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Dear PoP – Cheese and Beer Advice Needed

by Prince Of Petworth February 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm 26 Comments

bendy straw and beer
Photo by PoPville flickr user annejuliet

“Dear PoP,

Some friends and I are renting a cabin over President’s Day weekend and each of us will be responsible for preparing a meal. Since I’m not much of a chef, a dear friend of mine offered to prepare a meal on my behalf, but I’d still like to contribute something to the weekend’s food festivities. After all, food is a big part of a weekend with no internet service, no cable television and few diversions.

I’m thinking of holding a cheese and beer tasting, since I’ll be in the midst of beer lovers. I’ve done some online research and am feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the information, since I’m neither a beer or cheese buff. Does anyone out there have advice on specific pairings that I can find locally? Should I choose beers that I know this crowd will like and then pair them with cheese or the other way around? Are there shops in the area that may be able to help? Restaurants that offer such pairings that I could check out beforehand?”

I know there are lots of beer lovers out in PoPville so I’m equally eager to hear your suggestions as I also love cheese…

  • Zee

    Nothing goes down like Easy Cheese and Miller High Life.

  • Alicia

    I’m interested in exactly the same thing. I’ve done very little research, but I did visit Cheesetique in Alexandria a few weeks ago, and there’s a guy that works behind the counter who enjoys cheese and beer together and made some really good suggestions. You should definitely visit them to see what they would suggest. You might also try Cork market, but I’m not sure how much they know about beer and cheese pairings.

  • anon

    Definitely check out Cowgirl Creamery downtown, on F btw. 9th and 10th. It’s not cheap, but they have a great selection and have cheesemongers who will provide you with personalized service (and will give you tastes of the cheese to help you decide). I’m not sure if they sell beer there, but they do sell wine and I’m sure they would have some great ideas.

  • 12

    I second Cowgirl! One of my favorite stores EVER!

  • Prince Of Petworth
  • Cheese Please

    Yes, Cowgirl sells beer. Definitely give them a try. And they have that nifty $20 bag with three cheeses and a knife if you’re on a budget.

    I think AM Wine Shoppe, the new spot on 18th was going to have beer as well, so try them too. It probably all depends on your location.

  • MJ

    I suggest Calvert Woodley Liquor on Conn. Ave in Van Ness. The store has a full-service La Cheeserie which offers over 250 cheeses with EXPERT STAFF that been in the business for many years.

    I think its the best in the city!!

  • on ?C

    I suggest Calvert Woodley Liquior on Conn Ave at Vann Ness. They have a full-service La Cheeserie offers over 250 cheeses, a wide selection of deli meats and an EXPERT STAFF!!!

  • Anonymous

    The cheese folks inside Eastern Market do good work.

  • I’ll continue beating the Cowgirl drum, and agree with Cheesetique. If you’re crossing the river, I’d also try Grape + Bean in Old Town. They have a small (but excellent) selection of both cheeses and beers, but they’re excellent at pairing them. If you find yourself on the Hill, P&C Market also has a small but quality selection of both beers and cheeses and they’ll happily help you make some selections.

    Balducci’s is also a good option if you find yourself in that direction.

  • Mal

    I think that you should choose the beer that you know the group would like, and then go into Cowgirl Creamery or wherever and ask them to pair cheese to that beer. I am personally more open minded about cheese than beer – you know what you like in a beer and that is /usually/ it.

    In my opinion.. I’d definitely do:

    -Lindeman’s Framboise paired with a white stilton with cherries
    -Bell’s Oberon paired with a camembert
    -Rogue Dead Guy with a cheddar


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the advice everyone and thanks for posting Pop!

    Drinking game recommendations are welcome, too. . .

    • Mal

      Catchphrase is the greatest drinking game ever (not a drinking game per se, but really fun to play while drinking!) – you do need the little device (http://www.hasbrotoyshop.com/ProductsByBrand.htm?BR=629&ST=SO&ID=9429&PG=1), but it’s so worth it. We bring it to the bar with us if we have a big group, and it always brings everyone together (especially good if the whole group isn’t familiar with everyone).

  • Tim

    I throw in my support for Cowgirl Creamery as well.

    Chimay (the Trappist Beer Brewery) makes a cheese as well, which I have never tried, but would probably go very well with Chimay or any other Belgian beer. Dont know if Cowgirl caries it, but I have seen it at Balduccis in Bethesda. I have had good luck pairing beers with nutty tasting cheeses. definately go for both cheese and beer with a lot of flavor. dont go get a mild cheddar and a pilsner. its all about the bleus and other strong cheeses.

  • Tim

    I did a beer and cheese pairing that was very well received with Stilton Bleu cheese, Maple smoked cheddar, Chevrot goat cheese, and Oka cheese with Spaights old dark ale from New Zealand (I had just been there on vacation and brought it back). I also threw in some honey comb and fig preserves.

