Friday, 11 February 2011

Black and Blue

Everyone knows Barley wine goes with stilton right?

Well if you're a beer enthusiast maybe. But what about the potential of pairing stout or Imperial stouts with blue cheese? I have pondered on the subject myself and decided to conduct a little beer-cheese pairing experiment. Take three stout/imperial stouts and three blue cheesess, try each cheese with each beer to ultimately find which is the best combination.

As you may have guessed this event was done for research purposes in contribution to my next beer and cheese evening at the Bamburgh Castle Inn, Seahouses. All are welcome especially beer bloggers. I know what your going to say. You have something else on, a weekend away, yoga classes or you missus is giving birth. Well whatever it is, cancel it and call 01665 720 283 or email now to book a table for an evening of Beer and Cheese.

Anyway, back to the tasting. Here's how it went.

The Venue: Kitchen.

Attendees: Just me.
The occasion: It’s Thursday.

The Cheeses:

Blacksticks blue: A unique soft blue veined cheese from Lancashire. Rich and tangy with grassy earthy tones.

Old Mrs Bells. A Sheeps milk cheese. Creamy, slightly sweet, mid strength and a touch peppery.
Colton Basset stilton: Acidic, salty, poignant and rich. An old favourite.

The Beers:

Marble Stouter Port Stout 5.1%

Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout 7%

Durham Brewery Temptation 10%

Starting with the lowest abv beer I decided to try the Marble with the Blacksticks blue. The beer itself gave a good impression. Really forward and roasty with an assertive but not overpowering dark fruit and burnt grain character that's almost like chewing on black malt. With the cheese it's fantastic. Earthy tones and slight acidity really play on those roast grain notes and the cutting, bitter nature of the beer really contrasts the richness of the cheese.
Moving on to the Mrs Bells and this time I wasn't so lucky. The sweet creaminess of cheese seems to blunt the edgy character of the Marble and other than that they didn't seemed to do much for each other. Opposites of character don't always attract I suppose. On the other hand the Stilton went fairly well with this beer with its upfront acidity and salt meeting upfront grain bitterness. It might be 5.1% but it just about stands up to the cheese. The chemistry is there, but you get the impression this cheese really demands something more imperial.

Next I moved on to opening the Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout at 7%. A more sophisticated, well reputed, well recived classic Imperial stout that pours a thick black with a nice roasty, coffee bean aroma. With this one the Mrs Bell's blue was again just too mild and creamy for a stout and I was wrong in thinking it might work just because both products are from Yorkshire. It did however find some chemistry with Blacksticks Blue though I found the cheese was more rugged and original, and the stout more refined and fruity. It was worth a try. In the end the real partner for the Samuel Smiths was the Stilton. Power and acidity meet bitter grain, dark fruit and espresso coffee. A beer well suited for stilton. It’s a shame that by this point only a tiny amount of my 355ml bottle remained so I was a tad gutted.

Next up, Durham Temptation at 10% from up my neck of the woods. It's sure strong. The characteristics of this beer I can best describe as; inky, mollasses, burnt candy, esters, sharp fruits, alcoholic, heavy. Very unrefined and would have maybe done with more age on it and sadly I found little chemistry between this beer and the Mrs Bells Blue or Blacksticks.

With Stilton however it worked quite well with a nice contrast between alcohols and salty acidic cheese (a little reminiscent of the old port with stilton combo). The dark grain/coffee element also really harmonises with the pungency. The pairing is balanced, mostly contrasting, and although not as good as the Samuel Smiths pairing, pretty damn good.


The top three pairings were as follows;

1. Samuel Smiths-Stilton
2. Marble-Blacksticks
3. Temptation-Stilton

And Mrs Bell's may have been better more mature but overall I would never let it near an Imperial Stout (so remember, if you ever find yourself in the presence of both, maybe you're being offered both together, just say no!). So there you have it, Imperial Stout, a refreshing alternative to Barley wine for pairing with strong blue cheese.


Ghost Drinker said...

Love it! Imperial stout is my fav. style'o'beer and I can't help getting a big wedge of stilton out for a snifter partner. I tried the 'stouter stout' on tap, I thought it could have done with being a bit more 'stoutier' with such a namesake. I don't agree with the idea that such foods only go with such styles of beer, try everything with everything! see which works best.

Ed said...

Ah, this is about beer and cheese not Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult: