Quite frankly, it was a brilliant weekend despite the pouring rain and the cold. Cheese War, the event I got to host at Bacchus Wijnfestival in Amsterdamse Bos, has proven to be a great experience yet again. Over three days close to three hundred people enjoyed fine pairings of wine and beer to cheese.
We’ve done it a couple of times now: bring experts together and have them show their finest, present it to a group of foodies and have them decide which is the best combination. The ‘Cheese Angels’ of Amsterdam-based Abraham Kef, cheese merchants, selected four cheeses and challenged a wine merchant and a brewer to come up with their ideal companion to it. Wijnkoperij Okhuysen from Haarlem picked the challenge up for the second year, as did Fer Kok – cofounder and brew master of Amsterdam’s De Prael brewery. Although I admit I helped Fer pick the beer pairings, I tried to be the ‘objective ringmaster’, hosting the tasting sessions. The result over three days was a perfect draw – proving that both beer and wine go great with cheese.
The combinations were as follows: Tunnel de Chevre, a typical goat cheese once created for a luncheon to celebrate the opening of the Canal Tunnel, was paired to a 2014 Valençay Blanc (Domaine Olivier Garnier) from the same Loire region as the cheese. The selected beer was Mannenliefde Saison by Oedipus brewery. Both pairings aimed to ‘soften’ the cheese up a little, and use astringent elements to pair with the dryness. Over three sessions, the crowd preferred the wine pairing.
Highly uncommon, but unavoidable because of the cheeses that followed, we put a blue cheese as second: Bleu de
Wolvega, a creamy blue goat cheese from Friesland. It was paired to Milk Stout by Fer Kok’s own De Prael brewery and a 2013 Rotenberg 1ste Lage Riesling Spätlese (Nahe, Gut Hermannsberg). Particularly the beer managed to bring out an almost walnut-like element from the cheese, but both aimed to balance the blue with a touch of sweetness. Over three days, with the votes very close to each other, wine scraped a 2-1 victory away.
The third combination, however, was a clean sweep for beer: the cheese, a Boer Maarten Overjarig, was so lovingly embraced and cuddled by Tripel from – again – De Prael that it seemed a match made in heaven. However much as the 2014 Malbec-Tannat-Carmenère from Chili’s Cachapoal Valley (Viña Lagar de Bezana) was a find, it couldn’t quite achieve the same ‘natural’ fit as beer did.
The session closed with a monster of a cheese: Soumaintrain Fermier, a runny cheese from the Champagne region and closely related to red flora cheeses. This was my favorite cheese, and the most challenging yet most rewarding pairing. The 2012 Cuvée Classique – Monbazillac (Château Vari), an intensely sweet desert wine, went perfectly well with it, soothing it if you will. Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine though managed to bring out more votes though – it won two of the three sessions. Again, both pairings aimed for the same: use intense sweetness to balance the highly saline acidity of the cheese with. My guess is the more pronounced bitterness of Old Foghorn gave it the advantage.
In short: having a great and flavorful experience is easy. Pick four cheeses, choose four wines and beers (or ask for advice) and gather some friends around the table. Success guaranteed!