22 February 2012

Beer and Cheese Club - February 2012

Jolly Pumpkin disappeared from Indiana shelves early last year.  Did you notice?  If you didn't, shame on you!  With Jolly Pumpkin's lack of an entry level beer and choice to compete on the wine level with $10+ 750mL bottles, many beer consumers pass over them on the shelves.  This is really a sad situation since Jolly Pumpkin is producing some incredible wild ales that are well worth the price point.  Thanks to Goose the Market, members of the Beer and Cheese Club are about to get a taste of some of the incredible work going on in Dexter, Michigan!

The cheese this month is a special offering.  Beer drinkers may recognize beers like 3 Floyds Dark Lord or Founders KBS as limited edition rarities, but this type of small batch production isn't only available in the beer world!  Roelli Cheese only created 71 wheels of Dunbarton Gold and may never make it again.  This truly is a one-of-a-kind cheese.  This English-style raw cow's milk cheddar is inoculated with a culture of penicillium roquefort, which you might recognize from the cheese by the same name.  The method is very similar to their Dunbarton Blue but for this variation of the cheese, a select group cows were used to create a very specific flavor.  This cheese is a rarity and one that Goose the Market has specifically selected to share with us.

If you're a member of the Beer and Cheese Club at Goose the Market, your February installment is 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 includes Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja and a wedge of Dunbarton Gold. Either of these items would be great experiences on their own, but we feel they are even better when consumed together.

Dunbarton Gold: Mild, buttery, and a bit funky from the faint vein of mold running through the center of the slice. The cheese was funkier closer to the rind. Really nice on its own.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja: In my opinion, this is the best beer that Jolly Pumpkin brews. A good approximation of a Flanders Red, revealing the sour apple, cherry, and oak notes that you'd expect from that style. However, the beer carries a pronounced spiciness--cloves and coriander--that I don't find in a traditional Flanders Red. This spicy kick, plus the 7% ABV, make La Roja a memorable beer. Now I want a bottle.

Beer + cheese: I liked this combination best when taking a sip of the beer first, then taking a bite of the cheese. The spiciness and tartness of the beer brought out sharp notes in the cheese that weren't present when I tasted the cheese by itself.

Dunbarton Gold - a highly agreeable funky blue nose, spicy/slightly peppery but not overpowering, freshwater fishy, rewarding on bigger bites. I could eat a whole wheel. Lingers in the upper registers of the mouth.

 Jolly Pumpkin La Roja - nose provides a hint of vinegary sour and tart that doesn't completely come through the beer, but it's thoroughly sour, crisp and genuine grapefruity tart.

 Combined, a fruity tomatoey blend, then the cheese washes away, leaving just the slight dry bite of the beer. And your mom.

I admit that I didn't appreciate Jolly Pumpkin before they left Indiana, but after a recent trip to Ann Arbor, I am among the many who was looking forward to their return.  La Roja is one of the stronger beers in Jolly Pumpkin's repertoire and it provides the malty base necessary for a good cheddar.  The beer starts off with an apple cider vinegar aroma laced with notes of oak and toffee.  The best way to start off this pairing is to try the beer by itself, because the immediate tartness will overwhelm the senses at first.  Subsequent sips will reveal tart cherries, oak and rosé grapes.

The cheese this month, Dunbarton Gold, is a combination of a medium sharpness aged cheddar and a hint of roquefort.  Due to the sourness of the beer, I would suggest sampling the beer first and then following it with the cheese.  If the cheese comes first, the tartness may overwhelm the cheese.  When following the beer, the dry and nutty cheddar flavors meld well with the residual sweetness of La Roja, while the blue cheese notes are brought further forward through the tart cherry flavors in the beer.

This is a really nice pairing that demonstrates the drastic difference that the order of tasting can exhibit.

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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