Saison + Cheese

I was recently inspired by a fellow beer lover asking me on the girl+beer Facebook page about some cheese and Saison matching. I wrote back with a few suggestions and couldn’t get the idea out of my head so I did a little tasting of my own!

Beer + Cheese … Amazing!

Saisons are one of the harder styles to pin down to any definite specifications since they didn’t really have any to begin with. They were brewed by farm workers rather than professional brewers and, as such, the recipe consisted of whatever they had access to. Belonging to the family of Farmhouse Ales, Saisons; which is the French word for “season” were brewed in southern Belgium during the cooler months because the poor guys were still waiting for the invention of refrigeration. The story goes that Saisons had three purposes – first, to keep the more senior farm workers employed with things to do (i.e. make beer) when it was cold and farming was pretty quiet; second, to brew refreshing beer for the workers in the summer months and third to produce spent grain that the animals would happily munch away on. Generally speaking they are well carbonated, hoppy, dry and complex with different herbs and spices being incorporated into the mix.

This post was inspired by a fellow beer lover asking me on the girl+beer Facebook page for some cheese and Saison matching ideas and after tinkering around in my beer-adled mind, I came up with three suggestions:

  1. Vintage Cheddar
  2. Brie
  3. Manchego
The question played on my mind for a few days to the point where I just had to try it for myself. I’ve done a little Saison and cheese matching whilst hosting beer events at Five Bar (Perth) but not in depth and it’s not the sort of beer style you tend to have rolling around the fridge. However, since I just happened to have a bottle of Temple Saison chilled and ready to be consumed it seemed like the beer and cheese gods had spoken.
Temple Saison – beautifully well balanced, complex and delightful!
Melbourne, Victoria
6.0% abv | Style: Saison
After work I went to the local IGA and stared at the fridge, my options were a bit limited so I couldn’t get all the matches I had suggested, but that’s what I get for shopping outside normal working hours. I walked away with Harvey Vintage Cheddar, Mainland Camembert and some Hindmarsh Valley Chevre.
Mainland Special Reserve Camembert
New Zealand
The camembert, a soft cow’s milk cheese, was a lovely match in that the texture was soft, creamy and almost stuck to the tongue for the saison to wash over and bubble on top of. I’ve always loved camembert and especially the rind; it’s a very specific taste; earthy and almost like raw mushrooms. It’s texturally interesting with a distinctive flavour, much like saisons with their unique Belgian yeast flavours that are best described as, well, Belgian yeast flavours reflecting that same earthiness and complexity as camembert.
Hindmarsh Valley Chevre
South Australia
The chevre was an interesting match; it is a South Australian goat’s milk cheese that’s soft and almost hints at falling apart but it doesn’t (what a cheeky cheese!). It was a little sharp, a little bittersweet and overall has softer flavours than the Vintage Cheddar and Camembert; the dry wheat like characters in the Saison were similarly soft but distinctive. Perhaps this was more a case of soft, earthy and herbal flavours meeting together.
Harvey Fresh Vintage Cheddar
Western Australia
I think I enjoyed the Vintage Cheddar the most, its texture was ever so slight crumbly and left a thick coating on the tongue which the Saison grabbed hold of. That’s the beautiful thing about beer and cheese matching, the carbonation of the beer and the bitterness from the hops are great for cutting through cheese and opening up flavours. Sharp and fruity, rich and dry, I had initially worried the Vintage Cheddar would be too much for the Saison but I had underestimated this powerful but subtle Belgian ale. It has great hop character in terms of fruity aromas and flavours rather than any strong bitterness and this plays nicely with rich creamy cheddar.
As a style, Saisons touch on all the things I love about beer with interesting heritage, a mind-blowing match with food and when I’ve done tastings of it with people who’ve never tried it before, and never heard about it, they instantly fall in love. It seems to transcend the words “actually I’m not really a beer person” and it’s always fun to turn a sentence like that completely on its head.

Boogoop + Cheese

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery, Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good. Grab a chunk of your favourite blue cheese to match and enjoy!

Boogoop … funny name, awesome beer

Not only is Anthony Williams the front man for BEERTasters, a Perth outfit spreading the good beer word, but he’s also a good guy and as such dropped by on my last shift at Five Bar to give me a present. I love presents and I love beer so even better when the gift is beer! It was a bottle of the Mikkeller & Three Floyds collaboration brew, Boogoop. For some time it waited to be consumed, taking a prominent place on the bookshelf and being saved for the right occasion.

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery,  Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good.

The beer is a buckwheat wine-style ale which had me grabbing for my books to find out what exactly was buckwheat. First, it’s not a grain, it’s actually part of the herb family that’s Asian in origin; and secondly because buckwheat has grain-like qualities it’s another something for brewers to play with. From what I can gather Boogoop is using a certain amount of buckwheat in the mash (not sure how much but would love to know) and producing a barley wine styled ale. I am happy for anyone who’s more knowledgable on the topic to expand on this for me. At a throat-grabbing 10.4% abv and flavours that smack you around (but cuddle you after) it certainly felt like a barley wine style to me!

The special occasion my boyfriend and I waited for to enjoy the Boogoop ended up being any old weekday night when we really, really felt like a rich beer and some cheese. Of course it was going to have to be a suitably big and rich cheese so my boyfriend picked up a wedge of Blue Cow Blue Cheese.

We popped the bottle open and a gorgeous, hazy burnt caramel colour with a big white foam head filled the wine glass. I initially got a nose full of spices with plenty of IPA characteristics like grapefruit and floral notes and just a heck of a lot of hops. Ok, I thought to myself, smells like a spicy IPA. Wonder what it tastes like? I took a gulp and it’s certainly not a subtle beer and I’m certain it’s not supposed to be. Looking at the 3Floyds website subtle really isn’t their thing. Caramelised tones with warming alcohol and perhaps a hint of tropical fruits (passionfruit?), it’s rich and a little chewy which. When paired with blue cheese it made for a wonderful contrast in two different kinds of rich, the beer being the sort of sweet that is dark and sticks to the back of your mouth and the rich bitter and creamy blue cheese. Delightful! We also had a little camembert lying around and tried this with the beer too, resulting in another great matching of creamy sweet cheese and sticky sweet beer.

Cheese + Beer can be mind-blowingly, taste bud-dancing experience. Head to the shops, find a few different types of cheese and then hit your favourite craft beer bottleshop.

Here are a few links if you wanted some more cheese + beer reading …

And here is the menu for the beer + cheese event I co-hosted with Nick Bath from Blue Cow Cheese Co at Five Bar to support the 2011 Beaufort Street Festival:
Pilsner Urquell + Boerenkaas 15 Month Matured
Samuel Adams Lager + Montgomery’s Cheddar
Endeavour Pale Ale + Isle of Mull
St Peter’s Ruby Red + Blue Cow Swiss Gruyere
Coopers Vintage + Gutshofer Ziegenkase
Weihenstephaner Korbinian + Colombo Taleggio D.O.P
Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout + Mon Sire Cendre Royale