Saturday, 10 December 2011
Old Dan with cheese
Last night was cheeseboard night. I love cheeseboard night. Getting the cheese out the fridge hours before serving, getting out the knives, chutneys, nuts, grapes and the rest of it all just adds to the experience. Another part of the fun is selecting the right beer to go with it. Thwaites Old Dan at 7.4% was described by fellow blogger Leigh as sweetish toffee-caramel accented beer that drinks a little like a beginners barley wine. In theory, I thought, the kind of beer could nicely contrast the sharp, earthy pungent flavours of various cheeses. So with hardly any other bottled beers left in the house this had to be the one.
The chosen cheeses included Doddingtons own Berwick Edge, a fruity gouda style cheese. Northumberland smoked, Dorset Red (also smoked), Brie de meaux. Everyone's local easy going favourite Northumberland Chevington and the rich, creamy old school classic French blue, Fourme d'ambert.
Old Dan is indeed a worthy beer. Chestnut amber in colour with fruity alcoholic notes and nutty, caramelised malt. Raisin and fruitcake dominate the finish with more alcohol warmth. With the Chevington and Brie it sails over the earthy grassy textures nicely, but with no fireworks. The two smoked cheeses don't really so much as clash but the smokiness cetainly overpowers.
Old Dan and Berwick Edge have all the right chemistry. Its fruity alcohols really pick up on the tangy fruity notes in the cheese whilst the beer's sweetness contrasts. The problem is at the end of it you can only really taste the cheese. But I can't help it, like many Doddingtons cheeses its bold and full flavoured. But it was the cheese I had never tried that came out top. Fourme d'ambert is a blue cheese that's both creamy, subtle and without the salty tang you would expect. It's rind has a fantastic texture.
Like an old world wine, Old Dan's status as a strong ale is restrained, balanced and easy going. In this case, put both beer and cheese together and they just meld to one. Each one lets the other speak. it might not be the best beer and cheese pairing ever, but probably the best anglo-French alliance since Concord. So in conclusion Thwaites Old Dan is a very versatile beer with many medium strength to mild cheeses and Fourme d'ambert straight rules.