When it comes to hosting a relaxed and merry gathering, there are two guests you cannot leave off the guest list: beer and cheese. Although you most often see cheese accompanying wine on the appetizer table, be careful not to underestimate the power of coupling beer and cheese.
Grant McCracken, homebrewer and certified cicerone (i.e., your beer-tasting guide), and Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Creamery are obsessed with the diverse flavors and aromas that result from commingling these two products, and they offer their tips for creating (and tasting) the perfect beer-cheese pairing.
As any home-brewer probably knows, tasting a beer is an interactive experience where all the senses come into play.
“It really disappoints me to see people chugging a craft product straight from the bottle,” McCracken says. With all the work that goes into creating a beer, he says, brewer and taster owe it to one another — and the product — to enjoy the appearance, aroma and flavor. “This doesn’t happen through a 1-inch hole in a brown bottle.”
To begin tasting your beer, chill it to a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Drinking a beer ice-cold will mute the flavor and diminish your experience. Then, pour the beer into a tulip glass or, for stronger beers, a wine glass.
The beer’s appearance will teach you a lot about the beer. Examine its color, clarity and head formation. A jet-black beer could indicate a roasty flavor. If it’s cloudy, prepare yourself for a full-bodied taste or for something on the raw side. A heady beer could mean high carbonation.
Next, consider the aroma. The carbonation will help here by lifting beer particles to the part of your nose that detects odors. By taking time to smell your beer, you will decipher how the beer’s three main ingredients — malt, hops and yeast — interact. More yeast will make the beer spicier while a malty beer will take on a caramel, roasty or bready flavor. If you notice citrus or earthy tones, that’s probably the hops.
Finally, once you’ve learned all you can from sight and smell, take a sip.
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