Pairing Cheese and Beer in Montana

Imagine you are enjoying a great craft beer, and you decide you would like a little snack . What’s your go-to?

We all have our favorite snack foods for when we are enjoying a beer. Everyone knows beer goes great with pizza, nachos, potato skins, and cheese fries, but why is that?

The common element for many of our “beer snacks” would seem to be cheese. And as everyone knows, cheese, just like bacon, seems to make nearly everything better. So why not pair cheese with beer?

While in Great Falls Montana for the 2019 Beer Now Conference, Cheeses of Europe and the Montana Brewers Association teamed up to present a beer and cheese tasting, to showcase just what a great combination beer and cheese can be.

Now I am NOT a cheese expert, just a cheese enthusiast. My palate is not overly sophisticated, and in fact it could be described a simple. But I like what I like, and live by the moto: If you don’t like it, don’t eat or drink it!

I do believe in food and beer pairings, and believe that some beers definitely go better with certain foods (and some beers with nearly everything). However, I was quite disappointed once by an article that insisted that beer floats were amazing. But after a trip to the store for several different flavor ice-creams and a variety of beer and then trying the recommended combinations I decided that “beer floats” were a cruel joke and that I had been duped. For that reason, I generally approach things like this with a little skepticism.

So, when Cheeses of Europe and the Montana Brewers Association paired six different cheeses from Europe with six different hand-crafted Montana beers, I may have been a little skeptical. Fortunately the results were quite tasty.

From Left to right, Top to bottom: Triple Crème, Camembert, Emmental, Mimolette, Comtè, and Fourme d’ Ambert

First, they paired a Triple Crème with a Saison, brewed by Philipsburg Brewing, which was aged in a Chardonnay barrel. This cheese, containing over 75% butterfat blended seamlessly with the tart, tangy fruitiness of the Saison. While very good on their own, the flavors came together to create something that was even better than the sum of its parts.

Next, a Camembert produced in Normandy was paired with a Bramble Berry Sour brewed by Mighty Mo Brewing. The earthy, mushroomy flavors of the Camembert with its creamy texture, were the perfect complement to this kettle soured ale with its mix of tart sweetness and undertones of blackberry and citrus.

They then paired an Emmental cheese with a Bichon Saison brewed by Vizsla Brewing. This Emmental, made in France, was very similar to a Swiss cheese in color, texture, and even had ‘holes’. It had a faintly nutty flavor, and went well with the low hoppy profile and citrus flavor of the Bichon Saison.

The next pairing was a Mimolette cheese and Dos Goatees Doppelbock brewed by Red Lodge Ales. This cheese had a deep orange color and very firm. Now remember, I am not a cheese expert. And although I did like this cheese, it was kind of hard, and felt kind of waxy as I chewed. The Doppelbock was very good, and the flavors of the beer did seem to complement the cheese, but I didn’t feel like they blended together the way the other cheeses and beer did. The flavors didn’t build on each other or come together so much as stand side by side.

Next a French Comtè was paired with Midas Crush IPA brewed by MAP Brewing. The Comtè also had a firm texture, but softened as it was eaten, and had a  faintly nutty flavor, with a hint of fruity sweetness, which matched well with the hoppyness and notes of orange and grapefruit of the Midas Crush IPA.

Lastly, a Fourme d’ Ambert blue cheese was paired with a Big Belt Weizenbock brewed by Lewis and Clark Brewing.  Personally, I love the creamy tartness and slightly salty flavor of a blue cheese, and this one was quite good, and blended beautifully with the sweetness of the caramel flavors of the malts in this strong dark wheat ale.

I have to say this was a very informative experience, and while I have always thought beer and cheese went well together, I did gain a new perspective on the way characteristic flavors of different beer styles interact with the flavors of a variety of very flavorful cheeses.

Maybe this fall during a football game I’ll try switching out the of wings for a cheese plate. I’m thinking Bree would go nicely with a good Saison.


Beer Now Confrence Starts Tomorrow!

2019 Beer Now conference will take place June 6-8 in Great Falls, MT and approximately 150 beer bloggers, writers, and social media influencers from throughout North America and beyond were in attendance.

This year’s conference included a pre-conference excursion to Helena on June 5th. During this overnight excursion, attendees did some extensive sampling at four out of five of Helena’s finest craft breweries (Lewis and Clark Brewing, Blackfoot River Brewing, Ten Mile Creek Brewery and Snow Hop Brewery), chat with Montana’s Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney about the future of craft beer in Montana, and enjoy a five course beer pairing at the Montana Club before returning to Great Falls on June 6 to visit the largest malt producer in North America, and the second largest malt producer in the world, Malteurop Malting Company to learn about the malting process and to sample even more craft beer from all across Montana to showcase their malts.

