By: Alex Jones
When matchmaking local beer and cheese, which comes first? Do you start with a stellar, unique wedge in the prime of its life and hunt down the perfect partner for it? Or do you first pick the perfect beer for the occasion and then consider which cheese will harmonize best with your brew?
This will depend on your background. Of course, the cheesemonger and the brewer might answer this question differently. However you approach the art of pairing, it’s often most intuitive to begin with the element that has the biggest, boldest personality; the stronger and more defined flavors of your starting point can point you on the path to finding its ideal partner.
Round Guys Berlinerweiss Sour Wheat is one such outspoken personality. Tart and bright, with a sparkler-like burst of fizz at the swallow, it brings to mind a funky, fermented lemonade or a yeasty, extra-effervescent batch of homemade kombucha. A deep whiff of grapes backed with yeast hits your nose as you prepare to sip, and that same grape note lingers through the sip behind that bright, puckery flavor. Despite the underlying yeastiness–which also calls to mind cooked jasmine rice–Berlinerweiss is refreshing and light. And at 3.7% ABV, it’s an excellent session beer for when the session in question is a daylong late-summer barbecue.
Which cheese could be the perfect match for a beer that’s sour, darkly fruity, and yeasty all at once? One could go in a few different directions–a creamy, lightly citric goat crottin to play with the tartness of the brew, perhaps? A nutty, crowd-pleasing Alpine-style cow’s milk wedge? Or maybe an extra-aged Gouda style, rich with meaty umami and sweet caramel notes — a complex cheese to duet with a complex beer?
In the end, the winning partner for such a unique beer is none of these. The flavors in bright, citrus-y goat cheese were too similar; the tart, fizzy qualities of Berlinerweiss eclipsed the Swiss-style candidate. And the sweet-toasty flavor of the aged Gouda–so compelling with brown ales and hop-driven IPAs–just fought with the sour beer.
Another cheese–a newcomer in southeast Pennsylvania’s ever-growing selection of artisan farmstead cheeses, having debuted earlier this spring — made the best match with Berlinerweiss. Doe Run Farm’s Dragonfly, the first collaboration between cheesemakers Matt Hettlinger and Sam Kennedy, proves to be the perfect companion to this finicky brew. The Coatesville duo refined their recipe for this bloomy-rind, first making Neufchâtel-style rounds before hitting on its ideal form–a Bûcheron-esque log from which spreadable rounds can be sliced.
Unlike Bûcheron, Dragonfly is made from rich Jersey cow’s milk, which makes for a silky, delectable paste and buttery flavor. A ring of cream encircles the paste beneath a mild, mushroomy rind, making for a gorgeous slice on the plate. And depending on its age, you’ll taste gentle mushroomy notes (on the younger side) or a funkier, more developed earthiness from Doe Run’s aging caves (a few weeks later).
With a partner like Berlinerweiss, Dragonfly’s creaminess and hint of funky flavor complement the fizz and tart–yeasty qualities. Serve them together with late-season raspberries for a take on the traditional shot of raspberry to go with the sour and savor the taste of late summer.