Ardent Craft Ales – Richmond, Virginia – January 10, 2015

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The second place we visited on our trip to Richmond was just as delightful as the first. Ardent Craft Ales has a taproom and beer garden, located near the West End area of the city.

We sat down and ordered ourselves a flight. It was pretty busy, but not overly crowded. As we pulled out our cheeses, the group at the table next to us was curious enough to ask about it. Boy, did we tell them. We had a great conversation and hopefully they were interested enough to follow this blog.

First we tried the Sweet Potato and Sage Autumn Ale, one of Ardent’s seasonal offerings. It was delicious on it’s own, and you got the sage right away. We paired this with a bit of the Winey Goat cheese. The cheese muted the sage flavor a bit, but really brought out the sweetness of the potato. I would also love to pair this beer with a big bowl of roasted butternut squash soup. It truly was “fall in a glass”.

Ardent’s Saison is, by far, one of the best saisons brewed in Virginia I’ve had to date. It’s a bit spicy, and you clearly get a fruity aroma. Just an all around great farmhouse style saison. We paired this with the Collier’s Welsh Cheddar first. It smoothed out the crispness of the finish and brought out some floral notes. Next we paired it with Manchego. What surprised us the most was the lavender flavor this cheese brought to the forefront, but that disappeared almost as quickly as it came.

If you are a coffee lover, you will want to pay special attention to this! Our last beer at Ardent was the Dark Rye, an imperial stout. It’s not often you see imperial stouts made with rye, and I am generally not a fan of any rye beer, but this was an exception. The beer by itself had a chocolate finish, but then we paired it with our double crème Brie. Unbelievable. The Brie turned this stout into a coffee bomb! Full on, there’s a shot of espresso in this beer, coffee bomb!!! We loved this beer so much we had to get a full glass.

We had a great time at Ardent. The taproom atmosphere was casual, and not too loud considering the number of people in there. Our server was fantastic and very helpful. We plan to return in warmer weather to take advantage of the huge outdoor beer garden. Go visit Ardent. You won’t be disappointed.

Strangeways Brewing – Richmond, VA – January 10, 2015

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Virginia is quickly becoming a go to destination for breweries.  And one of the fastest growing areas is Richmond. Since we are always looking for great beer to pair with cheese, we decided to make a weekend of it in RVA.

Our very first stop was Strangeways Brewing.  Their logo is awesome (a chimpanzee holding a beer), and their brews are equally great.  With over 20 things on tap at any given time, it was hard to narrow down our choices.  But narrow them down we did, and we were delighted at the results.

First up was a Belgian brown ale called Woodbooger, on Nitro tap.  We’re suckers for anything on nitro and this one did not disappoint.  First we paired it with Collier’s Welsh Cheddar.  This sharp cheddar brought out all of the nutty sweetness you typically find in a Belgian brown, and with the beer on nitro, the cheese was even creamier.  It was a great pairing.

The Gourd of Thunder was next on the list.  An Imperial Pumpkin Porter, this brew was nicely spiced and not overly sweet.  A double cream Brie amped up the spice profile and dulled any residual sweetness.  We also tried it with the Beemster Vlaskaas, an aged Dutch cheese with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.  This cheese brought out some floral notes, which was surprising.

I’m generally not a fan of Bocks, but Strangeways’ Virginia Vulgarian was an exception.  It is a Bock aged in bourbon barrels.  Surprisingly, the ABV is pretty low for a barrel aged beer (6.6%), but the flavor was out of this world.  We tried it first with the Welsh cheddar and the beer presented more like a brown ale.  But then we broke out the Manchego, a Spanish hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.  All of the bourbon goodness was released with this cheese.  It was one of our favorite pairings.

Vatos Muertos, part of the brewery’s Annihalation Series, is a stout brewed with agave nectar, cinnamon, and various chili peppers.  After it’s brewed, it is then put into tequila barrels and aged with cocoa nibs and ghost peppers.  Yes, ghost peppers.  While we expected a lot of heat in this beer, we were pleasantly surprised at it’s relatively “heat free” profile.  With this being a stout, we grabbed some of the Brie.  The cheese brought out the earthy flavors of the peppers and none of the heat.  The Manchego, however, brings out some of the ghost pepper heat without it being overbearing.  Great beer.

Our favorite pairings actually happened with a very mild beer in comparison to the ones above.  A beautifully done wheat beer, the Uberlin Berliner Weiss on its own is exactly what you’d expect.  What we didn’t expect was that 3 different cheeses gave this beer 3 different flavor profiles. First up, we had a bit of Winey Goat, a semi-soft goat cheese soaked in red wine. This cheese pulled out a sour apple flavor. Next, we tried the Brie. The Brie presented the beer as a sort of grapefruit “creamsicle”, without any sweetness. And finally, the Welsh cheddar resulted in a predominately peach flavor from the beer. In all of the pairings of cheese and beer we’ve done, none have given us such a varied flavor profile. It was so surprising and fun!

Strangeways should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Richmond. Lots of space to hang out, the tasting room is huge and the walls and shelves are decorated with unique art, most of which is for sale. The staff is also very knowledgeable and helpful.  Visit their website here  and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest on different events happening at the brewery. We will certainly be going back here the first chance we get.

Heritage Brewing – Manassas, Virginia – January 2, 2015

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Tucked away in a little industrial area in Old Town Manassas is this awesome little brewery by the name of Heritage Brewing.  Owned by veterans, the theme celebrates the history of this great nation and all of their flagship beers are named accordingly.  We’ve had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time here and were eager to finally do a cheese pairing with their brews.  Here we note our favorite pairings so far.  We’ll go back when they introduce any new experimental brews, but until then, we plan to just enjoy their current line-up.