Malteurop is a farmer owned co-op, and their motto is “From Field to Flavor”, and they live up to that motto by being involved in every aspect of barley production right up to the point where the malted barley is turned into our favorite beverage. They don’t just malt barley. They work closely with brewers to determine what they are looking for in a malt. They work with the farmers to grow that barley or develop new strains of barley to meet those needs.

The conference continues on Friday, June 6. with a number of informational sessions during the day, dinner at Jeremiah Johnson Brewery, and a Hop On Craft Beer Tour.

I can’t wait!

Man Law: Don’t Fruit The Beer!

A few years ago Miller Brewing did a series of tv commercials  with a group of well-known men seated around a table discussing “manly” things, and proposing “Man Laws”, usually revolving around esoteric questions and stereotypical manly behavior such as crushing cans on foreheads, whether it is ok to store anything other than beer in the garage fridge, the sin of wasting or spilling beer, how long to wait to ask a girl out that dumped your best friend, and the “you poke it you own it” rule.  

One of my favorites was the “don’t fruit the beer” law.  I had always been a fan of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, which stated there were only 4 ingredients that could be used in the production of beer: water, barley, hops and yeast. It may sound extremely restrictive, but if you consider the wide variety of types barley and the countless ways it can be kilned and roasted and combined, the huge variety of hops with their countless flavors and aromas, and all the different types of yeast and the complex characteristics they can give a beer, the possible number of combinations are mind boggling. So there is no need to “fruit the beer”. Right?

Well, as I got older, I became more willing to try beers that were outside the narrow range of what I thought a beer should be, and I changed my mind. I decided that while I wasn’t wrong, I may have been mistaken. I realized that adding fruit and other ingredients in the brewing process can do amazing things to a beer. My new philosophy became “If it tastes good, drink it!” After all, taste is the reason I love beer.

But today I have begun to think that while there shouldn’t be restrictions on beer ingredients, brewers may have started taking things too far. In fact, recently I have noticed a growing number of offerings from craft brewers that I’m not sure should qualify as beer. After all, if it looks like a fruit smoothie, smells like a fruit smoothie, and tastes like a fruit smoothie, how can it be called beer? 

What’s next? Bacon that tastes like broccoli? (shiver)

We should never be afraid to try new things, and to go in new directions, but I think it is important to remember why we love the things we love. While we look fro the next great thing, we shouldn’t forget the great things we already have.

Pawpaw beer boosts Ohio festival • Brilliant Stream (via Brilliant Stream)

Pawpaw beer has come a long way since the first one appeared at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival in 2002.

The world showcase for pawpaw beer happens right here in Appalachia. Last weekend, the 20th Annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival featured nine pawpaw flavored brews from eight Ohio breweries. It’s certainly come a long way since Kelly Sauber, then Marietta Brewing Company’s head brewer, made the first pawpaw beer for the festival 16 years ago.

Read more: Brilliant Stream

Steins Vines and Moonshine Trail in Prince William and Manassas VA

Prince William and Manassas VA, have created their own trail to showcase there thriving craft beverage industry. With more than 20 craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and tasting rooms, as well as a number of artisanal and farm to table restaurants, the trail should be on your “Must Do” list.

The Steins Vines and Moonshine Trail is close to 17 miles long and beginning in Broad Run, works its way through Manassas before ending in Yorkshire VA. There are, however, several breweries and wineries that are a bit “off” the trail, but are still considered part of the trail. Here is just a suggestion on a rout to take to do the trail. Keep in mind not only your own limits, and the kindness and patience of your designated driver.

The Farm Brewery at Broad Run– As they say at The Farm Brewery, “Come for the beer, enjoy the music, and stay for the bucolic setting” because “Life is Brewtiful!” Over 10 beers and cider on tap, as well as wine and wine slushies. The brewery also features a BrewBarn & Pavilion Beer Garden, and a hop yard. They grow their own fruit, berries, heirloom varieties of tomatoes and squash, melons and peppers, and even have chickens to harvest fresh eggs, and use these farm fresh ingredients in their seasonal food creations.

Tin Cannon Brewing has 9-12 craft beers and their own non-alcoholic root beer on tap. They don’t serve food but periodically host food trucks, and encourage visitors to bring their own food if they’d like, or order from neighboring restaurants who deliver directly to the taproom. Trust me when I say, these guys know good beer! Flights, pints, or growler fills, you are going to love what they are doing at Tin Cannon.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse has a variety of handcrafted, award-winning beers on tap, created by passionate and very talented brewers. They have 11 award-winning signature beers and cider, as well as over 10 limited-time seasonal beers that are released throughout the year. And if you get hungry, they have over 120 items on their menu so there’s a good chance they’ll have something you’ll like.

