The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the increasing popularity of pairing cheese with beer rather than wine, even in the wine regions of Italy.
Locally, Dave Thibodeau at Ska Brewing Co. was out in front of this trend with a beer, wine and cheese pairing in February that he hosted with wine rep Leah Deane of Republic National Distributing Company. The cheese came from Guido's Fine Foods in Durango.
It was intriguing to see how an extremely salty cheese like Locatelli Pecorino Romano stood up to a shiraz and an IPA, for example. I could experiment with different combinations of beer, wine and cheese every night. Alas, there is only so much liver, and so much paycheck.
Certainly, wine is a more than adequate companion to most cheeses. Yet beer, which has gotten such short shrift from the snobs, deserves more respect in fine dining rooms. Some special bottles contain beer both subtle and beautiful, and they pair wonderfully with fresh bread or cheese.
Hopefully, restaurants will catch on. Some already are: on a recent stroll through downtown Durango, I noticed that Season's Grill has a thoughtfully chosen beer list. All it takes is a little awareness. And Durango, with four breweries for 16,000 people, is a heck of a place to raise it.
Update: Steamworks spokeswoman Indiana Reed pointed out that I overlooked how long Steamworks has been pairing beer with cheese:
"Steamworks has been doing the Art of Beer and Cheese Pairings with Music in the Mountains for years now. Steamworks was ahead of the curve – way ahead. Four years ago Steamworks initiated pairing international cheese (and other foods) with its beers for the special tasting at Music in the Mountains. And remember too, that it’s Steamworks that was invited to pair beer and food at the James Beard House in NYC this past spring (no other Colorado breweries), and it was Steamworks that was the brewery showcased at the beer dinner at the governor’s residence in advance of this year’s GABF. Steamworks hosted its first Beer Dinner on February 7, 2002."
Reed makes some good points, and I apologize for the oversight.