Cheesemonger and beer enthusiast Amber Landry is running a new beer and cheese pairing program at St. James Cheese Company in the Warehouse District (641 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-304-1485; www.stjamescheese.com). From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays, guests can sample a rotating selection of brews and cheeses. Landry spoke with Gambit about the pairings.
G: What inspired the beer and cheese tastings?
Landry: I think it's something that's catching on, and I think a lot of that has to do with all of the new breweries that have popped up. For (St. James), I wanted to learn more about beer. Just researching them on my own and learning about them has been part of my own growth and personal knowledge.
I've been with St. James for almost two years. I was formerly a chef, and then I started working in the front of the house. I took over our beer program about three months ago. I try to get a (beer) rep in for the first Friday of the month to explain everything, and then we roll with those pairings for the month and switch it up every month. It's basically offered a la carte. You'll get three 4-ounce pours of beer and a three-cheese cheese board (for $15). It comes with accoutrements and typed-up tasting notes, so if you want, you can go home and review it.
I think beer (pairing) is easier personally for me. I haven't done a lot of wine pairings, but I feel like wines are so complex on their own. I feel like beers can be complex, but you know the base notes of what they're going to taste like. What you normally eat with cheese is bread, and (some of) those ingredients are already in (beer) so it's a really natural pairing and it makes sense to me.
G: How do you pick what to pair with what?
L: We've got one of the beers on draught, and then the other ones in bottle or cans. I'll usually get samples from the rep and I'll try them; I'll try to pick similar flavor profiles. We'll pick a theme or brewery to work with every month, and then we rotate from there.
(Last month) we had a super funky [cheese] with a washed rind that we paired with an American pale ale, so the bitterness and the citrus notes in that cut that funkiness and worked really well.
Right now, we've got the Fat Tire Belgian White, which is one of (New Belgium Brewing Company's) newer releases. It's super light, and it's got coriander and citrus notes. We pair that with a Cremont (cheese), which is a goat and cow (milk) blend from Vermont. It's a double cream so it's super creamy and fluffy. It tastes like you're eating a cloud in a really delightful way.
We did a black lager beer that was paired with a St. Malachi, which is an American-style Gouda and just won a bunch of awards at the American Cheese Society conference. And then we did a sour beer, the (New Belgium) Tart Lychee, which they don't make anymore, and we paired that with my favorite blue cheese, Chiriboga, which is a German, super creamy blue cheese — a not-so-pungent blue cheese.
G: What are the easiest cheeses to pair with beers?
L: There are general guidelines. Usually, darker beers have a lot of terroir notes, so any kind of aged Gouda will go well with that. Any kind of fresh, younger cheeses with bloomy rinds will work better with paler beers, lagers, saisons. Anything with a citrus note usually is going to work with a goat cheese, because it reiterates those lemony notes. Blue cheeses are weird because they can kind of go different ways, but usually they work better with a funkier type of beer. Carbonation will help to cut through any kind of thick, creamy cheese.