MurLarkey Distilled Spirits makes handcrafted, small batch, and award-winning spirits. They distill an array of spirits including gin, vodka, several whiskeys, and even a variety of infuse whiskeys such as cinnamon, orange, coffee, and cocoa infusions.  All their spirits are handcrafted and small batch, using raw, all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients and 100% natural fruit and botanical flavoring for infusions.

Farm Brew LIVE– An 8-acre campus that features 2 Silos Brewing, craft food from The Pit BBQ and Beer Garden and La Gringa Food Truck, and live, local music on a huge outdoor stage! There are also bocce courts, cornhole, firepits, and lots of outdoor seating! Soon it will also include The Black Sheep whiskey + wine + noshery located in the historic Thomasson Barn that will feature 2 bars, ample seating both inside and out, and a menu locally sourced from local farms.

KO Distilling– This craft distillery prides itself on producing high quality, handcraft whiskey’s and gins. They also produce a double-distilled, unaged whiskey they call Virginia Moon White Whiskey. It’s made with 60% wheat, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley. And the taste? Well, you’ll want to try it for yourself.

Heritage Brewing– Their mission is to not only brew the best beer possible, but also; live for one another, serve our fellow countrymen, craft with pride, and wherever possible, give back to those in need, especially those who have given everything for their country.

​Through this mission we brew flavorful and bold beers that showcase our pride and embolden our customers to share in our dream. With this in mind, they have partnered with The Unquiet Professional to help give back to those who have paid the ultimate price for our country, and provide opportunities for their gold star families.

They have a wide variety of handcrafted beers that include a barrel aged series with beers such as a brandy barrel aged IPA, a tequila barrel aged wheat ale, and a Scotch ale that was aged in a barrel that was previously used to age gin, whiskey and red wine!

BadWolf  Brewing takes great pride in crafting unfiltered and unpasteurized beer with all natural ingredients and a taste that is second to none. Six carefully crafted beers on tap that are constantly changing. You could have a new favorite every time you stop in.

Aroma Wine Tasting is a tasting bar run by Morais Vineyards & Winery. They serve the same wines that are served at the winery with a slightly different atmosphere. With 9 different wines available for sampling, if you enjoy a good wine, you should stop by.

Public House Kitchen & Brewery. The Chef and Master Brewer work closely together and their passion for great food and great beer could not be more obvious.  They go to great lengths to pair their fresh farm-to-table food offerings with their in-house, hand craft beer in a way that gives their customers truly exceptional flavor pairings.

Sinistral Brewing Co is a seven-barrel brewery located in Historic Downtown Manassas that describe their beers as having personalities inspired by their extraordinary children. If the source of their inspiration is anything like the product of the inspiration, they must be truly exceptional children.

Have a seat in the bar, patio or lounge, order one of their hand-crafted beers, use the free wi-fi, play board games, or watch TV and relax. If you get hungry, you can bring your own food, or order food from several local eateries that deliver to the taproom.

Eavesdrop Brewery has partnerships with local chefs, farms, and brewers from across the nation. These partnerships allow us to bring food, farm, and beer together in one location that’s easy to get to, but hard to leave. At Eavesdrop they boast the largest urban hop gardens in the Mid-Atlantic, and also grow apple trees, berry bushes, and other ingredients, which they use in their beer and food projects. Their tasting room was at one time a loft for racing pigeons! They also have a rooftop bar with a marvelous view of the gardens.

A little ways off the trail to the north, The Winery at Bull Run is located next to the Manassas National Battlefield Park, and is a working farm vineyard that not only crafts some fine Virginia wines, but pays homage to the history and preservation of 19th century rural Virginia.

A short distance to the south of the trail, Effingham Manor Winery has a wide variety of wines. Located in a historic Effingham Manor in a national historic district of Prince William County, VA, with the main house dating all the way back to 1767. You can tour this idealistic setting, sample some exceptional wines, and feel the history.

There are even more places to visit, but I think you should now have a pretty good idea of what you’ll find when you get here.

There is entirely too much to see, do, and sample on the Steins, Vines, and Moonshine Trail in one day, or even in one weekend. Although it might be possible to do it all in a day, you probably won’t remember half of what you did, and probably won’t enjoy the next day. For this reason, I would recommend several day trips, or a couple of long weekends, so you can truly experience all Price William, Manassas, and the trail has to offer.

It has been my experience that people often don’t know about half of what is practically in their back yard, and sometimes visitors know more about the places we live than people who have spent their whole lives there. You don’t have to travel across the country to have a world class experience. Check out the Steins Vines and Moonshine Trail. You’ll be glad you did.


Guinness Open Gate Brewing and Barrel House does NOT brew Guinness!

