Adventure Brewing – Fredericksburg, VA – February 6, 2015

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After a long week at work, it was time for some beer and cheese.  This time, we decided to brave the traffic and head to a point just north of downtown Fredericksburg and check out Adventure Brewing.  As luck would have it, traffic was light and Adventure Brewing was a great place to hang out for a few hours.

As we always do, we ordered their entire line up of brews.  That evening they had 8 things on tap and I came prepared with 5 different cheeses!

First up was the regular Backpack Wheat.  A very nice wheat ale, we paired this with a bit of chipotle cheddar from Great Midwest Cheese.  This pairing brought out a lot of the fruitiness of the beer that you didn’t get otherwise.  On Friday evenings, Adventure infuses one of their beers with an interesting combination of things, and it so happened we were able to get the Backpack Cherry Wheat.  They had infused the regular version with maraschino cherries and it was very evident on the nose.  We paired this infused version with the chipotle cheese as well.  All of the smokiness of the peppers came right out, but it also highlighted the sweetness of the cherries.  It reminded me of a raspberry chipotle sauce you might put on grilled chicken.

Their newest offering on the day we went was the Bookworm Brown ale.  It was exactly what I expected from a brown ale.  We paired this first with a St. Andre triple crème cheese, which sweetened up the beer a bit with hints of brown sugar.  Next, we tried the UnieKaas Truffled Gouda.  The earthiness of the truffles gave the beer a nuttiness that I find rather enjoyable in browns.

Onto the Belgian Dubbel.  We weren’t sure what cheese to try, but ending up pairing it with a goat brie.  The cheese amplified everything that’s great about a Belgian Dubbel. The beer went to a whole new level of awesome, and was by far, our favorite pairing of the evening. We didn’t stop there though. A food truck was at Adventure and they were serving banana pudding. We bought some. Igor was the guinea pig and tried the Dubbel with the pudding. He went crazy! Of course I had to try it and what a pleasant surprise! Who knew plain old fashioned banana pudding would be so good with a Belgian Dubbel?

Stouts, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, are clearly my favorite beer. Adventure’s Stiletto Stout was a very nice addition to my go to stout list. A rather light bodied stout, it was full of flavor. We paired this first with the St. Andre triple crème. It was like having a mocha milkshake. The cheese added some body and really highlighted the coffee-chocolate notes I truly love. We also tried the Truffled Gouda, which pulled out the maltiness of the beer. If I had to pair this again, I’d go with the triple crème for sure.

Last but not least was the Expedition IPA. First we tried it with our favorite Welsh cheddar and it wasn’t a great pairing. We moved on the goat brie and it was clearly the winning cheese with this beer. The brie really brought out the flavor of the Citra hops, but left any residual bitterness behind.

We had a great time at Adventure. Everyone there was great and we had the opportunity to chat with their new brewer. We loved the fact they had a food truck on site. It’s so much fun when there’s great food available to have with great beer. So, if you’re up for a road trip, we encourage you to check out Adventure Brewing. You’ll be glad you did.

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Forge Brew Works – Lorton, Virginia – February 1, 2015

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If you’re looking for a fancy tasting room at Forge Brew Works, you aren’t going to find one.  It’s very industrial, with bare concrete walls and floor, but ample bar space and additional seating throughout.  But really, you won’t care about the décor (or lack of) once you’ve tried their beers.

The day we went, they had 11 items on tap .  So what’s a girl to do when there are so many choices?  Order all 11 beers in sample glasses of course.  While we waited for our tasters, I set out all of our cheeses and crackers.  Then I immediately decided I did NOT have enough varieties of cheese to handle the wide variety of brews here.  But, I “forged” ahead and worked with what I had.  While we did pair all 11 with the cheeses, below are our favorite pairings.  It was a hard list to pare down, because in all honesty, every beer worked with at least one of the cheeses.

Oatmeal Stout: A great stout all by itself, but when paired with a Triple Crème Brie from Wegman’s, it becomes heavenly. Actually, it becomes a café au lait. I love café au lait and I am sure I could have been quite happy drinking this stout and eating an entire block of brie.

The Solstice:  This is a black saison.  Yes, a BLACK SAISON!  We paired this first with the Triple Crème Brie.  The beer seemed to change from a black saison to a very robust porter.  Next we paired it with the Cabot Alpine Cheddar.  This cheese managed to mute the toasted malt notes and bring out the saison profile quite nicely.

