After the ongoing excitement of the General Election, Wednesday night saw a variety of Bristolians heading down to the Grain Barge to cast the only vote that really mattered: is wine, beer or cider the best partner for cheese?
Hosted by Rob Salvage of Bristol Ferry Boat Company and BBC Radio Bristol fame, the evening entailed Andrew of Bristol Beer Factory, Andrew of Hallgarten Wines and Andrew (yes, this made their names significantly easier to remember after a few drinks…) and Alex of The Orchard Pig trying their hardest to convince the punters that their tipple of choice was the best accompaniment for each of the three cheeses provided by Todd and Alex of Trethowan’s Dairy.
Each cheese was accompanied by a glass of each of the three drinks, with the Andrews explaining why they had chosen this particular variety, why it paired better with the cheese than either of the other drinks, and some (naming no names) evidently trying to influence votes by pouring quite generous measures.
The first cheese was Trethowan’s Gorwydd Caerphilly, which was paired with Orchard Pig Dry Cider, Dopff Au Moulin Riesling, and BBF Sunrise. Andrew Wine argued that the depth of flavour and acidity of the Riesling gave it the backbone to cope with the stronger flavours of the cheese, Andrew Cider maintained that his dry and acidic cider complimented the dry and acidic cheese perfectly, and Andrew Beer declared that the Sunrise and the Caerphilly were “made to go together”.
MY VOTES FROM ROUND 1: Cider 1st, Wine 2nd, Beer 3rd.
The second round brought with it the fantastic Keen’s Cheddar, which seemed to win the vote for the best cheese of the night. Andrew Cider’s Medium Table Cider was described as being filtered for a subtle taste, which flatters the Cheddar and doesn’t smother it with flavour. Andrew Beer went for a greater depth of flavour with his Exhibition, claiming that a full-flavoured beer and a creamy Cheddar were a winning combination. And Andrew Wine gave us a Rioja Crianza, maintaining that the tannin levels in the wine gave it the structure and backbone needed alongside the strength of the Cheddar.
MY VOTES FROM ROUND 2: Wine 1st, Cider 2nd, Beer 3rd.
The third and final round saw plates of Stichelton making their way to the tables. More moist, less crumbly and creamier than Stilton, it was this round that saw the most diversity in terms of pairing. Andrew Beer chose the BBF Milk Stout, insisting that the lactose sugar in the beer gives it a sweetnessr that combines well with the creamy Stichelton. Andrew Wine argued that neither beer nor cider could give the level of flavour that his sweet, rich choice of Muscat Beaumes de Venise provided. Andrew Cider closed the show with their brand new Medium Sparkling Cider – so brand new, in fact, that the bottles weren’t even labelled! At 4.2% and blended with apple juice for natural sugars, he argued that the lightness and sweetness went well with the cheese and would cleanse the palate.
MY VOTES FOR ROUND 3: Cider 1st, Wine 2nd, Beer 3rd.
I’m going to make a confession at this point: I’m not a beer drinker and I’m a huge cider fan, so my votes were potentially a little biased. As we polished off the last of the cheese and drink with some fantastic bread from Bristol-based Mark’s Bread, it appeared that I wasn’t the only one, as the results showed: cider stole the show with 48 wins, with wine in second place (36 wins) and beer bringing up the rear with 21 wins.
The Grain Barge are apparently planning on organising a series of similar tasting events, which will hopefully run monthly, and I’ll definitely be making a return visit for the next one. As well as tasting some fantastic cheese, drinks and bread, it was a great opportunity to chat with the guys from Trethowan’s, Bristol Beer Factory, Orchard Pig and Hallgarten to learn more about their trades. The social aspect was also great fun: I turned up with three friends, but ended up at the same table as the lovely creators of the Ephemeral Digest and Bristol Culture blogs – these guys have also written up last night’s taste off, and clicking on the blog names will take you directly to their take on things!
I now have to admit that I don’t remember a great deal about what happened towards the end of the evening, and the morning after saw quite a nasty hangover. The things we do in the name of food blogging… 🙂