aged Cheddar

The cheddar was another cheese in which we couldn’t reach a consensus. Pair that cheddar cheese with a bit of mango chutney and it was fantastic with the Foggy Noggin Anniversary Ale, Silver City Scrooged, the Belgian Quadrupel, Iron Horse Quilter’s Irish death etc any beer that emphasized some malty sweetness. We found this particular style of cheddar a bit more challenging on it’s own than we anticipated. It still paired with the stouts but not at the level I was hoping for.

Thank you

We wish to thank Wine World for providing the VIP Lounge for this delicious event and a special thank you to Chef Lenny Rede for assisting us with the cheese plates. A huge thank you to the dedicated beer fans that joined us inside on such a sunny day. We had a blast and hope that you did as well.