Everyone wants to feel fancy sometimes, right? But Portland's fanciest beer fest, Saturday's Beer and Cheese Fest, sold out weeks ago. Only a lucky few will be sampling the pairings created by master cheesemonger Steve Jones along with Xocolatl de David artisanal chocolates and very fine smoked meats.
We went to the Slabtown New Seasons store and asked the cheese seller on duty, Chandra Galuh (a veteran of Bar Avignon), to find us perfect pairings. We spent less than $50 on enough beer and cheese for three—admission to the festival was $35.
Our favorite: Hoegaarden ($1.67) with Casatica di Bufala ($17.99 per pound).
This was a wonderful combination of softness with softness. The Casatica di Bufala heightened the flavors of the Hoegaarden and vice versa. The yeasty funk of the Belgian ale complemented the creamy funk of the cheese for a surprisingly flawless pairing.
It was perfect. The banana flavor of the wheat beer played really nicely with the cheese, and they just tango together.
Also very good: Stiegl Radler ($2.25) and Vlaskaas ($17.99 per pound).
We paired this light grapefruit-spiked beer with the hard Vlaskaas cheese for a fairly agreeable result. There was maybe a little too much creaminess in the cheese for the citrus if we were to get particular, but it was an overall satisfying pairing. One thing we gleaned from considering Stiegl Radler as a pairing, though, was that its most sensible bride would be a cheeseburger, rather than just sliced cheese.
Also pretty good: Pyramid Apricot Ale ($1.59) and Bucheron ($14.99 per pound).
This combination worked well in essence, but could be improved with a more farmy apricot beer that lingers longer on the tongue. The funk and super-creaminess of the Bucheron cheese melted in your mouth with a very distinct flavor that complemented the apricot at first, but it quickly rushed your taste buds, pushing the apricot aside.
Maybe not: Vicious Mosquito IPA ($4.99) and Heublumen ($29.99 per pound).
Vicious Mosquito was named one of our 10 favorite Oregon beers, and Heublumen was by far the most expensive cheese we purchased, so we were expecting some beautiful sparks to fly between these two. Unfortunately, pairing a super-hoppy IPA can be tricky. The IPA flooded the palate, canceling any noticeable connection with the cheese.
Nah: Anchor Steam Lager ($1.58) and Mahón ($14.99 per pound).
The malty Anchor Steam Lager we bought at New Seasons had begun oxidizing, creating a rusty flavor that would be hard to pair with anything. The fault was in the beer, not the cheese.
GO: New Seasons Market, various locations, newseasonsmarket.com. If you have tickets for the Portland Beer and Cheese Fest, remember to use them at 1 pm Saturday, June 18, at Wayfinder Beer, 304 SE 2nd Ave. Sold out.