Heading toward Maine…once again…affords some wonderful, educational, savory, social experiences. Our friends at 2beerguys welcomed us as old friends do…as if we hung out just yesterday. Amber recommended that we attend this event at Earth Eagle Brewings in downtown Portsmouth. She was right on!
Being beer and cheese lovers, this was a perfect Sunday stopover. Hosted by Ruth Miller, The Beer & Cheese Maven from Vermont, along with Butch Heilshorn, Brewer/Owner of Earth Eagle, and attended by an interested group of epicureans, this Sunday was destined to be special.
Ruth and Butch delivered, on 5 carefully selected pairings. The sensory experience is very personal when it comes to the variations presented, however I can conclude that our experience mirrored that of our co-tasting compatriots. We tasted the cheeses to understand the flavors and textures, tasted the beers to experience those flavors for ourselves, and finally, discovered a third flavor(s) that emerged from the combinations.
There were no rules, although we did use bread to cleanse our palates in an attempt to separate flavors between tastings of the beers and cheeses.
Ruth made several important points:
- Tastings are very personal, so what works for one person may not work for another;
- The cheese must be fresh for its style;
- The cheese and the beer should not be too cold. In fact, allowing the cheese and the beer to breathe and warm for approximately 30 minutes prior to the tasting;
- Beer flavors and cheese flavors can be complementary or contrasting. Some cheeses are best paired with stronger or weaker flavors while others shine when the flavors are more similar.
We also highly recommend checking out this small specialty brewery. The beers are VERY interesting. Butch’ wife is an herbalist, and her skillset, coupled with Butch’ brewing ability and creativity, result in some very interesting beers. Three of the beers paired were gruits. A Gruit or Grut (German for herb) Ale is essentially any brew that uses an herbal mixture as a flavoring or bittering agent in place of hops. Many of the original herbs used are more or less unfamiliar in name, such as sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, and heather, while other adjuncts, such as juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, and aniseed, can be more easily discerned by today’s drinkers. Butch and his crew forage for herbs, and have used Spikenard, Yarrow, Sweet Fern and others.