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“Cider’s misunderstood, red-headed stepchild” is how John Reynolds of New York’s Blackduck Cidery describes perry, the low-alcohol result of fermenting pear juice.
It hasn’t always been this way. Napoleon’s preferred tipple, perry has a heritage that stretches back to the Roman Empire. Medieval times saw production coalesce around France, Wales, and England, and the area is still the epicenter of consumption.
Craft cider has seen a revival in America—it’s time for perry’s star turn. The delicate, sweet drink is well suited for recipes, but don’t stop at poached pears: Reynolds enjoys fresh tripe in hot perry sauce, insisting on using only traditional varieties as they provide “complexity and tannins important to the finished dish.” Too adventurous for your taste? Perry’s also magical when paired with the right cheese.
Traditional perry—the kind Napoleon enjoyed—is made from bitter pears with tough, speckled skins and may be either sparkling or still. “Think of a semi-dry white wine, but half the alcohol,” says Charles McGonegal of Wisconsin’s ÆppelTreow Winery & Distillery. “Floral nose, distinctly pearish but not fresh Bartlett pear. Maybe lemony. A tiny hint of vinegar.”
Perry’s winelike nature makes it dynamite with curds. Brace your senses and match a punchy Trappist-style wedge with a tannic traditional, or enjoy the drink’s multifaceted interplay with the nutty, savory notes of a sheepy tomme.
Charles Martell and Son Ltd. Stinking Bishop + ÆppelTreow Orchard Oriole Perry
Northland Sheep Dairy Tripletree Tomme + Blackduck Cidery Still Perry
Fruitier and more floral than its traditional cousin, modern perry is typically created from less acidic Bartlett and Bosc pears (in combination or alone)—the sweeter fruits sold at the supermarket. Producers tend to leave more residual sugar in theses brews to suit present-day palates.
Since modern perry lacks the complexity of traditional varieties, look to cheeses that are flavorful yet not too strong. Milder blues work well, especially those with mushroomy notes, as they play off the drink’s sweetness. Alpine styles are another good match, as perry enhances their salty, roasty characteristics.
Lively Run Goat Dairy Cayuga Blue + ACE Perry
Crosswinds Farm & Creamery Rose’s Reserve + Crispin Pacific Pear
Similar to dessert wine, this super-sweet, high-alcohol perry boasts notes of juicy Bartlett pear, apricot, and spiced apple. Producers are experimenting more in this growing sector—Washington state’s Renaissance Orchards ages its Venetian-Velvet Dessert Perry in bourbon barrels, for one. Look to Gorgonzola styles for the right amount of salt and blue bite to meld beautifully with dessert perry; the complex richness of an aged sheep’s milk cheese is also a treat with this chilled tipple.
Rogue Creamery Oregonzola + Once Upon A Tree The Wonder
Vermont Shepherd Verano + Renaissance Orchards Venetian-Velvet Dessert Perry
Feature Photo Credit: Dasha Petrenko/Shutterstock.com