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David Holliday of Norfolk Brewhouse says cheers to cheese – with a beer
For those of you who read my musings on food and beer, you will know that I stand firmly in the camp of ‘if a certain food and drink pairing works for you’, then it works regardless of what any so called rules may suggest.
However, I am also of the opinion that a plethora of food writers, sommeliers and taste gurus do know their stuff and so should be listened to.
I once had the privilege of enjoying a cheese board at Morston Hall with internationally renowned food and drink writer Melissa Cole, who, rather than calling for the port, paired each cheese with a malt whisky.
It was an eye opener and demonstrated clearly to me that taste principles, rather than rules, can elevate your eating enjoyment. Incidentally, I have just remembered that on that same night Melissa gave me a tip to add orange juice to a bog-standard sherry. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – it will have you reaching for the Harveys Bristol Cream.
However, back to cheese, and having fun matching it with beer.
I confess my skills in this area are reliant more on tips I’ve picked up along the way than any formal training, but with Father’s Day coming up and Norfolk’s delis and farm shops bursting at the seams with great Norfolk cheeses let’s try a bit of pairing for you to share with your dad!
The principles which I tend to follow are simple:
The common touch: finding commonalities in food and drink pairings always helps you get off to a good start. For example, salted caramel chocolate works so well, with the saltiness perfectly complementing the sweetness of the caramel and the richness of the chocolate. So, have in your mind similar complementary flavours and try to think of them in relation to your cheese and beer combos.
Create contrast: use sweet things alongside acid, as in apple crumble and ice cream, and also contrast sweetness with spiciness and bitterness.
Keep the palate clean: too much of anything can overwhelm. Ice cream with a whipped cream chaser will just render your taste buds sweetly numb, unable to detect other delicate flavours until the sugar overload has passed. So, you need to keep the palate cleansed to enjoy all of the flavours to the max.
So, now we have some guidelines, let’s put that into practice by pairing three beers and cheeses:
1. Goat’s cheese – is a Norfolk favourite and we have some world beating examples in the county such as those by Fielding Cottage. Creamy though they are, these cheeses have a tasty and distinctive tartness and earthiness about them. For me, you’re looking for light, clean flavours, so Dewhopper lager or our Moon Gazer Pintail pale ale. The light floral notes of these beers complement the floral nature of the cheese. The relatively high carbonation and fizziness of these beers also keeps the palate nice and cleansed.
2. Binham Blue – an iconic Norfolk blue cheese with its distinctive ‘blue’ tastes combining with a creamy, nutty almost caramel flavour. There’s a lot going on here, and lots to think about. For me you need to match big flavours with big flavours. Our barley wine, Moon Gazer Bob’s Tale, is just the job. At 8.8% abv the high alcohol content will take care of cutting through the fat and keeping your palate cleansed, while the rich, caramel maltiness of the beer’s flavour matches up to the sweetness of the cheese while also creating that contrast. Two bold and complex stars that work perfectly together.
3. Norfolk Cheddar styles – when you choose one of the great aged, strong cheddar style cheeses they have developed an earthy nuttiness about them, and for me are just shouting out for a traditional bitter, on the darker side, such as Moon Gazer Nibbler. The bitterness of the beer is strong enough to cut though the strong flavours of the cheese while the maltiness and sweetness of the beer also complements. A match made for any ploughman’s!
So, there you have it. It may not be the not the most scientific of lessons but for me three great pairings, and a good way to introduce you into the adventure of matching beer and cheese.