Although I'm not much of a drinker, if I had a choice of beer or wine, I'd lean towards a beer and when it comes to cheese, I'm a definite cheese head. So when I found out that Andrew's Cheese Shop was holding Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Beer Pairings, I couldn't resist and set up a private event for my dining group.
What was nice about this event was that it wasn't a structured cheese pairing event. Our group of 20 were seated at a long table which took up most of the shop space and throughout the evening, owner Andrew Steiner, would pour out our beers before each grilled cheese sandwich course. He'd also give some info about the beer as well as explain why it paired well with a particular sandwich, but first we started off with a small salad, which were the only vegetables we saw the rest of the evening.
Unfortunately, while I did take tasting notes, I can't for the life of me find them. There are two things I can say for sure. First, I could have easily eaten any or all of the grilled cheese sandwiches without the beer. They were all tasty. Second, while I may not specifically remember exactly how the beer tasted, all the pairings worked out well. The first pairing of the night was a Beer-Soaked Cabot Extra Sharp on French Wheat with a Moinette Blonde-Blond from Belgium. What I remember about the beer was that it was light and refreshing and balanced well with the sharpness of the cheese.
For our next two pairings, the Anchor 2008 Christmas Ale from San Francisco was matched with two different sandwiches. The interesting back story about this Christmas Ale is that the recipe changes each year as does the tree that's displayed on the label. The beer itself was a little malty, but it was easy to see why his would be considered a Christmas ale. There were hints of spices like cinnamon, maybe clove and it reminded me of the type of spices you'd put in a gingerbread cookie or in mulled wine.
First up, we tried the Westcombe Red Cheese with Black Forest Ham on Dark Wheat followed by the Provolone Piccante Gigante with Prosciutto and Pesto on Olive Bread. Ham is such a holiday staple that it seemed appropriate to pair it with a Christmas Ale and here we had two different preparations of ham. The Black Forest Ham was smoked while the Prosciutto was cured, but both were paired with mildly sharp cheeses.
Our fourth match up was Redemption Red from Reaper Ale in El Monte, CA with a combo of Emmenthal and Krummenswiler Cheeses on Hazelnut Bread. I remember that the beer had a bit of sweetness about it and although it ended with a bit of a bitter after taste, it paired well with the sandwich since both cheeses tend to be more on the rich and sweet side.
Next was the Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel from Belgium with Munster Gerome cheese on a Baguette. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about this beer. I have vague memories of it being fruity, also a little sweet and that somehow it went well with the pungent Munster Gerome cheese.
We finally ended with the Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout from San Francisco, CA and a House Special Cheese Blend on Harvest Bread. Of all the beers I sampled that night, I can say without question that the Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout was the most memorable. With close to 11% of alcohol, it's a serious beer and one that was just too much for me. It was malty, very strongly flavored and just tasted really bitter. I took my 2 to 3 sips to make sure I gave it a chance, but was happy to put it aside to finish up my my last grilled cheese sandwich.
Although this post wasn't so much about dissecting the actual pairings, hopefully, I got two points across. First, this was a nice casual way to spend an evening and second, beer and grilled cheese sandwiches indeed make good pairings. Also, Andrew was happy to answer any cheese, beer or just general food and wine related questions all night and he definitely is a fountain of information.
While I had set up a private event with Andrew's Cheese Shop, you should know that if you sign up for their mailing list, you'll get notification of when this event is available to anyone is interested and if you get a chance, it's definitely a fun activity to participate in.
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Andrew's Cheese Shop
728 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403