Forget wine and cheese. Beer and cheese is where it’s at. This duo plays better in every way: there’s more affinity, there’s more balance, and there’s more nuance to the matches. Each month I choose one cheese that’s at its best and pair it with its ideal beers.
Sinodun Hill is a ripened goats’ cheese pyramid, similar in style to a Pouligny and other French goats’ cheeses, made by Rachel Yarrow and Fraser Norton at Earth Trust, a charity farm in South Oxfordshire.
Norton and Yarrow use the traditional method of slow lactic coagulation, then mature the cheese for up to 21 days to develop its flavour and texture. I’m confident that I understand the second part of that sentence…
“A flavoursome cheese with a light nutty edge and a smooth texture.”
Norton and Yarrow have only been producing Sinodun Hill 2016 but have already picked up a clutch of awards for their cheese. Its flavour is yoghurty with a delicate lactic tang followed by a hint of earthy, goaty funk. The texture is light — Neal’s Yard Dairy describes it as ‘almost whipped’ — and smooth. You can eat the wrinkly golden rind too, which gives a creamy texture and a slight flavour of red fruit which develops to a nutty flavour as the cheese ages. The rind develops some blue and grey moulds as it ages, which add to the flavour and character of the cheese.
Grisette can work pretty well but risks being overpowered even with a delicately-flavoured cheese such as this one. Look for a beer with a pronounced Belgian yeast character to contribute to the pairing. St Feuillien Grisette Blanche is a good option.
Saisons fair a bit better. They benefit from similar yeast flavours but have a more pronounced citrus tartness and malt character with which to stand up to the cheese. I tried Partizan’s Lemon and Thyme Saison, which was pretty good. Saison Dupont might be even better.
If a saison works then so should a Belgian witbier. Either a classic one with the traditional orange and coriander flavourings, or something more modern with more pronounced hops such as Taras Boulba by Brasserie de la Senne.
Leaving yeast affinities behind and getting hoppier still, we can look to pilsner. Even American Pale Ales and lighter IPAs might work here. I’d steer clear of anything too big and robust, but lighter examples with bright fruity hops could provide a nice pairing. I’ve had good results pairing this with Anchor Brewing’s San Franpsycho, which the brewery calls a ‘juicy IPA’ — meaning lots of fruity hops and not too much bitterness.
My original cheese choice for this month was Sleightlett, a fresh, unpasteurised goat’s cheese made on Sleight Farm by award-winning cheesemaker Mary Holbrook. Mary died earlier this month. It’s unclear whether, or when, Sleightlett will be available again.
For next month I’ve chosen a cheddar; one that’s so far removed from the plastic supermarket cheeses which bear the same name you might imagine it was something else altogether. It revives techniques from the early 20th century and uses unpasteurised milk to create a cheese that bursts with flavour. Check back again to find out more.