Certain food-and-beverage combos are so perfectly, deliciously right together, they just shouldn’t be messed with: cookies and milk, toast and coffee, steak and martini(s). Until Wednesday, I would have surely tacked the trusty wine-and-cheese pair onto that list. But at this month’s C’est Cheese cheese tasting event, I found enlightenment, which came in the form of Beer.
And get this, at one point during the evening, owner Katherine Graham actually said she thinks beer pairs better with cheese than wine.
And, you know, she may be right.
Of course, it probably helped that Santa Barbara’s resident brew czar Eric Rose, of the Hollister Brewing Company, was in charge of the suds, for he is every bit as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about beer as Katherine and her partner, Michael, are about cheese. And, let’s be frank, if you’re going to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about anything, beer and cheese are tough subjects to beat.
Though I’ve tucked into the shop more than once and always found the place charming, the staff friendly, and the scent delightfully stinky, this was my first foray into the world of C’est Cheese’s much-buzzed-about tastings. And now, not only do I know that the amazing, soft-ripened Mount Tam cheese, so rich it may as well be butter, goes perfectly with an IPA, I know why these events are always such a hot ticket.
We sat down and were presented with the evening’s menu, a plate with each of the five cheeses we’d be tasting, and a glass, which was promptly filled with Rose’s Hefeweizen-inspired Kristalweiss. I listened while savoring the smooth yumminess of the Humboldt Fog, and trying to go easy on the beer-then, upon tasting said beer, revised that plan and, opting to enjoy every last drop. I repeated the exercise four more delectable times, noticing how each beer brought out certain flavors in its cheese, and vice versa, and how the carbonation of the beer seemed the perfect counterpoint to the creaminess of the cheese, just as Graham had said it would. I was becoming a believer in this strange union of hops and milk, and, as if to prove the point, the final duo seemed made for each other: English Stilton and the Belgian Dark Strong Ale, sweet and creamy as a beer milkshake.
A beer milkshake? Sounds strange, but I think it could work.