Barleywine Ale and Cheese Pairing
Some tips for a perfect cheese plate:
  • Keep it Simple -  In order to keep from confusing your palate choose no more than three or four cheeses.  Crackers or toasted baguette slices should be not be heavily seasoned so as not to distract from the main attractions.  Make sure they have a touch of saltiness so they don't become a black hole of flavor.
  • Less is More -  Don't be intimidated by high per pound prices.  Usually for four or five people a ¼ pound of each is plenty.
  • Temperature Control – The aroma and consistency of a cheese is greatly enhanced by being left out at room temperature for a half hour or so before plating.  Don't leave it out too long though as it may "sweat" too much, or if left out for days becomemoldy.
  • Accessorize – To add additional flavors or provide something to try in between cheeses, add any of the following: cured meats, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, or jams.  Be sure to make sure they work with the pairing.
  • Build to a Strong Finish – Whether its beer or cheese, always arrange from mildest to strongest.  That way you don't overwhelm your palate and lose the ability to taste the more subtle flavors.
From the Reluctant Chef:  I was standing there at the door waiting for my friend to answer, when I began to examine the invitation more closely. Cheese and wine pairing?!! I didn't wear a tie or a sport jacket. My friend opened the door, saw the expression on my face, laughed and beckoned me in. Upon entering the main room, I peered through the relaxed crowd and quickly realized my mistake. Next to mirrored plates piled high with cheese and charcuterie were mugs of barleywine lined up and waiting. Eager to begin, I grabbed a handle of brew and selected my first cheese, an alpine cheddar. The salty nuttiness stood up well with the strong malty stone fruit flavors of the heady concoction. Though the taste of the cheddar survived the blast of liquid complexity I had subjected it to, it was changed, with crystalline sweetness now dominating. The rest of the night became a dancing, swooning blur of cheeses, meats, and fruit, as the high alcohol content of the Barleywine swept me higher and higher to the stars. I woke the next day with vague sweet memories and a scrap of paper to remind me.  Scrawled within… The first word inscribed on my tasting scroll was Burleywine. Ah yes, it was a Mr. Beer recipe I'd enjoyed the night before. It had lagered for 4 months giving it a slight hoppy edge.Consulting my stained parchment, I saw I had indulged in increasingly stinky cheeses. The blue was a cave aged Roquefort style that became briefly creamy after sipping, then peaty like a fine scotch, due to the hops. The penultimate was one that literally smelled like feet. It and the barleywine armwrestled, until I broke the tie with Medjool Dates and some fig jam. Caramel and turbinado sugars oozed out of my next quaff. My last notes trailed off with rumors of cured meat rejuvenated by the witches potion. I decided it was time to start my own batch of Burleywine. Only five months until the next tasting!