I took a bite of the creamy Camembert, feeling the richness flood my taste buds, and followed the bite with a sip of Texas Ale Project's Payne Pils. The moment the effervescence of the bright beer hit my tongue, cutting through the buttery feel of the cheese, was a revelation: Beer and cheese belong together, as much as — maybe even more than — the classic duo of wine and cheese.
Tyler Coenen, a cheesemonger at Scardello, agrees.
"Beer and cheese events have been going on for quite some time, and I think they are really picking up steam at cheese shops and breweries all over the U.S.," says Coenen, who has been hosting beer and cheese pairing events at Scardello and breweries around North Texas for the last few months.
"Wine and cheese will always be a thing, however, my personal preference has always been beer for a number of reasons," Coenen says. "I find that beer and cheese share a lot of the same flavor characteristics, and make for a more dynamic pairing. Beer styles are so diverse that pairing options are endless."
At a recent pairing at Texas Ale Project, Coenen paired four different beers with two cheeses each, and the array of flavor and texture combinations was fascinating.
"I nerd out about pairings on occasion, because subtle things like the hop varietal used in an IPA can have a large impact on how the pairing works out," Coenen says. "Aside from the flavors being more intriguing to me, the effervescence of beer plays a big part in pairing the two together. Wine does not have that unless it is a sparkling wine. The carbonation really helps cut through some of the butterfat in cheese, especially triple crèmes, and allows for a wonderful mouth feel and smooth finish."
By the time the tasting has finished, the packed taproom has learned about eight different cheeses and also heard from Texas Ale Project's Brent Thompson, who gave a history of the Design District brewery and introduced their flagship brews. These events are a double-draw for people who like cheese and have an interest in craft beer.
"Most people that attend the cheese events at the brewery are very familiar with craft beer and the local brewery scene," Coenen says. "They are typically new to artisan cheese and are intrigued about putting their two favorite things together."
The most common question Coenen gets at these events, one of which will be held tonight at the Thirsty Growler: Do you eat the cheese then sip the beer, or vice versa?
"It may be a lame answer, but it’s all personal preference," Coenen says. "I am a cheese guy, so I typically eat the cheese and then drink the beer. I want to get to know the cheese and understand its nuances of flavor, and then introduce the beer to see how the relationship works."
Coenen is planning more of these events in the coming weeks, hosting another at Texas Ale Project during North Texas Beer Week. He's hoping to pull in people beyond the classic beer geek — perhaps a wine aficionado who's wary of stepping away from the pairings they're used to.
"My goal is never to say that beer and cheese is a better match than wine and cheese, because that is all personal preference," Coenen says. "My goal is to show people that it works, and that it can be a lot of fun to experiment and try new things."
Wanna try for yourself? Coenen put together this beginner-friendly list of local beers that can be paired with accessible cheeses:
Four Corners, El Superbee
Pair with: A soft goat cheese.
"The subtle spice in this saison, with the addition of local honey, provides a nice balance to tangy, fudgy goat cheese."
Noble Rey Brewing, Off the Leash
Pair with: Aged Gouda.
"This Texas Red Ale has a nice malty backbone that goes great with sweet, caramel-y Gouda."
Texas Ale Project, 50 Foot Jackrabbit IPA
Pair with: Cheddar.
"IPAs and cheddars are a classic pairing. Finding a nice, cloth-bound cheddar that has some fruity and grassy qualities works wonders with the hop characteristics in most IPAs."
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Martin House Brewing Co., Salty Lady
Pair with: A triple crème.
"Everybody loves a buttery triple crème, right? Pair it with this tart and salty gose."
Audacity Brewhouse, Black Widow Imperial Stout
Pair with: Blue cheese.
"The dark roast and chocolate qualities of imperial stouts are bold enough to work alongside a salty, sweet blue."
Artisan Beer and Cheese Night
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28
Where: The Thirsty Growler, 5733 State Highway 121, Suite 230, The Colony
Scardello Cheese and T.A.P. Beer Pairing
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17
Where: Texas Ale Project, 1001 N Riverfront Blvd.