Starting today and going on until the 17th, the second annual LA Beer Week Festival celebrates the greatness that is beer. I know, you’re going to say, smartly and/or snarkily, “Every week is LA Beer Week”. Yes, but it’s not every week that special casks will be opened and tapped for the first time, nor is it every week where your local pub will have something special on tap for one night only. And what is beer without the food – especially the cheese – to go with it? There is, for example, a cheese and beer event on the 13th at the Karl Strauss brewery in Universal City. The following day, Patrick Rue, owner of The Bruery will be on tap (heh heh) at Verdugo Bar to share a few rare beers. Hot Knives – who prove that you can drink beer and not eat meat and still be men – will pair cheese with Rue’s brews. Sorry, wine – in this economy, cheese’s preferred plus one is a little more blue collar.
In honor of Beer Week and, more directly, in a blatant attempt to score tickets to the sold out Bruery/Hot Knives event, I’m going to share one of my favorite beer and cheese pairings with you. Trust me, if you walked onto Noah’s ark that fateful night to see how he was doing with his little pet project there, you’d see these two finding each other in the corner, playfully bickering, but always bringing out the best in each other, as all great pairings are wont to do. In short, it’d be like a Biblical rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston as Eve and Matthew McConaughey as Adam. I know you want to see it.
I’m going to let Wallace here introduce you to one of my favorite cheeses, edam. [You’re going to have to sit through a short ad for something Australian – sorry.]
Assuming that the Shopper 13 could drop off the cheese and get on to the local liquor store, I’d bet that Gromit would direct it to pick up a nice strong ale. You see, that red wheel of edam is a little mild, almost timid, and needs a strong ale to show off its very best parts without bullying and overwhelming it. Edam is not the type to turn you off too quickly by coming on too strongly, the way blue cheese is apt to do. The cheese may be a little (pine) nutty, but it’s not crazy. No, edam is as smooth and mild as Clark Kent, with a few licks of salt in there to make you think that it’s a pre-seasoned sailor nearly ready to take on the high seas.
I’ve found edam at a few markets and noticed that they’re shipped off into the world while they’re quite young. Me, I like edam the way I like my women: a little more mature, a lot more experienced. An older edam is sharper, and its sailor’s cap is a markedly saltier than its former younger self. It’s a nuttier too, but it’s not at the insanity that is Captain Ahab. Naw, the edam, while now strongly mild and a little crumbly, is still its mellow yellow self.
The first time I had aged edam was when I was in Bristol, which, incidentally, is home to Aardman and Wallace and Gromit. It was post-midnight, it was after I attended a lecture, and it was very cold. Shivering, I was given a warm dark ale, little balls of edam, and three apple slices. In that order. For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact ale, but I can tell you it was strong, and it was perfect with the apples and edam.
To compensate for my bad memory and in tribute to our cheese-loving friend Wallace and his trusty Charlie Chaplin of a dog, Gromit, I offer up one of my favorite English strong ales to complement the edam: Fuller’s 1845. Fuller’s makes a few different beers – a London Porter, an ESB – but the 1845 has a special spot in my heart for being one of the first beers that made me feel like an adult and not like a sorority girl stupidly grinning after downing a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. You can drink this one with the guys during Monday night football, but it’s strong enough to be carried from the coffee to the dining table without making you feel or look like an alcoholic. This is not Corona, and nothing on the bottle will turn blue when it reaches a certain temperature.
You have to drink this one a little warm. Just a bit. Otherwise, the chill will dilute and/or mask all sorts of crazy flavors you think you wouldn’t get in a beer: juniper berries, rustic bread fresh from the oven, fruit. A (warm) Fuller’s 1845 is damn good with most things, but paired with edam, the malty, fruity flavors of the beer really bring out the tangy, nutty flavors of the cheese. For its part, the edam brings out a sweet and caramel flavor to the beer, with strong hints of velvet cocoa showing up to the party a few microseconds later. You don’t feel uncomfortably full after swinging the alcohol and ball of fat, either, which you do sometimes when a beer and cheese pairing is a little off. See? The two deserve each other, and I mean that in the best way possible. (By the by, this beer also goes well with Wallace’s favo[u]rite cheese of all time, Wensleydale, but that’s for another entry masquerading as a blog post far off into the future.).
You can find edam at your local cheese shop (try the Cheese Store of Silver Lake or the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills). I picked up my bottle of Fuller’s 1845 from Cap’n Cork in Los Feliz, but also look for it when you’re out and about at the Fifth Amendment Alehouse in Santa Monica. I’ve also had the luck to find it on tap at The Daily Pint, also in Santa Monica (and a participant in LA Beer Week!). Failing that, you can find Fuller’s at Beer Week participants 1739 Public House in Los Feliz and Waterloo & City in Culver City.
So many beers, so many cheeses, so much time (10 days!) to sample new brews and eats. Hopefully I don’t sound like your mother, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say: stay safe. Like every other beer week, right?