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.