Great to report progress in the Bord Bia led Cheese and Beer Fest events for the end of the month. Quite a few events locally as you can see from the approved list below
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Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer
Sitting down to a good selection of Irish farmhouse cheese is one of thegreat pleasures in life. Put that together with some Irish craft beer and you are scoring on two fronts: wonderful intense flavours, and the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting two very special Irish industries.
While beer and cheese are made with the simplest of ingredients – barley, hops, yeast and water for beer; just milk, a starter culture, rennet and salt for cheese – it is in the hands of the brewers and the cheesemakers that these few basic ingredients get transformed. Neither product is entirely consistent, both reflect the characters of their makers and each becomes something unique that reflects the place where it is made.
There are no set rules for matching beer and cheese. That said, you could start with the basic idea that lighter coloured beers go with the fresher cheeses while the darker, more intense brews often work better with a more richly flavoured cheese. However, everyone appreciates flavours in a different way so don't limit yourself, especially when it comes to your local beer and a cheese from down the road.
Good pairing is all about balance, either contrasting or complimenting the flavours. Contrast a pungent blue cheese with a hoppy IPA-style (Indian Pale Ale -style) beer or harmonise a biscuity red ale with a similarly sweet, semi-soft cheese. Because of its palate-refreshing carbonation, beer cuts through the creaminess of cheese and allows you to really appreciate what you are drinking and eating.
Drink beer from glasses, not bottles. In this way you can better appreciate the aroma and colour before you sip it, drinking slowly to enjoy the flavours.
Serve both cheese and beer at the appropriate temperature. If either of these is too cold, you simply won't taste them properly! Remove cheese from the fridge about 30 minutes before you hope to eat it and around 8-12ºC degrees is good for most craft beers. Check individual labels for more information.
These are milky and tangy cheeses without rind that are made to be eaten while very young, eg Ardagh Castle Ricotta, Toons Bridge Mozzarella, Bluebell Falls Cygnus Goat’s Cheese.
Beer: Be careful not to overpower these delicate cheeses. Something crisp and subtle is needed here so BrewEyed Lager, Dingle Brewing Company's Tom Crean Lager or Bay Lager from Oslo Brewery should hit the spot nicely.
These buttery, rich cheeses can have a bloomy rind – eg Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese, Wicklow Baun – or a washed rind like Cais Rua.
Beer: Although they get more pungent as they age, most young soft cheeses are well complimented with a mellow, fruity red beer, which has some sweetness. Try Dungarvan Brewing's Copper Coast, Burren Brewery's Burren Red or Rebel Red from Franciscan Well Brewery for a great match.The medium dry Double L Cider cuts through the richness of these soft cheeses.
Some of Ireland's most famous cheeses fall into this earthy, aromatic category. Milleens, Durrus and Gubbeen are all semi-soft, washed rind cheeses.
Beer: Washed rind cheeses can challenge some wines but the flavours in beer are more of a natural match. Metalman Pale Ale has enough hops and fruit to pair with this style of cheese while Galway Hooker IPA should tone down some of the more intense examples. It's also
These cheeses tend to become more crumbly and pungent as they age but have a lovely sweetness while young, eg Knockdrinna Meadow Sheep’s Cheese, Carlow Cheese, Lavistown.
Beer: We're moving towards the darker side of the beer spectrum now, especially with the older cheese. The complexity of O'Hara's Leann Folláin from Carlow Brewing Company or White Gypsy's Raven would be a good match or, for something a bit milder, go for Messrs Maguire's Bock.
Packed with flavour, the aged hard cheeses have a dry, crumbly texture and are great for cooking with, eg Glebe Brethan, Mossfield, Hegarty’s Cheddar
Beer: Try something dark and full-bodied with hard cheese. Porterhouse Celebration Stout or Cul Dorcha from West Kerry Brewery have enough bitterness to make you really appreciate the intense flavour of this cheese style. If you have a particularly sharp cheddar, go for a savoury/sweet pairing with some Stonewell Cider.
Distinctive, pungent and delicious, blue cheeses can be made from cow's, sheep's, or goat's milk, eg Triskel Pyramid, Crozier Blue, Bellingham Blue.
Beer: This is an area where you can have a lot of fun. Compliment blue cheese with a strongly flavoured beer – Dark Arts from Trouble Brewing will stand up to any ripe, earthy cheese – or contrast and cut the richness by picking the hoppy Howling Gale Ale from Eight Degrees Brewing.
The most important thing is to approach beer and cheese matching with an open mind. In the end of the day, there's no right or wrong. Pick your own selection of beers and cheeses and have fun testing different combinations with friends. And then, just when you think you have it all figured out, watch out for limited edition brews and seasonal cheeses to try.
It's all about slowing down and taking time to savour the flavour…..