The cheeses were brought to us by Neal's Yard Dairy, a cheese vendor out of London, England. They carry over 60 cheeses, most from the United Kingdom and Ireland, but also some from Italy, France, Greece, and the United States. We were each presented a plate with two washed-rind cheeses, two cheddars, and four blues. They were paired off with four different beers. Here is how the pairing went:
- Goose Island Willow St. White Ale with Ogleshield and Ardrahan. The white ale was light and refreshing, with a touch of orange peel and coriander spice flavor. A fine pairing with the washed-rind cheeses. Ogleshield is made near Cadbury and has a slightly sweet taste and finish of orange peel. Ardrahan is made in Kanturk, southwest Ireland, and is full of smokey and nutty flavor.
- Goose Island Rye Pale Ale with two separate milk harvest Montgomery's Cheddars. The Rye P.A. had full bitter flavor with some rye spice. The difference in the harvests for the cheddars was apparent, as the first was grassy and light, while the second was sharper with a bit of horseradish taste. Depending upon when and where the livestock eats, there can be flavor differences in any cheese.
- Goose Island Matilda with Strathdon and Colston Bassett blue cheeses. The Matilda is a Belgian style pale ale with a full, dry, yeasty texture. I do not think this was the best pairing to go along with the strength of blue cheese- could have used a weightier, darker ale. The Strathdon was extremely flavor, with the distinct odor and flavor of corn. The Colston Bassett was very smooth and mild, and made with a vegetable rennet.
- Goose Island Fleur with Colston Bassett and Stichelton. The Fleur was made in the same style as the Matilda, but also infused with hibiscus, adding floral sweetness. This was a pretty beer, but, again, a beer I would not ideally pair with blue cheese. This Colston Bassett was made with animal rennet, and was easily my pick as the best blue of the day. It was not just salty and intensely flavorful, but also had a touch of smoked pork on the palate. The Stichelton was the only organic cheese we tasted, and was easily the most complex. It had the sharpness of cheddar, salty flavor of blue, and a tasty outside rind.
This was a great experience, and I look forward to more cheese pairings. I was also reintroduced to Goose Island's new local menu, comprised of awesome seasonal selections made mainly from local farm product and fresh seasonal components. If you make your way out to the brew pub, let me know which pairings you went with, and how they worked together!