Jasper Hill's Alpine Visits Chicago
My housemate and I were preparing for a big weekend party last Friday when my first Birth of A Cheese 2012 sample package arrived. Once the cheeses reached room temperature, I set about sniffing, tasting and analyzing while other fellas laid bricks, built flower beds, and mowed the backyard. Perfect timing, I thought. This all happened in a Chicago Bungalow that also serves as headquarters for Cheese and Cheers, a blog that I .. er.. maintain at www.cheeseandcheers.com. The blog’s subject matter is all things near the intersection of cheese and beer, and my name is Dave Phillips.
Cheese and Cheers is the reason I was fortunate enough to be selected by Culture and the Cellars at Jasper Hill to partake in this virtual focus group, and partake I shall. Knowing the cheeses are from Jasper Hill aroused my enthusiasm. Unwrapping the first of three wedges, I saw that it must be an Alpine style cheese we were dealing with—Yes! The Alpines are a great family of cheeses that go well with beer!
Sample No. 1 looked lovely—a dark golden rind wrapped around a buttery paste with a few tiny openings. The aroma was very simple—a light musty-basement-plaster thing with a hint of cheese-flavored corn puffs. This one seemed a bit incomplete by the time I considered texture (pliable) and flavor (meaty, and noticeably salty). The second wedge had more of a coral/salmon colored rind, more complexity (mushrooms, slight lactic) in the aroma, better texture (toothsome), more complexity (throw in yogurt notes) in the flavor, and more balance.
Then there was sample No. 3. This had much more personality. This was a Jasper-worthy cheese or at least the faint birth cries of one. The rind was tacky, clinging to the parchment. There was some aroma—just a hint of something funky. Got more Red Hot Chili Peppers funky than James Brown funky, but it was nicely funky. If you want something more literal, I’m going with sourdough and mild locker room. The texture was softer than that of the previous two. The flavors included cultured milk/yogurt, pistachio and citrus. The salt had become the rhythm guitar instead of the lead. I hope that it was not just the suggestion of the order, but that cheese No. 3 was a fine piece of work.
A cheese like this I would pair with a Belgian or Belgo-inspired farmstead/saison in any one of the various expressions of those beers – dryish and high in octane, malty, sweet, you name it. A witbier or a kolsch style beer might work too, as would a slightly roasty, Brit-leaning bitter. As for a name, well, Jasper Hill’s own cheeses are often named after local historical figures. I would choose a name for this cheese based on the artist I was listening to while tasting the cheese, so I’m going with Leonard Cohen. Can’t wait for the next set!