Just a few weeks ago, Guinness finally opened the Open Gate Brewing and Barrel House (OGBBH) just outside of Baltimore Maryland, and yes, they do not, nor do they have plans to brew the iconic beverage known as Guinness Extra Stout. But they are brewing beer, and lots of it!

Guinness has been brewing beer since 1759 when its founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for a whopping 45 pounds a year!  And while Guinness has been brewing beer for nearly 260 years, it didn’t start brewing the stout for which they are now famous until just 60 yars ago.

According to Ryan Wagner, the official Guinness Brewery Ambassador, the purpose of OGBBH in Maryland is to research, develop, and brew new beers, using the latest brewing innovations, with local ingredients, and by American brewers, to create beers with American flavors and style. The tap room provides visitors with the chance to sample these new beers, and provide valuable feedback to the brewery.

When you visit OGBBH, you will find a taproom with a wide variety of beer brewed right there. Now don’t get me wrong. They do have Guinness Stout on tap, but it is brewed in Ireland and shipped there. And as Ryan points out, “Guinness is a brewery- not a stout”. Currently they have 16 beers on tap in their taproom, but only 3 are brewed in Dublin, Ireland. So if you walk into their taproom and order a Guinness, you will likely be met with a puzzled look, and the question, “Which one?”

Bringing this iconic brand back to the U.S. has also lead to some interesting confusion. For instance, in 1930, Guinness hired artist John Gilroy to create his now famous advertising campaign featuring zoo animals and a hapless zoo keeper who can’t seem to hold on to his pint of Guinness.

One of these drawings from a 1935 add shows a crab trying to grab a pint of Guinness. This artwork, which is on display in the brewery and on some of the t-shirts in the gift shop, has cause a bit of criticism from some Maryland residents because it is not the blue crab for which Maryland is known far and wide. Some people mistakenly think this historic artwork is actually an attempt to incorporate Maryland with the Guinness brand. This has prompted some locals to complain about the ‘inaccurate’ portrayal of the local icon, when in fact it is a depiction of an Irish brown crab that was originally created for the Irish market 80 years ago!

Currently the brewery offers both guided and self-guided tours on which you can learn not only about their brewing process and new beers being developed, but you can learn something about the history of Guinness and the history of the site the barrel house now occupies.

This brewery, which is the first Guinness brewery on American soil since 1954, sits on the site of a former whiskey distillery. In fact, the building that now holds the tap room was originally built to age whiskey barrels.  When you visit the brewery, you will notice quite a number of barrels used for decoration, and for displays. All of these barrels were found in this building. Ryan says they have worked hard to protect the character and history of the buildings during construction and renovation.

There is a story told in hushed tones around the brewery that while cleaning and removing empty barrels from one of the floors, they found a barrel that was significantly heavier than the others. The reason? It was nearly half full of whiskey.

Now for those of you who are not whiskey aficionados, I should explain that since whiskey is aged in wooden barrels, there is a certain amount of evaporation that takes place each year the whiskey is aged. This evaporation, also known as the “angels’ share” amounts to a loss of between 2 and 4 percent of the whiskey’s volume for each year it is aged, depending on temperature and humidity.  The older the whiskey, the smoother and more flavorful it gets, but that also means there’s less whiskey is in the barrel. A typical Scotch aged for 12 years will lose about 25% of its volume to thirsty angels.

With that in mind, if over half the whiskey had evaporated, how old would you guess that whiskey would be? At a loss of 2% a year, and assuming half the barrel evaporated, my guess would be about 35 years old.  Interestingly, no one seems to know what happened to that barrel. No matter who I asked the reply was always the same: A wistful smile, a shrug of the shoulders, and then they say, “I don’t know. It just disappeared.”

Crispy Sweet Jesus Oyster Agrodolce with Malt Braised Kale and Pork Belly- Baja Chesapeake Tostada with Citrus Black Bean Sofrito and Crema- Espresso Rubbed Tounedos with Bitter Chocolate Mushrooms, Sweek Yam Puree, and Tabasco Onion- Date and Raisin Bread Pudding and Fig Brulee with Sour Cherry Spoon Custard.

Although the brewery is now open to the public, it is still not quite finished, and work on the facility continues. There is a planned restaurant that is not yet open, but will hopfuly be open soon. And when it is, it will feature dishes locally sourced with the freshest ingredients, created to be paired with beers brewed on the premises that will not only complement, but enhance each other’s flavors and textures.  And if this preview of dishes is any indicator, the food there will be amazing! Until then, in addition to their fantastic beers, the tasting room offers a selection of pub grub.

There is little doubt that the people of the Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House are proud of what they have accomplished, but are excited about their future in Maryland.

If you stop by the tap room and perhaps take a little tour, I think you too will be excited about the future of Guinness in America.