Beer vs Wine Cheese Pairing – And the winner is…

Stinky cheeses, beers from around the world, and what I can only assume were expensive wines filled the dining room of Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar Tuesday night. The sixth showdown in the Beer vs. Wine series battled over cheese pairings. And it was just that: a fight to the very last drop (and bite). Six rounds ended in a tie; rounds 1, 3, and 5 went to wine; rounds 2, 4, and 6 went to beer. It came down to a final popular vote count. Beer jumped from the ropes with a swan dive pile driver, beating wine 202-153.

DSC_4936

The event, which sold out the 60-seat room, was scattered with industry experts. Saxon Brown explained what we were eating and why it tasted so damn good. Saxon is a cheese educator and a fine foods distributor. That means she knows her cheese.

Our competitors were Ryan Conklin and Doug Krenik. Ryan is a Certified Cicerone, runs the beer program at Euclid Hall, and has a killer mustache. Doug is a Master Sommelier and Director of Sales at Loosen Brothers wine importers, and an all around big drinking nice guy. As promised, he dropped an F-bomb within 3 minutes of kickoff.

DSC_4971

Doug Krenik, dropping knowledge

Ryan Conklin, master 'stache

 

DSC_4917

Voting implements

Each course was introduced by Saxon, who explained the origin of the cheese and other special tidbits. Ryan and Doug then squared off, each promoting their choice of pairing, explaining their decisions and talking trash to their competition. Guests had a few minutes to sip, taste, and talk about their choices, then voted for their chosen winner with a cork or cap. Right after Round 3, a surprise cheese was announced. Neither Doug nor Ryan knew what the cheese was, and they had to pick their poison from the selection available at Le Grand.

Round 6, the Schloss, had to be kept in the kitchen until we were ready to serve it. You could smell it from a few yards away.

Here’s the full lineup. Winners are in bold.

Round Wine Beer
1- Camembert Cleebourg Gewurztraminer Unibroue Blance de Chambly w/ Creme de Peche peach liquor
2- Humbolt Fog Hanna Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Temptation
3- Cave Aged Marisa Hidalgo ‘Napolean’ Amantillado Sherry Deschutes Black Butte Porter
4- Teahive Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Duvel
5- Caveman Blue Peter Lehmann Classic Muscat Great Divide Old Ruffian
6- Schloss Langlois Cremant de Loire Brut Bourgogne de Flanders

 

DSC_4922

We had a few writers in attendance, including Ryan the mustachioed competitor. Here are a few words:

Dave

Cheese is good
Beer is good
Wine is good

Beer wins

Jensen

  • Quote of the night: “The Schloss smells like sweaty taint sweat”
  • Smell and taste were very deceiving during the judging. Quite often a beer/wine would pair better by aroma and the other would pair by better by taste.
  • Single best pairing: Schloss and Bourgogne de Flanders
  • Worst pairing: Beer cocktail and Camembert
  • The real winner was the cheeses!
  • Overheard a lot of arguments about the winners of each round, exactly what I want at every one of these
  • Toughest pairing to pick a winner was the ‘lightning round’. Also the humboldt fog pairings were really close
  • I picked 3 beers and 3 wines, so a balanced event for sure
  • Best cheese: Marissa (aged sheep cheese)

 

DSC_4973

 

Ginger

Is there really anything better than wine and cheese? Well, apparently there is, and it’s BEER and cheese. Unfortunately, I can’t still say ‘I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like,’ because the Schloss (basically a Limburger cheese), was incredibly raunchy. However, I couldn’t have been more impressed with the quality of the cheeses we tasted, as well as the selection of wine and beer paired with the cheeses. Not to mention how delicious the pairings were! My favorite cheese was definitely the Humboldt Fog, but my favorite pairing would have been the Marisa (a manchego) with the Sherry – one of those wines I wouldn’t drink on its own, but paired with that cheese, it was to die for. I also really liked the Camembert that Ryan Conklin paired with his beer cocktail (Unibroue Blance de Chambly with Creme de Peche). While that one didn’t get the majority of beer-pairing votes, I loved how the pairing emphasized the creaminess of the cheese and made it taste like a peaches ‘n creme dessert. Can we do it again soon? Please?

 

DSC_4931

Jim

This was certainly not a snooty event by any means. The wine guy got bombed, there were profanities, and it was loud. It was difficult being at a table with so many beer geeks, because everyone seemed to want to like the beer, and a lot of us found ourselves feeling bad for voting for the wine. An example of this is the Russian River Temptation. An amazing beer on its own, but the wine (a Sauv Blanc that I am forgetting the name of right now) served in that round just brought something else to the table for me with that particular cheese (Humbolt Fog). Moldy towel meets funky cheese in heaven is how I would describe it, and even though the RR had the funkiness of the brett – wine trumped in that particular faceoff.

At that point, it was a realization that this is all about the combination – cheese taking on a new characteristic and likewise with the wine or beer. When you combine them, something different happens, and it’s fucking magical. With that said, if anything took away from the cheese, I would knock it. For instance, the last cheese – a descendant of Limburger (that they had to keep in the other room until the last round it was such a stink bomb!), there was a few people who didn’t like it so much. A beverage that whisks away the stank is a good thing for some, but I wanted it to linger. So, this was the deciding factor for me in the final round, which happened to be champagne.

I was split on a lot of these, and it made for a really fun discussion, especially on what beers we would have chosen individually to pair. I certainly have some ideas that I took home with me – cue evil laugh. Hooray cheese!

 

DSC_4946

PJ

This was our second event, and I think it was a huge success. I can’t wait to throw another one. The cheese was too good. I now have to find room in my budget to buy special cheeses. Thanks, American Cheese Society, for draining my future wallet on your award winning choices.

I think the best part, besides the amazing beer, wine, and cheese, was the conversations I overheard. People who are staunch oenophiles or loyal cerevisaphiles were arguing for the other. Yes, I looked those words up. I don’t think a single person voted for just beer or just wine. Yesterday at lunch, two days after the event, some coworkers were still discussing the merits of various rounds, and could easily rattle off the names of certain offerings. That, right there, was the intended outcome.

A massive thanks to the American Cheese Society, Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar, Ryan and Doug, everyone who donated beer, wine, and cheese, and especially to everyone who came. We’ll definitely have another one of these soon. What should we pair with next? Chocolate? Sushi? Beef Jerky? Leave us some of your ideas.

About PJ Hoberman


PJ likes beer. A lot. And whiskey. Gin. Wine. Cocktails. Um.. what were we talking about?