The Session #51.5: Beer and cheese redux

The SessionThis month has seen the most interactive and detailed Session to date, as host Jay Brooks chose the subject of cheese (more specifically beer and cheese together) to write about, selecting three types of cheeses to pair with beer and write about the pairings. And then he went the extra mile, with a “half Session” two weeks later:

The idea was to use the list of beers chosen by everybody for each of the three cheeses that were listed in the round-up to try a few more beers with the same cheese. Simply pick up some of the other beers that were suggested, and try them with the same three cheeses and do a follow up blog post on or around Friday, May 20 to explore more fully pairing cheese and beer.

I love the idea of this in making the Session more interactive, though I wasn’t able to invest as much effort into this “second helping” of beer and cheese. But, I picked up some more Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue, and looked over the round-up to find another beer that was paired with blue cheese to taste.

Beer Search Party had paired blue cheese with Stone Brewing‘s Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine—the regular Old Guardian recipe fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, and one I’ve been wanting to try for a while now—so that’s what I went with.

As I did with my previous Session reviews this month, I start with my beer notes and then move into the beer and cheese together.

BELGO is a typical Stone beer—strong, hoppy, and unusual. The “regular” Old Guardian is a great Barleywine, the base for BELGO with a twist:

When our illustrious brewing team spiked a few barrels of the Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine with our Belgian yeast strain last year, we absolutely loved it. So much, in fact, that we knew we needed an excuse to make more. So, in our unending quest to constantly challenge the status quo (even our own), we came up with Odd Beers for Odd Years, a program to release odd beers – e.g. Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine – in odd years (2011, 2013, 2015…).

Old Guardian BELGO is a big 12% alcohol by volume.

Stone Old Guardian BELGO BarleywineAppearance: Honey-amber and a touch hazy, topped by two fingers of very thick and dense clotted-cream head.

Smell: Slightly boozy with hints of malty Barleywine sweetness but then there’s a tangy funk—a very Belgian nose. Pairs with that cloying character interestingly; a touch of barnyard with a Stone kick, kind of a cognitive dissonance.

Taste: Big and interesting—boozy, slightly hot Barleywine without the cloying body—a touch dry with a fruity, hibiscus thing going on. Nicely spicy like a Saison, white pepper predominantly. Works surprisingly well—would this be similar if you blended a Barleywine, a Trippel, and a Saison?

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a dry finish, not what you’d expect for a Barleywine. Nice spicy aftertaste and lingering boozy heat.

Overall: Really, really nice, unusual.

BeerAdvocate: B. RateBeer: 3.6, 96% percentile.

With the Rogue Oregon Blue Cheese: The tang of the blue and the spiciness of the BELGO play off each other to bring out a round, flowery fruitiness; it’s rather intense and complex. The spiciness of the beer is also magnified I think, with less pepper and more… sage? Dandelion? The cheese has nutty flavors enhanced, salty with maybe even a hint of walnut shell. I would have expected a more creamy presence, but not so much. THe aftertaste of the pairing is a tangy, “prickly” coating of the mouth with plenty of Saison-y spice. Quite good, subtle and complex and worth savoring (and trying again).

Very worthwhile; it’s hard to go wrong with blue cheese, in my opinion.

You can read my original beer and cheese pairings from earlier this month too:

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