6 Beers on tap, 50+ bottles of beer, and 200+ types cheese.
I had a chance to talk to Steve of the Cheese Bar on Belmont near 61st. It’s great to talk to someone who has a passion for what they do. Steve has been selling cheese for 15 years. Steve and his wife started experimenting with pairing cheese and beer and loved the results.
“Beer pairs better with cheese than wine.” It seemed like a bold statement but he had some good points. Beer is made of grain and the animals eat grain. It isn’t a gigantic leap why they should work.
Steve has three ways to pair cheese with beer.
1) Comparative – Acid to acid, pairing bright wheat beer with Chevre,goat cheese.
2) Contrasting – Take big oatmeal stout, malty and mix with a triple crumb, fatty and creamy. It becomes like a cake batter in your mouth
3) Regional combinations – Take the cheese from an area and grains from the same area, cows eating in the same area. This is a great concept which is often explained as terrior. The concept of terrior has been around for a long time and which talks about the characteristics of specific regions. So all the better if a cow is eating in a region where the grains for a beer will be produced.
Hopworks Organic Velvet ESB works well with Oregon’s Pholia Farms Elk Mountain. The idea is to balance the taste. There is no reason to bring out the bitter taste and for this reason hoppy beers are tough. You need an acidic cheese to make it work at all. IPA’s are his least favorite to try. The one hoppy IPA he likes is the Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. It has the acidicity that doesn’t accentuate the sharp notes of acidic cheese, the smokiness matches it and rounds it off. He finds that alcohol gets in the way of the tasting the cheeses. Wine has 13% alchohol typically and that is a lot to compete with.
He often hears the patrons saying, “I never would have thought it would work.” But isn’t a know-it-all. He is learning with the people who come in and taste every day. He has a journal where he writes the pairings he finds and encourages others to write in the journal as well. I’m no math major but six beers on tap, 50 varieties of bottled beer, and 200 cheese give a huge number of possibilites. He wants people to participate.
At first it was Steve’s Cheese, just a retail counter until. Just two months ago they added the beer and it sounds like it has been a hit. Now don’t think Steve is against wine, he’s just a fan of what beer can do. Where the typical restuarant has a large wine list and a small beer selection, he has flipped it. He has a selection of wine but he is ready to bend your ear about pairing beer and cheese.
Tuesday – Sunday
11AM – 11 PM
6031 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97215
Find them on Facebook.