By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor
Photo by Morgan Dawson Photography
As you know by now, the NYCR team gathered a couple weeks ago for the 2010 Wines of the Year tasting. As a member of the editorial team, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the group this year.
In addition to the wine, several beers were put forth for a Beer of the Year tasting. It was a great assortment of flavors and styles which provided a perfect vehicle for some cheese pairings.
That's where I come in.
As I've mentioned before, I think that beer and cheese is a superior match to wine and cheese. Not that cheese and wine do not work well together, but I think that it's more challenging because the tannins, fruit and level of acidity provide more opportunity for profile clashes.
When the pairing is right, it absolutely sings. When it’s not, it can be pretty bad to say the least.
Beer is a great pairing for pretty much every style of cheese that is made.The effervescence generally cuts through the coating of fat left on your tongue allowing the flavors of the cheese and beer to mingle and balance. It was with that in mind that I decided to pick a few cheeses made in NY to see how they fared.
For the first cheese, I wanted something fresh and mild, but with more character than a simple chevre.
“Brebis Blanche” from 3-Corner Field Farm (pictured center) was an absolute treat and the star of the board for the evening. This fresh sheep’s milk cheese is a lactic cheese made very similar to a chevre, but much more dense and flavorful. Karen the cheesemaker has explained to me that you don’t get as much yield from sheep’s milk as you do from a goat or cow, but the density of the milk solids provide complexity in texture and richer flavor.
I loved this cheese with the Belgian-style sour my colleague, beer editor Julia Burke, chose as a finalist. The lemony tartness from the ale mixed with the soft and smooth paste from the cheese was a real hit for everyone.
“Hudson Red” from Twin Maple Farm in Ghent, NY (pictured right) is one of my favorite washed-rind cheeses. The pungent and sticky exterior is wonderfully balanced by a thick, creamy and surprisingly sweet paste. The mouth feel from this cheese is so unctuous at room temp that it was easily able to stand up to this year’s NYCR Beer of the Year -- The House Abbott 12 from Southampton Publick House.
“Kunik” from Nettle Meadow Goat Farm in Thurman, NY (pictured left) is considered by most (myself included) as one of the best cheeses that New York State has to offer. This triple cream with a soft and bloomy rind is made with a mixture of cow’s milk cream and goat’s milk, a mixture that takes the complexity and tanginess of goat’s milk and rounds it out with the rich and buttery taste from the cream. It paired well with most of the beers, particularly with a Saison-Brett that I happened to bring from Kansas City’ Boulevard Brewery.
Overall, I think everyone was surprised by the level of quality cheeses coming out of New York. There are many fine cheesemakers who make top-tier cheeses here, but they may not receive as much recognition as some of the other cheese making states in the country such as Vermont, California and Wisconsin.
As cheese making here in the states continues to grow and evolve, I look forward to seeing how this affects on us a local level here in New York state.