Monday, July 30, 2007

Harpoon IPA Cheddar Cheese

Pairing craft beer with food has become almost de rigueur. Some of the foremost advocates of beer are predicting that it will be undergo a revolution similar to the one that transformed wine a few decades ago. No less an authority than Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver says "beer is a far better accompaniment to cheese," and compares matching beer with cheese to a "hug" while calling wine and cheese pairings a mere "handshake." If you're scoring at home, craft beer (1.) is in the midst of a revolution, (2.) pairs nicely with food, and (3.) may go better with cheese than wine does. But how about a cheese made with beer?


Two fine Vermont companies, Harpoon Brewery (they purchased the former Catamount Brewery in Windsor in 2000, in addition to their original Boston location) and Cabot Creamery, headquartered in Montpelier, have combined forces to help us answer this important question. We've long thought of Cabot in connection with beer (even before it became cool) because there is a Cabot production facility located right next to the Otter Creek brewery in Middlebury, VT. Cabot must feel pretty strongly about combining beer and cheese as well, as their web site has a page dedicated to comparing the similarities of their cheeses share with craft beers and some basic pairing suggestions. They even offer a Beer and Cheddar brochure! We especially enjoyed this bit:

Much like aging a premium cheese, or producing a fine wine, brewing a quality beer with a distinct personality is a craft unto itself. Today, there is no excuse for enduring bland, processed cheese or drinking mass-produced, watered-down beer. From rich dark stouts to refreshing pale ales, from spicy to fruity, smoky to herbal, somewhere out there is a brew for every taste and every occasion. To enhance the experience, Cabot offers a wide selection of tasty, all-natural cheeses to complement the new breed of American ales and lagers.

Amen!

The IPA cheddar acquitted itself nicely as part of a grilled ham and cheese panini (Black Forest ham, cheese, red onion, and our own blend of Whalen's spicy horseradish sauce combined with yellow mustard, on local Mastoriani Bros. multi-grain bread, which gets perfectly crispy on a panini press). Accompanied by a pint from a fresh growler of spicy Mendocino White Hawk IPA from Olde Saratoga brewery, it made for a better-than-decent quick meal.

A plate of sliced IPA cheddar and pretzel crisps paired quite nicely with a Cascazilla "Monstrously Hoppy" Red from Ithaca Beer Co. It's hard to screw up beer and cheese, and maybe it's just a mental thing, but this cheese does seem to go almost perfectly with a well-hopped beer. Harpoon IPA is not something that we typically keep on hand, but at some point we're going to have to try that pairing as well.

Harpoon IPA Cheddar is a bit spicier than the norm, presumably due to the flavouring process. The cheese is cut into blocks and then soaked in Harpoon IPA for 24 hours. It is then drained, packaged, and stored at 45º F for four weeks. In addition to the spiciness, it is quite creamy, and not overly sharp. We don't necessarily detect it, but Lady Bojangles swears it tastes a lot like beer. Overall, it's an excellent cheese, and fairly unique. It also makes one wonder - is this soaking beer in cheese thing something that we could try at home? It does sound fairly foolproof.

Cabot calls this effort their most innovative to date. You can read the press release here.

3 comments:

Willie Moe said...

How 'bout a black and bleu cheese? I'm thinking some fine Danish Bleu Cheese soaked in a Stone Smoked Porter. Eh? Eh?

Bojangles said...

We're always open to experimentation, you know that!

Bill said...

Yeah, except in college, I needed the beer to get you to experiment. Now it's the other way around, YEL-LOOOOO!!!!