by Alex Jones
It’s funny how beer and cheese, two foods whose production is designed to make them relatively shelf-stable and available at any time of year, are affected by the seasons. We turn to bolder, heavier brews in the cold months, and something about a chill in the air makes a meal of bread and cheese—and beer, of course—sound hearty and nourishing. (There seems to be at least one week each December when the contents of a cheese board, crackers, and booze becomes de facto dinner.)
By the time spring rolls around, we’re fatigued by heavy meals and perhaps motivated by New Year’s resolutions to pull back the animal fats and high-ABV brews. And when summer arrives, flashy fruits and vegetables grab our attention at the farmstand or farmers’ market. In the sticky swelter of summer weather, few foods that aren’t grilled can pull attention from lighter, fresher fare.
But of course, cheese has a place at the table at your midsummer picnic or Independence Day grill out —and it’s not just melted over that grass-fed burger. Enter Frosty Morning, a cool, boldly-flavored mixed-milk pyramid from Keswick Creamery in Newburg, PA. Farmer-cheesemakers Melanie and Mark Dietrich Cochran have blended their Jersey cow’s milk with mixed heritage breed goat’s milk from their neighbors, Wayside Acres Goat Dairy. The result is a sort of hybrid Valençay, a little ash-covered, soft-ripened ziggurat.
The cow’s milk contributes a buttery, rich texture; smooth mouth-feel; and savory notes of flavor. The goat’s milk lightens the texture of the paste and adds a citrusy tang. The bumpy, black-and-white rind adds a musky, mineralic texture, and the ash layer makes a dramatic impression when smeared across the surface of your favorite cracker. Frosty Morning is light enough to be welcomed on a humid, hot day, but bigger and bolder than other seasonal, warm-weather cheeses—eschew the chevre for this mixed-milk wonder.
What to drink with this cheese that’s fit for a heatwave? Victory’s Helios Farmhouse Ale, of course. Hoppy beers fight with Frosty Morning’s bright, tart, and savory triple-punch, and sweet, wheaty brews taste sickly in combination. But Helios starts our fresh and floral, with an aroma of jasmine and wisteria—what could be more refreshing? Gentle effervescence and a mild sweetness round out the sip, with a tart note of lemon zest and hops to finish. The aftertaste recalls that whiff of jasmine.
Together, Frosty Morning and Helios balance each other out: The brightness in the cheese keeps this sweet, flowery ale from feeling syrupy, especially since it’s only gently carbonated. (Usually, this works the other way around—a cascade of bubbles keeps a rich cheese from lingering too long on the tongue.) The sweet-but-not-sickly flavor and lemony notes in the beer bring out the lighter characteristics contributed by the goat’s milk in the cheese. And the high ABV—7.5%—will slow you down enough to appreciate the pairing before you tackle that burger.a