  • Anonnymouse

    May I suggest Fondue? It’s retro and perfect for a weekend at a cabin. Drink with your favorite beer. Also it’s super easy: http://www.chow.com/recipes/11503

  • Emily

    mmmm! A Rauchbier (smoked beer) will go nicely with a smoked cheese. A wheat beer with goat cheese is awesome too. Sharp cheddar with just about any beer is good.
    I’d also suggest bringing a framboise, cider or a 4-pack of Unibroue’s Ephemere in case there’s a non-beer fan around. Any of those would be great with a not-too-sharp cheese.
    And if you’re too cheap for Cheesetique or Cowgirl, Trader Joe’s (in DC or VA) will sell you some delicious beers & cheeses for less $$. Depending on the store they might let you sample some stuff too….
    Oh, and if you feel like venturing to VA, Rick’s Wine & Gourmet on Duke St in Alexandria has great beer & cheese and the staff know their stuff on both. Sadly not transit accessible.

  • BeerDude

    Don’t forget Miller MGD 64 and Kraft Fat-Free for those calorie counters.

  • It’s kind of hard to go wrong pairing beer and cheese. The general rule for a cheese plate is to have something soft and mild, something firm and sharp, and something pungent. One easy way to pull that off:

    1. Brie or Camembert (import only — the domestic varieties aren’t good IME), or domestic Farmer’s cheese;
    2. Manchego, Parrano, or an interesting Cheddar (or something similar like Wensleydale);
    3. Blue (domestic like Maytag or Point Reyes, or imports like Roquefort, Stilton, or Cambozola — Gorgonzola can get too funky for some people).

    In my experience providing cheese selections for other parties, the general category of “cheese with stuff in it” is pretty divisive, with some people going crazy for, say, Stilton with cranberries, and others not liking it at all. Also, you might be tempted to get a beer cheese (Cahill’s porter or the Chimay cheese, to name two). I wouldn’t bother. Let the cheese be cheese and the beer be beer. If you do more than three cheeses, the additional ones could branch out into something like a Chèvre (soft goat cheese), maybe one with stuff in it or a semi-soft cheese (Havarti with dill, for example, and Calvert-Woodley had a Havarti with jalapeño the last time I was there), or a washed-rind cheese (ask at the cheese counter for a recommendation there).

    As for beers, follow the same sort of contrast idea, with, say, an ale (American microbrew or a British style), a porter or stout, and a Belgian Trappist ale like Chimay or Duval. You don’t have to worry much about pairing specific beers with cheeses in my experience, although certain combinations will bring out particular characteristics of both the beer and the cheese.

    • Anonymous

      But beware many of the French bries and camemberts. Their flavors can be MUCH stronger than domestic versions, and even the more widely available French-made ones. Some of the more “authentic” French versions will taste like dirt to the American pallette. No joke.

      As for beer, can’t go wrong with Dogfish Head mmmmmmm.

      • That’s not dirt, it’s terroir.

      • saf

        “can’t go wrong with Dogfish Head ”

        Sure you can. Far too many of their beers are nothing but hops.

        Yes, they make some great beers, but they also make some truly boring hops hops hops and more hops, oh, and few more hops beers.

  • Isobel

    D’vines is carrying a few amazing belgian-style beers from Chicago’s Goose Island brewery: Matilda and Pere Jacques. They’re a bit pricey – $13 for a 4 pack – but so delicious and really rare out here in DC.

  • RWC

    This is an interesting question. Do you want to do a proper “tasting”, where everybody tastes the same things and then talks about it? If so, it’ll be important to organize things in a reasonable order, so that the early beers and cheeses don’t ruin the palate for the later items. I’m not a huge cheese buff, but can say that you’ll want to start out with lower alcohol, maltier, less hoppy beers.

    But, given that this is going to be at a cabin without TV, I think I’d be more interested in a “drinking” event. So, maybe you should sort of pick a theme, throw some beers and cheeses out there, and not worry so much about specific pairings. For example, do a California theme, with some cheeses from Cypress Grove and beers from any of the zillion craft breweries out there (the Bruery is living up to the hype, as far as I can tell). Or, you could do a really wild Italian theme, with all those cool new saison styles coming out of Italy and some classic cheeses.

    It really depends on what type of feel you’re looking for. If you want to branch outside of the PoP crowd, setting up an account at beeradvocate.com and posing this question would get lots of good advice. Those folks are total geeks and love telling other people how to have fun.

  • daver

    I’m with RWC on this one.

    Go to beeradvocate.com, get some advice. Also do a bit of research on cheese pairing with styles.

    After that, it’s really up getting good cheese recommendations from the cheese experts and the like from the beer experts.

    More than anything, I say go local with both. In my experience, you can never go wrong with going local. There are a lot of really good local brews out there, and definitely good local cheese. A beer/cheese tasting you can recreate anywhere just isn’t as special.

  • Jaynuze

    Not knowing your preference and instead of telling you what I’d like (I assume I’m not invited … I have to work anyway), I would suggest checking out several sites/books:
    Beer Advocate.com; http://www.thebeerexpert.com; http://www.yoursforgoodfermentables.com (Tom C used to be the sales rep for Clipper City and did several beer/cheese tastings at the P Street Whole Foods); and the book, The Brew Master’s Table.
    I would highly suggest emailing Tom concerning your question. Not only is he a great resource for beer (Siebel’s trained), he is also the sales rep for Select Wines, Ltd in VA. So not only will he be able to speak to the Heavy Seas brand and cheese pairings, but he’ll also be able to tell you where to go to buy all your supplies. Good luck!


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