26 May 2011

Beer and Cheese Club - May Edition

We are entering our fifth month of the Beer and Cheese Club, which means if you joined up with us back in January, you need to renew your subscription!  May brings us one of the lesser known Trappist breweries - Orval, and a real cave-aged sheep's milk cheese from Wisconsin.  Ocooch Mountain (we're still struggling on how to properly pronounce that) is a washed-rind cheese that is aged in a cave for 3-4 months.  This mild yet flavorful cheese is something that we imagine almost anyone would enjoy.

Orval is one of the 7 Trappist breweries, of which the most famous is Chimay.  Orval stands out among the other Trappist breweries for their emphasis on hops.  While most Trappist beers have a strong malt presence, Orval employs a dry-hopping technique to create a unique flavor.  This is a beer that a lot of people have seen sitting on shelves, but have probably not tried.  Even if you have enjoyed Orval before, we think you'll like it even more with this pairing.

If you're a member of the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market, your May 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's delivery will be 3 bottles of Orval and a bit under half a pound of Ocooch Mountain (not the whole wheel like in the photo). Either of these items would be great experiences on their own, but we feel they are even better when consumed together.

Hidden Springs Creamery's Ocooch Mountain Cheese is the kind of cheese that speaks to my palate; it's buttery, nutty, and mild. The Hidden Springs Creamery website calls Ocooch Mountain "a bit of a sheep's milk salute to aged Parmesan," and I would certainly say that this description is apt. Orval, of course, is the world-famous Trappist ale. Of all Trappist ales, Orval is the most hop-forward of the bunch, hitting the palate with a dry, peppery flavor.

Considering both of these flavor profiles, I was eager to see how they mixed. I tried the cheese and beer in two combinations: beer before cheese and beer after cheese. With the beer before cheese combo, the beer cut through the butteriness of the cheese, accentuating the cheese's nutty notes. With the beer after cheese combo, the cheese revealed an herbal sweetness in the beer's finish. In the end, I would say that this pairing is an exemplary "yin-yang" combination, with the almost diametrically opposite characteristics of the beer and the cheese producing a flavorful synergy.

I arrived late to the sampling (my own fault) and didn't get to spend as much time with the pairing as I normally would have liked.  I was excited to see Orval, because that beer is nothing short of fantastic.  The cheese ended up being pretty fantastic too, as it was subtle and nutty.
I would love to make a simple salad with the cheese and eat it while drinking the beer.  I think I have a project for when I pick up my allotment.

Ocooch mountain raw sheeps's milk cave
Funky toe jam nose, earthy rind, light and creamy

Orval - a Belgian beer that might be hoppy! Nose is.

Beer chasing brings out the earthy cheese party and makes me say ooh la la

Later/warmer sips and samples brought out a cherry pie sort of note, a New Glarus Belgian Red sort of funky.

So this is what my beer notes normally look like.

While I've enjoyed all the beer and cheese club offerings so far, this one has been my favorite. A creamy cheese that's not overpoweringly funky (but still a little funky), paired with a legendary beer that compliments the earthy flavors from the cheese, yet still stands up on its own.

Orval is a lively beer, which would help clear the palate of any lingering cheese flavors, but the Ocooch isn't the type of cheese that lingers. I'd guess that Orval would work with almost any cheese, really. I also think this cheese would work in almost any context.

Orval is probably one of my favorite Trappist beers because of its wonderful balance between sweet malt, spicy hops and funky Belgian yeast.  The hops come across as both peppery and grassy, while the beer itself has a dominate fruit sweetness that includes some combination of figs, cherries and grapes.  The use of Brettanomyces employed in this beer creates a Lambic-style funk without any of the associated sourness of a Lambic.  Really just a wonderful variety of flavors that are finished off with a dry bitterness that makes it very sessionable.

The Ocooch Mountain cheese is fairly mild and reminded me of the texture of swiss.  Overall this cheese was very buttery with notes of nuts, grass and yeasty bread.  The beer and cheese provided very interesting and different changes in each item.  The cheese became very sweet and helped cut the buttery texture.  The beer become much hoppier with a lot of the fruit sweetness dropping out.  A very dry, spiciness resulted and was very enjoyable.  I think my favorite part of this pairing was its subtlety.  I wouldn't have imagined these two items complementing each other, but they did so in a way that didn't detract from the main appeal of either product.

Creamy, buttery cheese with slight almond notes, the more you snack the creamier it gets.  Spicy, peppery herb notes in the beer to start with a pillowy, belgian yeast-induced head.  Blends into a floral exchange, comes across as a Belgian pale ale.

When the two are paired they meld well into complements and balance each other out.  The cheese has the perfect level of complexity and richness and the beer is a balanced Belgian with light hops when paired together.

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.


  1. I discovered Orval on my first trip to Belgium and fell in love with it. It remains my favorite Belgian beer.

  2. I can't believe you published my notes, Rod.

  3. If it makes you feel better, I fixed your spelling.

  4. Aaron - It's a wonderful beer. I don't know how the rest of the bunch would rate it, but I would put it in my top 15 to 20 favorites.

  5. I added to my notes because that was embarrassing.

  6. I can't believe you edited the post to make yourself look smart.