A funny thing happened on my way to a friend’s birthday party last night. I had been emailing about wine with a publicist, and she asked me if I was planning on stopping by the launch of The Weekly Pint at Artisanal Premium Cheese. It happened to be on the way to the party, so despite it being a last-minute invite, I agreed, and didn’t think much more about it.
Well, somehow I got it in my head that it was a wine and cheese event, and I pictured myself breezing in, grabbing a few sips of some rich, deep Cabernet while spreading some runny Epoisses on crusty French bread, and then I’d be on my way. Wrong!
What I didn’t know was that I’d agreed to go to a beer and cheese pairing, with some first-rate European beers selected by Christian DeBenedetti, editorial director of the new email newsletter The Weekly Pint, and cheeses selected by Max McCalman, who has the very cool title of Maître Fromager at Artisanal Cheese.
I’ll admit I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for the challenge these gentlemen were about to lay out: To try a bit of each cheese with a sip of each beer, and then to rate them on a grid. I also hadn’t been planning on eating a bunch of cheese while drinking a fair amount of beer. But as a wise man once said, Sometimes you just have to say f— it.
So what’d I learn?
- Beer and cheese can go really well together — and not just lowbrow cheddar and ale. This is especially true if it’s carefully curated Belgian beer and delicious European cheese.
- The Weekly Pint, which launches today, will send craft beer knowledge directly to my in-box a few times a week.
- Max McCalman knows his cheese. At one point, he took a bite and exhaled, then said, really genuinely, “I love cheese.” You gotta like a man who appreciates his work.
- Max also turned me on to my new favorite cheese in the universe, Windsordale from Vermont. I’m not ashamed to say that after pairing it with the five different beers, I stole an extra piece off a neighboring plate and ate it.
- When constructing a cheese tasting, you start with the mild cheeses at the position closest to you on the plate, then move clockwise through the stinkier cheeses.
- Some beers and cheese do not go well together. Though it had vocal supporters in the room, the lambic made my palate feel like it’d been assaulted the same way my ears feel when I hear Chris Martin guesting on a Jay-Z or Kanye track. (Imagine sour face here.)
- I also learned that Americans like hoppy beers while Europeans, who don’t, are starting to accommodating our weaker sensibilities; that cheese aged in lemongrass tastes really awesome; and that you can eat the rinds of almost all cheeses, though Max McCalman feeds his to his dog.
Wanna sign up for The Weekly Pint? Click here. And let this be a lesson: If you don’t pay attention to what people say when they invite you somewhere but you keep an open mind, you may be lucky and get to eat excellent cheeses washed down with first-rate European brews.