Of course, what kind of pairing would this be without some kind of judging to determine which beer-and-cheese combination best rocks the house? Fruition chef Alex Seidel, local cheese-maker and expert Val Landrum and Falling Rock Taphouse owner and beer guru Chris Black will be the judges. We caught up with Landrum to ask about his qualifications, cheese and beer, and what makes a good pairing between the two:
"I was a chef here in town up until the mid-'90s, then I was the chief of cheese-making at Haystack Mountain. We milked goats twice a day," explains Landrum. "We won a bunch of awards on kind of the national and world scene, and with cheeses I developed here locally. So I got my name out there with a lot of chefs. Recently I've been a food broker. I sell to the big food distributors that then sell to restaurants. So when a chef at a hotel or a popular restaurant wants to understand cheese better, they'll call me in, and I'll do a complete training, a tasting and we'll go through the whole world of cheese with a chef. And that's what I do, I've become kind of a niche expert." Which explains his credentials for this contest -- and he's also working with the aforementioned Alex Seidel to make cheese for him on Seidel's farm. "I'm a one-trick pony," Landrum says. "I know a lot about one thing, and that is cheese."
So what does he know about pairing cheese with alcoholic beverages? "Quite a bit," he says. "I get asked to do a lot of suggestions on pairing -- usually more with wine -- although, in my personal opinion, beers go better with more cheeses. I think it has to do with the bubbles. The ultimate drink for any food really is champagne and it relates a lot to the bubbles. But more and more, people are realizing that a good lager or ale will stand up really well to this cheddar I've got, and that generally plays out historically. Someone making cheddar in the 1600s of England, those guys weren't drinking French wine, they were drinking local ale. That's true in almost all the places where cheeses were made, even in France, because a lot of times, the people eating the cheeses were more like the peasants, and they didn't have access to wine, they only had access to ciders and ales. For them, cheese was a replacement for meat. So if you were poor, you were living on more vegetables, cheeses and locally made beers."
The brewers had to do without Landrum's expertise while putting together their pairings, and he's interested to see what they did. "I think the world of wine gave people a toe-hold to talk about food. 'Do you taste the fruit and the oak?' So suddenly when people started to get into other things, like beer-making, they brought a lot of that with them. Hints of this and that, a little bit of cardamom -- and cheese is the exact same way. It's about being a connoisseur and dissecting what you're tasting. These guys have exceptional palates, and they know what's going to work and what's not, and if they didn't, then I assume they did a certain amount of trial and error with their choices."
Find out which beer-and-cheese pairing Landrum and his co-judges liked the best tomorrow; admission to Kegs & Curds is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. You can purchase yours at www.wynkoop.com or by calling 1-877-725-8849.