November 24, 2010

Four Peak's Andy Ingram: Cheese and Beer's Secret Weapon

Andy Ingram
Andy Ingram, head brewer and  co-owner of Four Peaks writes about Thanksgiving pairings in a new weekly beer column for the Arizona Republic. The focus on cheese and beer's carbonation caught my eye.
In our house, pre-dinner bites usually involve cheese, and there are few culinary marriages better than beer and cheese. Over the years, wine has co-opted cheese as a natural partner, but honestly, cheese is far better with beer, thanks to beer's secret weapon: carbonation
Carbonation cuts through some of the heavier aspects of cheese while brightening its subtle flavors. (Andy Ingram)
Cheese has been co-opted by wine, Ingram writes, but I took it a step further when I  talked about cheese during my Ignite Phoenix 8 presentation, "Let's Put Beer on the Dinner Table". I said that wine is frequently paired with cheese since cheese's creamy texture and rich flavors do such a good job of masking a wine's flaws. Without carbonation, the cheese stays in your mouth.

This is not new thinking by either of us. It's been a fairly established principle in beer and food circles. I can't speak for Andy on this, but I'm fairly certain that we both drew upon Garrett Oliver's amazing book, "The Brewmaster's Table".
The reason why many people end up serving wine with cheese, especially at parties, is that cheese coats the palate, blunting the flavor of the wine This makes tougher wines taste pretty much OK, which is fine. For less- than-wonderful wines, cheese is the great equalizer, a fact that wine shops are fully aware of. Beer can do a lot better—it can find such harmony with cheese that you won't know where the beer ends and the cheese begins. Traditional beer and cheese are absolutely perfect together. (Garrett Oliver, The Brewmaster's table)
Carbonation lifts
I also had a piece on carbonation and I was surprised at how well that slide resonated with people. Beer's carbonation lifts off flavors and cuts through fats. It's the secret weapon, that Andy speaks of.

When I was preparing the presentation, carbonation seemed a minor point, but it truly is one of beers strongest points.  A great pairing occurs when the flavors of the food are amplified, contrasted, balanced or just made a whole lot better by the beverage you choose.  When that beverage also set's the stage for a new flavor from a different course or offering with the scrubbing power of carbonation, the pairing becomes transcendent.

I'm with Andy now, it is a weapon, but it really shouldn't be so secret.  Perhaps our ranting on it will change that.

As an addendum, BeerPHXation welcomes the new Beer Buzz weekly column and Andy's contributions. The Valley is in need of more beer information and opinion and we envision a bigger and better beer scene because of it. Finally, I'm not sure if it was modesty or impartiality that caused Andy not to mention this, but the Four Peaks website lists cheese pairings for all of the breweries standard beers.  It's an amazing resource and a great place for just about anyone to get started into beer pairing. My only request, the last time I spoke to him was that they include the cheese pairing information to their mobile site.  It's either that or offer some of those cheeses in the brewpub.

1 comment:

  1. What do you think about the power of the sour?
    It seems to me that a non fruited sour beer seems to do a better job of cutting through very heavy fats like duck and bacon. Also the more acidic the better when pairing with very heavy fatty foods.
    The carbonation + acid character seems to really brighten and refresh the palate.