For me, winter is the season to nestle into my comfiest chair, imagine there is a fireplace in my living room, and attempt to finish a Dostoyevsky novel. Ideally, a serving of cheese and libation to match are on the end table. Regrettably, the probability of actually experiencing winter this year is about as bleak as the likelihood that I will eventually finish Crime and Punishment. Yet, my upbringing as a Philadelphia sports fan has instilled in me an eternal, if not hopeless, optimism. So please allow me to share with you my three favorite pairings for the winter season, if and when it comes.
Colston Bassett Stilton and Port Wine. It is not my intent to be unoriginal. Of all the standard wine and cheese pairings, Stilton and Port is almost certainly the most accepted. Yet the warmth that envelops you as you partake in this pairing better aligns itself with the winter than with spring or summer.
Hoch yBrig and Winter Ale. There are many breweries that produce Winter Ale, but the overlying characteristics are roasted malt and a warming alcohol level. The sweetness of the malt contrasts nicely with the strong earthiness of the Hoch yBrig, a Swiss Gruyere-style that is washed in white wine and aged under the experienced eye of Switzerland’s top affineur, Rolf Beeler. It is easy to imagine yourself on a trail in the Alps while enjoying this combination.
Ardrahan and Scotch. This is for the forward-thinking cheese consumers. The general consensus at our monthly Beer and Cheese events is that Ardrahan is either the greatest or the worst cheese ever tasted. Granted, it can be a bit pungent. The dominant flavor is that of peanuts, and there is certainly an undercurrent of broccoli and cauliflower in the finish. Curiously, it works. And I understand that Scotch is not for everyone either. But just as many people cannot drink Tequila straight, nor can they eat a lime, taking a shot of Tequila followed quickly by a bite of a lime wedge is standard practice. Ardrahan and Scotch cut each other’s strength and make each more bearable.
So for those of you who might actually experience winter this year, I hope you test my pairings and post your opinions. For the rest of you, dim the lights, crank up the AC, and do your best to pretend.