It’s not often an expert tells you something that confirms your belief in something. Like a famous music critic agreeing with you that, “Why yes, “25 or 6 to 4” is a kickin’ tune,” or a film aficionado defending your argument that Wayne’s World is in fact the most visionary work of our time.
Or a cheese expert from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board insisting that beer, not wine, is the best drink to pair with cheese. The carbonation in beer makes it a palate cleanser, and when you let the beer and cheese mingle in your mouth you get a whole new taste.
Even the craft beer and cheese industries are similar, both growing with grassroots, foodie-centric energy.
“What’s going on with artisan cheese is going on with artisan beer,” said Sara Hill, national educator for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Hill led a group of 20 enthusiastic students at the Savory Spoon Cooking School’s Beer & Cheese Pairing class through an evening of tasty exploration as we tried artisan cheeses alone, then paired with artisan beer.
Before the class I thought I had a pretty good handle on the whole “eating” thing, but I was wrong. Hill taught us how to deconstruct taste, which starts with your nose.
Next time you really want to taste something – try this: smell it and try to describe the aroma. Then look it over, think about what the food looks like and why it does. Take a bite, or sip, and think about how it feels on your tongue, and then finally how it tastes.
“How often do we sit and think about every bite we’re putting into our mouths?” Hill asked the group.
As we moved through the yummy pairs of cheeses and beers, I picked up a few tips for the next (first) time I host my own tasty get-together.
• Start with lighter flavors, and move on to the bolder ones.
• Let cheese warm up for at least an hour before serving it.
• Serve cheese with dried fruits and nuts, and beer of course.
• Re-wrap leftover cheese in something clean to keep it tasting good.
• Experiment with tastes, but a good rule of thumb is to pair lighter cheeses with lighter beers. We started with a gentle Gouda and fruity ale, then progressed to a strong blue cheese and a heavy stout.