De Proef Lousberg Ale & Het Hinkelspel Cheese Make U.S. Debut
I’m out of my element pairing beer and food. Sure, I’ve made half-assed attempts–like the time I asked a bartender friend at Brouwer’s which dipping sauce would pair with Russian River Damnation (a move that earned me Beer Douche of the Week honors). Sure, I’ve read Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table, but honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever had a religious experience when I tasted a certain beer with a certain food. But, yesterday I had a beer and cheese together that helped me understand why people rave about this whole pairing thing.
The beer I had was Lousberg, a Belgian golden ale brewed by De Proef Brewery in Lochristi, Belgium. Lousberg is the brainchild of De Proef Brewmaster Dirk Naudts and his friend Alexander Claeys of the Het Hinkelspel Cheese Cooperative in Gent, Belgium. According to Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports, the two wanted to create a beer that’s a hybrid of the Westmalle Tripel, Duvel and Delirium Tremens. The goal was to craft a beer that complements Het Hinkelspel’s cheeses. Both the beer and the cheeses are making their U.S. debut this month.
Last night, Director of Specialty Cheese Kim Iannotti from Peterson Cheese brought the Het Hinkelspel cheeses Pas de Rouge and Pas de Bleu to Über Tavern to pair with the beer. The Rouge is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a soft, creamy texture. The red bacteria that works its way through the rind creates a pretty stinky cheese. I think I overheard someone say something about a German girl’s underpants—although my girlfriend knows that of course I would never make a remark so offensive to both women and Germans.
The Bleu, also a cow’s milk cheese, has the trademark marbled look from the pencillium roqueforti mold that’s added to it. The texture of the blue cheese is much harder than the Rouge and it has a very sharp flavor. The two cheeses are very different and I enjoyed both, but the Pas de Bleu was the one that complemented the Lousberg the best.
I tried the beer with each of the cheeses. To my unsophisticated taste buds, both seemed to go well with the beer. Iannotti suggested that I try to have the beer and cheese in my mouth at the same time. When I did that with the Pas de Bleu, I was pretty blown away. The flavors of the two worked together to create something even better than each element by itself. For the first time, I felt like I really “got” a pairing–maybe not on an intellectual level, but on the level of “holy shit, this tastes amazing!” When I tried the same thing with the Pas de Rouge, the effect wasn’t nearly the same.
If you’re interested in trying Lousberg or the Het Hinkelspel cheeses, Whole Foods stores in Washington and Oregon are the only places that have them right now. 750 ml bottles of Lousberg are currently available for only $8.99 and both Pas de Bleu and Pas de Rouge are $21.99/lb. The beer by itself is worth your time, but I really recommend trying it with the Pas de Bleu. If saying that means I’m becoming a member of the doucheoisie, so be it.