The alarm went off, and I instantly scrambled for the fridge. Today is Belgium’s National Day, and I needed to choose some Belgian beer to celebrate!
The 21st of July is the Belgian National Day, and what better way to celebrate this day (well, for me at least) than to bring out some Belgian beer? I chose Achel 8 Blond and Achel 8 Bruin, some different cheeses and ham, home made pesto and mustard, and a touch of Django Reinhardt on the stereo.
I have been a fan of cheese and beer for quite a while but I have yet to write about it, so I thought it was about time to publish a post with some beer and cheese pairings. The beers I picked out are Achel 8 Blond and Achel 8 Bruin, brewed by Achel brewery (or Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis if you must), which is a Belgian Trappist Brewery. The brewery was dismantled by zee Germans back in 1917, and was rebuilt in 2001 with some help from Westmalle Abbey and Rochefort Abbey.
I will pair these two beers with some different cheeses and ham, as well as some home made pesto and mustard. The cheeses I have picked out consists of a aged cheddar, a mild Parmesan and a Gruyère. I also picked out two different types of ham; some slices of a dry-cured Norwegian ham, and a couple of slices of a well aged Pata negra (Ibérico). I also included a home made pesto (made with cashew nuts, which is mostly what I use for pesto) and some spoons of a coarse and mildly sweet mustard to the platter. First up, the Blond:
Achel 8 Blond
Deep golden color with an off-white head.
Yeasty/spicy aroma with a nice sweet malty base.
The flavor also has some nice yeasty hints. I’m picking up some hints of bread and some honey. Lovely balance, a delight!
Medium long, somewhat sweet and spicy finish.
Achel 8 Blond with the ham and cheese
Cheddar: The beer works really well with the cheddar and amplifies the flavor of the cheese. The mustard was OK with the cheese and the beer, but the pesto brought forth some slight metallic hints in the beer, which I did not care for.
Parmesan: The Parmesan, although quite mild, was too sharp for the beer. They did not harmonize at all. But what did work was some pesto on the Parmesan with the beer. The extreme nutty flavors of the pesto made wonders. The mustard did not make it any better (or worse for that matter).
Gruyère: This was also a good match. The cheese is slightly sweet and has some nutty hints, which works well with the beer. There are some salty flavors from the cheese as well which does not really work well with the beer. With some pesto or mustard the match is slightly better. Seriously, I could just eat this pesto by itself and be pretty happy. Oh well, on to the meat!
Dry-cured Norwegian ham: I was afraid that the rather salty ham would ruin the beer but the match wasn’t all that bad. The beer prolonged the taste of the ham a bit and they played well together.
Pata negra: The match itself was probably not much to speak of, but the meat, BY GODS THE MEAT! I’m pretty close to just ditching this BeerNorway stuff all together and just start a PataNegraNorway blog instead, where I’d simply post pictures of me eating meat all day long! This ham brings back some great memories of rock climbing trips to Spain where we ate loads of this stuff. Oh well, back to reality, on to the Bruin!
Achel 8 Bruin
Dark brown in color with some lovely red hints when held up against the light. The head has some serious retention which I’m sure would last until tomorrow if I would just leave the beer to itself, which would be a rather silly experiment.
Sweet dark fruits, some earthy notes and quite a lot of sweet malt.
The flavor is also pretty sweet but the beer is still incredibly balanced and complex. I’m getting some spicy notes and some caramel sweetness.
Medium long finish with some hints of caramel and ripe pear.
Achel 8 Bruin with the ham and cheese
Cheddar: A good match, but I was not blown away. The nutty flavors of the cheese brings forth some interesting flavors in the beer. The pesto is too powerful when thrown in the mix, but the mustard worked really well.
Parmesan: The cheese did not show much face when paired with the beer. The Parmesan I’m having is a bit mild, so a more sharp one might be better suited.
Gruyère: The Gruyère was perhaps a bit too funky for the beer. The lovely balance of the beer was disturbed by the saltiness of the cheese.
Dry-cured Norwegian ham: The salt from the ham is way to overpowering, making the beer taste really rancid. Not good at all.
Pata negra: The nutty and sweet flavors of the meat works well with the beer, but not as good as some of the cheeses. But still, PataNegraNorway, anyone want to join in?!
All in all this was an interesting experiment. The cheeses worked well with the beer, and in most cases even better with pesto or mustard. The dry-cured ham was too salt, and the Pata negra was almost to delicate. I will definitely write more food and beer pairings on the blog in the time to come!
If anyone have any food/beer pairing experiences they want to share feel free to leave a comment!
I’ll end the post with a couple of extra pictures from tonights session, cheers!
Disclaimer: The beers were given to me as samples from the Norwegian importer