Revolution is a very nice amber ale.  Easy to drink with a dash of hops, this brew was begging for an interesting cheese.   We paired this up with the Yancey’s Steakhouse Onion cheese.  It isolated the hop flavor, but didn’t amp up the bitterness.  And quite frankly, we just wanted this cheese on top of a grilled burger with a pint of Revolution.

Their best selling beer, King’s Mountain, is a Scotch style ale.  We brought out some of Cabot’s Alpine Cheddar (available locally, we found ours at Safeway).  What a nice pairing.  The cheddar pulled out the deep caramel notes of the malts and gave a richness to this beer we didn’t expect.

Not only do they have their regular King’s Mountain, Heritage has also aged some of this phenomenal beer in oak barrels.  And boy, did that pay off.  First, we paired the Oak Aged version with some Lincet Triple Crème Brie.  Not only do you still get the rich caramel notes, it pulls out the sweetness from the whiskey barrel aging.  The sweetness wasn’t overwhelming, which can sometimes make a brew feel more like dessert.  Next, we tried the Alpine Cheddar again.  WOW.  With the cheddar, the whiskey component from the aging was pulled to the forefront and completely unexpected.  The Wench isn’t a fan of whiskey, but if she could get it to taste like this beer did with this cheese, she’d drink nothing else.

Heritage is a great place to come hang out for a pint or two, and most Saturdays they have a food truck come by.  But what makes them stand out to us is they are really committed to the local community, our veterans, and being as “green” as possible in their day to day operations.  The tap room staff is fantastic and if you’re really lucky, you might just run into the owner Sean pouring a pint or two.  Their website is here www.heritagebrewing.comFollow them on Facebook to get the latest info on events at the brewery or to see which festivals they will be attending.

BadWolf Brewing – Manassas, VA – January 2, 2015

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After a lovely day with the family on New Year’s Day, we ventured out to BadWolf with our bag of cheese for a mini adventure close to home.

BadWolf is a great little nanobrewery that serves up some very interesting beers.  They always have 6 things on tap at any given time,  and new stuff will be added once a beer has been tapped.  For those who love a diverse selection, you are sure to be pleased as they usually have a new beer every week.

We loved pairing the Lincet Triple Crème Brie with the Xocolatl brown ale, but the surprise was when we took a chance and had some of the Morel/Leek Monterey Jack.  The Jack made the chocolate flavor completely disappear and left us with just the traditional brown ale finish.  It was crazy!

The Locoh IPA we paired with an Italian Taleggio, which we weren’t too sure would work.  Much to our surprise, the slightly pungent cheese took away the bitterness, leaving a very pleasant floral/citrus finish, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

By far, though, our favorite pairing was with the Yggdrasil, a braggot style beer, with the triple crème brie.  Holy. Cow.  It was likely a spicy milkshake in your mouth!  The beer on it’s own had a nice spice to it, but you could define each spice.  With the cheese, the spices really blended together and it was fantastic.

We highly recommend you stop by BadWolf and check them out.  Not only is the beer good, but the staff is a lot of fun, very knowledgeable and they will definitely take care of you.   Their website is here: http://www.badwolfbrewingcompany.com and you should also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  You’ll get all the latest info on upcoming brews and events!

Visit on NYE to Adroit Theory in Purcellville, Virginia

We ventured out west to one of our favorite local breweries, Adroit Theory.  As one of their Black Heart Society club members, it was time to pick up our latest stash of beer so we thought we’d get some cheese pairings done.

For those who haven’t been to Adroit, their line up of beer changes all of the time.  They are a nanobrewery, making small batches of excellent brews.  But this also means that by the time you read about these pairings, some of the beers discussed won’t be on the menu!  But we recommend you have fun with it.  Take some of our suggestions, pair it with newer beers, and let us know what you think.  Oh, and you should know all of their beer is high ABV.  Adroit is not for the faint of heart.

We ordered a complete flight and ended up with 12 little goblets of goodness to drink and pair with our cheese selection.  All of the cheeses were purchased at Wegman’s, but you are likely to find similar items at Whole Foods or any other high-end store.  We are going to focus on the best pairings we found this time around rather than give a pairing suggestion for all 12 beers.

Our Cheeses

Pont L’Eveque from France, Cabot’s Jasper Hill Cloth Bound Cheddar, Lincet Triple Crème Brie

First Circle Barrel Aged Blend (Ghost 049):  We paired this with all three cheeses and the brie was just phenomenal.  It drew out the sweetness of the barrel aging without being too sweet.  But we were surprised at what happened with the pont l’eveque.  The funkiness of the cheese mixed with the beer and then we experienced a cocoa finish and it gave the beer a very boozy punch.

Ortolan Bunting Strong Ale (Ghost 154):  Brie, brie, brie.  The only cheese you will need with this beer.  Really makes the caramel/toffee notes of the malts stand up and be counted.  We never got past the brie so can’t tell you what the other cheeses will do.

What Evil Lurks Imperial Pumpkin (Ghost 044), Aged in Rum Barrels:  We won’t repeat what was said the minute we put the Jasper Hill cheddar and this beer together.  It’s not very ladylike.  But we can tell you this:  the sweet of the pumpkin is mixed with the sweetness of the rum and an explosion of flavor overwhelms your palate.  This was our favorite pairing of the day.

Love of the Damned Brandy Barrel Aged Old Ale (Ghost 040):  Once again, the cheddar cheese was our pick to accompany this beer.  With the cheese, the beer takes on a port wine flavor, which is not unexpected considering this beer was aged in brandy barrels.

We had a lot of fun trying to pair our cheeses with all of these beers.  We will definitely be back when their lineup changes.  If you’re interested in seeing what’s coming next at Adroit, check out their webpage www.adroit-theory.com or follow them on Facebook.