Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 896 : Fall into Beer Pairing Number 3 - Bengali Tiger & Ewe's Blue or Grafton

There’s something fantastically mysterious and uniquely dynamic about IPA’s – they are infused with the romantic notions and nuances of far off lands. Developed in the 18th century in Britain solely for export to India due to the supposed sustained beer quality and even improvement in flavor profile from the trans-oceanic journey.  Without getting too wrapped up in the story of the British Empire, the East Indies Trading Company and a world of tall ships and colonies, let me just say that in the 18th century when refrigeration was not available, the only manner in which to maintain the taste and quality of a beer was from increased alcohol content and a higher concentration of hops. Hence why the flavor profile in IPAs is big, bold, bitter and beautiful.

Bengali Tiger, Sixpoint’s IPA style ale is such a beer – full of floral hoppiness, hints of caramel maltiness, with a nice citrusy yet sweet bite. Sure there’s that classic spiced bitterness with a nice earthy, pine-y rustic finish as well. A beautiful autumnal orange in color with a nice thick creamy head and a wonderful lacing on the sides of your glass. Light yet flavorful with an excellent hoppy dynamism – this is a beer that allows your mind to wander to far off worlds of magic carpet rides and fantasies. Majestic and striking, like its namesake.

Quite the story and style of beer for a cheese to measure up here! But what I think is most fun about pairing with IPAs is the fact that it is the perfect example of big flavors necessitating big flavors – no opposites attracting here. If one chooses a dainty, young, fresh cheese to go with an IPA, it simply will be lost in the bold brassiness of the beer. Think spicy blue cheeses or sharp aged cheeses or spice infused cheeses or even stinky washed rind fellows that will be nice and salty with a round rich piquance that will be able to tango with your IPA’s flavor profile.

My favorite local blue cheese that I think works wonders with Bengali Tiger is Old Chatham Shepherding Company’s Ewe’s Blue. Crafted in the Hudson Valley, this sheep’s milk blue is made in the traditional Roquefort style. It is big, bold, rustic, earthy, and spicy with a nice moist creamy roundness and a lovely bright citrusy sweet finish. The piquant notes in the cheese will complement the floral hoppiness of the beer and the creamy roundness of the blue will find its counterpart in the caramel malty notes and brassy bitterness of the brew. The earthy and rustic notes of each will create the most wonderful balance of big and in your face flavors, just what you are looking for in an IPA and cheese pairing.

Not in the mood for a blue, why not try Grafton Village 3 year aged cheddar with your Bengali Tiger? Hailing from the great cheesemaking of Vermont, this raw cow’s milk cheddar is bold with a dynamic flavor profile and that classically fabulous cheddar bite. The creaminess of the cheese will find its complement in the crisp bitterness of the beer and the honest round milkiness will find its counterpart in the earthy, rustic floral hoppiness in the most wonderful of manners.

Bengali Tiger and other IPA’s are an excellent cheese pairing partner because there is such a versatility in terms of pairing options. So here’s to the big and bold flavors of the Bengali Tiger!

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