By Veronica Meewes
Photography by Whitney Arostegui
At my house, dinner parties have been known to take on a life of their own; a verbal whim between a couple of friends could quickly morph into planning a full-fledged, multicourse meal. Suddenly, I’m running around town to different grocery stores for specific ingredients, and you can bet I’m still chopping or whisking when guests start arriving.
As much as I love hosting friends, cooking and eating, too much multitasking is typically involved when the three come together.
John and Kendall Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop have an easy solution for an effortless get-together: host a beer and cheese tasting! With little preparation or cleanup, guests are treated to a sensory experience just as delicious and even more interactive than a typical food gathering. Additionally, guests can come and go throughout the evening, as there’s no formal seating or specific dinnertime.
“What’s great about beer and cheese is that they naturally go so well together,” says John. “The effervescence of [the beer] blends beautifully with the fat molecules of the cheese and it helps encourage the olfactory [sense] to become involved.” The best part is that there’s really no wrong way to do pairings. “If it’s a well-made beer and a well-made cheese, you’re going to find something beautiful about it,” he assures. “And when you’re throwing a party, you’re not exactly looking for the all-time greatest pairings. What you’re looking for is an experience. And the fun part about a tasting is getting together with friends and sharing what you’re finding.”
CHEESE AND BEER PAIRING MENU
Curated by John Antonelli, owner, and Courtney Schwamb, cheesemonger, of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
and Darcy Sacks, manager of The Austin Wine Merchant
Dos Lunas Seco and Real Ale Firemans #4
The 8-month-aged raw cow’s milk Seco pulls the orange undertones from the Firemans #4, while the creaminess of the semisoft cheese settles on the tongue and the effervescence of the beer cuts right into it.
Pure Luck Farm Sainte Maure and South Austin Brewing Company Saison D'Austin
South Austin Brewery Company’s fruit-heavy saison brings out the nuttiness in this soft-ripened, French-style pasteurized goat’s milk cheese. The Sainte Maure is rolled in vegetable ash and its buttery mouthfeel washes down nicely with the floral Belgian ale.
Cato Corner Farm Drunk Monk and Austin Beerworks Peacemaker
This raw cow’s milk cheese from Connecticut gets its name from the brown ale its rind is rubbed with. Pungent and salty, it pairs surprisingly well with the grassy, hoppy notes of the Peacemaker pale ale. The bitterness in each surprisingly cancels the other out momentarily and comes back on the finish.
Avalanche Cheese Company Goat Cheddar and North Coast Brewing Company Brother Thelonious
This clothwrapped goat Cheddar from Colorado has a noticeably nutty tang when paired with the smooth and creamy dark Belgian abbey ale. Brother Thelonious brings out the caramel and spice that are normally much subtler in this sharp, raw-milk cheese.
Star Thrower Farm Blue and Brooklyn Local 2
This very intense pasteurized sheep’s milk blue stands up boldly against Brooklyn Brewery’s dark, full-bodied abbey ale. Undertones of molasses and chocolate emerge when they meet the piquant flavor of the cheese, which would also pair well with a dollop of clover or wildflower honey.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
John and Kendall Antonelli’s Tips for Hosting
• Keep it simple. Choose about five pairings. Any more, and the palate will start to get overwhelmed. Plan on at least one ounce of each cheese per person.
• Choose a wide variety of flavor profiles. For the cheese, choose from various styles (fresh, bloomy rind, washed rind, semisoft, firm, hard, blue) and mix milk types (cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo). For the beer, try selecting a pilsner, a hefeweizen, a pale ale, a porter and a lambic.
• Taste beforehand if you can! Try pairing cheeses and beers based on flavors that complement each other—either by marrying similar notes (like an earthy cheese with a piney, hoppy beer) or by contrasting flavors (such as a sweet and savory pairing of a chocolaty stout with a salty blue cheese).
• Taste according to a progression of flavors (much like a wine tasting)—starting with the lighter, more nuanced flavors and ending with the bigger, bolder flavors that are more likely to linger on the palate.
• Provide palate cleansers like water and bread, and other small-bite items like Marcona almonds, Lucques olives and Peppadew sweet peppers. Honey and caramel are also wonderful paired with cheese.
• Let both the beer and the cheese sit out for 30 minutes to an hour before tasting, so the flavors are not masked by the cold. Start with the cheese and follow it with the beer.
Variations on the Pairings
• Lead a guided tasting. Create suggested pairings (such as the ones on previous page) and let all the guests move through them together before moving into a more free-form tasting.
• Change one variable at a time and notice which flavors emerge and subside. For example, taste each type of cheese with the same type of beer before moving on to the next beer.
• Highlight a style by choosing five different Cheddars and then pair a beer with each one. Or pick a style of beer to pair with different types of cheeses.
• Highlight a specific producer by choosing beers from one brewery and picking different cheese pairings. Alternatively, choose a cheese producer and pair multiple beers with the various cheeses.