Lorton Common:  This brew was intended to be a Dortmunder, but something happened during the brewing process that led Forge to continue with it as a Common.  Not surprisingly, you really could taste the Dortmunder flavor profile and we decided to pair it with Collier’s Welsh Cheddar.  The beer alone had a nice fruity quality, but the cheese brought the hop flavor forward, without any bitterness.

Slake IPA: Full disclosure: I, the Cheesy Beer Wench, do not generally like IPAs. I can appreciate them, but they are not at the top of my list. Except I really, really liked THIS IPA. Great flavor profile, with none of the excessive bitterness I generally associate with an IPA. I could really taste the flavors of the Centennial and Cascade hops they used. We decided to pair this with the Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre. As surprised as I was about how much I liked the IPA on it’s own, I was more surprised by what happened with the cheese. Most of the pairing was “tasted” when I exhaled through my nose after swallowing. For me, the resulting “taste” was very much like having had a cream soda. We did this several times and even Igor agreed this was the most interesting pairing of the day.

Forge Brew Works is definitely one of our favorite places. Their brews are consistently excellent and the staff is great. We’ve even been lucky enough to be able to talk with the owner/brewer Matt Rose a few times. Make sure you follow them on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest news about upcoming events and beers. We will definitely be going back there in the near future. Next time, we’ll bring more cheeses.

So You Want to Throw a Tasting Party…

Last night, we had a few friends over and shared some great craft brews paired with several different cheeses.  It was a fantastic success and we thought we’d share a few helpful hints in case you too are interested in recreating a “Cheesy Beer Wench” style event in your home.

First and foremost, keep the guest list small.  We invited only 5 people to join us.  We decided this based on two factors.  One was the amount of beer we would have to purchase.  In order to present what we felt were above average craft brews, we kept the guest list down so we could spend more money on the best we could buy.  Second, we wanted to be able to discuss the tastings amongst ourselves, and the more people you have, the more likely it is that someone won’t get the chance to voice their opinions.

Next, decide how many beers you’d like to pair and what styles.  Do you want to do all of one style from different breweries?  Do you want a sampling of current seasonal beers?  Or do you want to focus on brews from a particular state, region or country?  The mix of beers is entirely up to you. We limited the number of beers to 6 as they were all really high ABV (all above 7.5-8%). Plan on serving a tasting size. Since we’ve been to several beer festivals, we pulled out the glasses we received at those events. They hold the perfect amount of beer: enough to taste and enjoy with the cheese, but not so much that anyone becomes drunk.

After you’ve decided what beers you think you might serve, you’ll need to decide on the cheeses for the pairing.  Here are a few of my suggestions based on style of :

  • Stouts and Porters: unless they are smoked, triple crème brie or and cheese with shaved truffles will be great.  If smoked, try a chipotle cheddar as well as the brie.
  • Saison/Farmhouse Ales:  sharp cheddars, but some could pair nicely with aged goat cheese (such as Humboldt Fog)
  • IPAs:  if it’s a bitter bomb, I have not found a cheese I like.  However, there are some very nice IPAs with floral or citrus notes that pair nicely with fresh goat cheese. The only exception I’ve found is black IPAs.  You can get away with some triple crème brie because of the malty, roasted notes in the beer.
  • Sours: the sharpest cheddar you can find is usually your best bet, but sometimes a fresh goat cheese will stand up nicely to a Flanders style sour (such as Duchess de Bourgogne)
  • Lagers: any mild cheddar
  • Belgian Quads or Tripels:   a goat milk brie or a mild cheddar

Even though I’ve given you a few ideas about pairings, the best thing to do is experiment, experiment, experiment.  If you have a favorite cheese, grab some and a bottle of your favorite beer.  If you aren’t sure what you like, see if you have a local cheese shop nearby where they will let you try samples. Some larger stores such as Whole Foods routinely put out samples for you to try. This is a great way to really get a feel for a wide variety of cheeses without having to buy them.

Once you have your menu set, send out the invites!  We highly recommend telling people to have a light meal before they come.  This is especially important if you know there will be people attending who are not used to drinking high alcohol beers.  If you have time, cut up the cheeses into bite size portions, usually about an ounce or so. In the case of brie or extremely soft cheese, portion them out on thin unflavored crackers or wafers to make it less messy. If you don’t have time, set all the cheeses out and have guests help themselves before each pairing.

We hope you find this helpful and are encouraged to try this yourself! We have had a great time travelling around as The Cheesy Beer Wench, but sometimes, just hanging out with our friends and sharing is even better.