You guys! We just reached a personal high in beer and cheese pairing with a well-crafted doppelbock and a seriously aged gouda! A thousand days aged to be precise. If you love salted caramel (and there is much to love about salted caramel) you should definitely try this pairing!
About the doppelbock. Typically this style from the dark lager family is known as a starkbier (strong beer in German) and strong it is, albeit sooo deceptive, because it goes down very, very smooth. Doppelbock literally means double bock, and bock stands for a male goat. This has to do with the fact that bocks were typically brewed during the time of the Capricorn star sign, hence the imagery and the name. Doppelbocks were first brewed by Bavarian monks to have something nutritious and sustaining to drink during the fasting days of Lenten. They didn’t have it bad, did they? Doppelbocks usually have ABV of 7% or higher, IBU in the range of 20-30 and are described as malt forward. They are full-bodied and bring tastes of caramel, dried prunes, even chocolate and licorice.
The one I am talking about is a tad bit different. It is a seasonal brew by our beloved neighborhood Zwei Brewing Co. They call it their annual Nachtfestbier – made for the Christmas holidays (Festive Night Beer). Maybe this explains why it had hints of spices you would expect in an Oktoberfest or even Gluehwein. Being a seasonal style you can only get it at the brewery.
Chris sampled it at the brewery and bought a crowler so I can try it too. We knew doppelbocks are supposed to pair well with sweet aged cheeses or mellow and buttery blue cheeses. We ended up buying a well aged gouda at Trader Joe’s and I have to say that just from the looks of it, we knew it will be a good fit. The piece was covered with tiny whitish crystals, which in aged goudas means that the milk was of very high quality and the aging process was impeccable. More on that below.
Now, about this fabulous pairing. We like to taste the beer first. Get familiar with it. Embrace the flavors. Then explore what it will feel like to have a sip after the taste buds have been awash with the cheese flavors.
The doppelbock was deep, deep brown with very little tannish head. Very little carbonation, more syrupy. Caramel, toast and licorice aromas that carried to the mouth. Full bodied, robust and shamelessly malt-centric. Subtle alcohol warmth towards the end and hints of the spice flavors I mentioned earlier made it feel festive. And deceptively smooth. Next year we will definitely buy some to have for Christmas, it is so festive.
We tasted the gouda and had a sip of the doppelbock and it was literally “Wow.. Mmmm….This is sooooo good. These two are meant to be had together. Let’s try it again to be sure we are not imagining. Is it really the same beer?” The caramel sweetness of the beer amplified by the cheese. And… remember the whitish crystals? Crunchy and salty, they cut into the mellowness and creaminess of both beer and cheese and elevated the flavors.
Here is something about gouda. It can only be made in Holland (geographical protection,) and only with local cows’ milk. Otherwise it is called a gouda style cheese. It is categorized as a farmer’s cheese (boerenkaas in Dutch) and according to the Dutch cheese makers, anything aged over 12 months is a very old cheese (overjarige kaas). Gouda is ripened on untreated wooden shelves, turned by hand initially daily and then less frequently as it continues to age. Talking about artisan! It is semi-hard yet still creamy with a very sweet core. The sweet core is due to the manner in which it is made. It entails removing part of the whey and adding water to the curds (the solid masses from which cheese is made), washing away lactose from the curds and leaving less lactic acid to turn the cheese salty. If you want, watch this video. I had a blast watching it, but that could have been my nerdiness being satisfied.
The 1000 days aged gouda here presented didn’t exactly crumble, but rather flaked in very precise, irregular slivers. It was very intense and rich but definitely not overwhelming. Just like the doppelbock.
The crunchy white crystals all over the cheese are a prized feature of all aged goudas. They are attributed to an amino acid called Tyrosine. It promotes the breakdown of fats and proteins from the curds and transforms them into the clusters we see as crystals. Why some aged cheeses form Tyrosine crystals and others do not is still a mystery. ((http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1320&context=graddis))Which made me feel like I was eating magic cheese that was making the beer taste even better. True story!