21 April 2011

Beer and Cheese Club - April Edition

The April installment of the Beer and Cheese Club features something of a "safe" pairing after February and March's journeys into brave new worlds.  April brings us back to the comfort of cheddar.  Not your typical grocery store variety of cheddar, but cheddar from Cheddar.  Well, just outside of Cheddar.  And for the record, Cheddar is in England, not Wisconsin or Vermont.  This is the real deal.  We're talking cheese cultures that are over 100 years old and cows from a specific region of England.  If that weren't enough, it's also aged for at least 2 years.  Cheddar is a familiar friend to us all, but through April's cheese selection, we get to experience a new benchmark for the style.

It seems only fitting that on our trip out to Europe for some original cheddar that we also pick up some beer.  In fact, Belgium seems like a good idea.  However, just to keep things interesting, let's go with a new Belgian brewery.  Believe it or not, Brouwerij De Musketiers (don't need a translation for that one) opened in 2000.  Troubadour Obscura is billed as a Mild Stout but only in Belgium could an 8.5% beer pass as "mild."  I'd probably call it a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.

If you're a member of the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market, your April installment is likely ready for you to pick up right now. If you're not a member, the club is $99 for 4 months. This month nets you 3 bottles of Troubadour Obscura and sizable chunk of Barber's 1833 Reserve Cheddar. Either of these items would be great experiences on their own, but we feel they are even better when consumed together.  As a reminder, if you signed up in January when we kicked off this crazy ride, this will be your last installment on your original membership.  Remember to renew!

Coincidentally, I was recently able to try Troubadour Obscura on tap while at Churchkey on vacation in Washington DC, so this was an encore presentation of this beer for me.  And definitely one I appreciated.  Troubadour Obscura really is everything that you would expect with the description of a "Belgian Stout."  The aroma is sweet and slightly chocolatey, while the beer itself is moderately heavy without being thick or syrupy.  The spicy Belgian yeast jumps out immediately with sweet fruits such as red grapes and cherries.  Chocolate undertones run throughout the beer with a supporting cast of spices including pepper, cinnamon, clove and cardamom.

The cheese is a very clean and rich cheddar.  Extremely strong in flavor without having any harsh edges on it, this is something I could eat a lot of without noticing it.  Pairing with the stout yields some interesting results, some expected and some unexpected.  Together, the saltiness of the cheese creates a nice, fluffy mouthfeel.  The Belgian spices back off and simplify the flavors to more basic stout elements, such as chocolate and molasses.  The most unexpected interaction was right in the middle - a briney oyster and sea-water flavor seemingly popped out of nowhere.  It arrived only for a few seconds before it disappeared, but I was able to reproduce it with each paired bite.  The pairing finishes up with a hay-like simplification of cheddar elements that removed all sharpness of the cheese and left flavors that could be described as uniquely cheddar. 

With a first whiff, Troubadour Obscura evokes a light smokiness mixed with Belgian spices and sweetness.  Upon further oral inspection, a creamy mouthfeel accompanied by mollasses and cocoa roll pleasantly across the tongue.  The cheese is a wonderfully balanced cheddar, with a great bang of salt and a tangy edge on it.  Paired with the cheese, the sweetness and spices of the Obscura really shines through.  As odd as Rod's "briney" taste in the middle sounds, that undoubtedly pops out when you're looking for it.  Our host, Corrie Quinn, also noted a buttered bananas flavor in the finish of the pairing.  Look for both of these unusual and fleeting flavor experiences in this latest pairing from Goose the Market!

To join the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market (in conjunction with Hoosier Beer Geek), check out this PDF and then either call Goose the Market at 317-924-4944 or stop in the shop at 2503 N. Delaware St.

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