Beer and cheese: Avery's Samaels and Avalanche's Midnight Blue age well together

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My neighbor came over the other night to talk about what we've been reading lately. Over the past few months, we've started our own book club of sorts -- and I knew that the discussion would go better over food. I was in the mood for something simple and, for me, nothing is simpler than a plate of good cheese and bread, with a good beer to wash them down.

I had a bottle of Samael's, an Oak Aged English Strong Ale from Avery Brewing that I had been meaning to try with some cheese, specifically Midnight Blue, an aged goat's milk blue cheese from Avalanche Dairy. I also had some eighteen-year-old barrel-aged balsamic vinegar that I thought would be a nice accompaniment to everything. Without knowing it, I'd set a theme for the night: Time.

My neighbor was late, as usual. In the year that I've known him, he's seen more shows, traveled to more places and gone to more bars with more people than I have in my entire life. It amazes me that he finds the time to do all the things that he does. But he's always late -- which makes sense, I guess.

The pairing was just right: nothing was overpowered, everything self-evident and harmonious. I'm very fond of aged beers and cheeses; all the high notes become low notes over time, making way for subtleties that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The strong beer was warm with alcohol, sweet and malty with subtle notes of vanilla oak. It complemented the blue cheese, the pungency of which had been subdued, making it mellow and meaty. The aged balsamic was dark and syrupy and had a fig-like sweetness with a bright acidity that made for a perfect palate cleanser.

We talked well into the night about books and beer and food, my three favorite subjects. It was a wonderful evening and a much needed reminder that some things in life are timeless.

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