Craft Brewers Conference Comes to DC: Beer and Cheese at Meridian Pint
Last week the Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference descended upon Washington, DC and its beer geeks were joyful recipients of numerous events featuring rarely available beers. I took in as much as my schedule would allow, including trying some great beers from the importer Shelton Brothers at Pizzeria Paradiso and quaffing some Goose Island beers at Rustico Ballston (Bourbon County Coffee Stout: so good). The only proper “event” I attended was a Beer and Cheese tasting at Meridian Pint in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. This was the first time I spent any appreciable time at Meridian Pint, and while it doesn’t receive the fawning of Churchkey, I was much more impressed with their organization (Zwanze Day at Churchkey still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth). I had a great night and would return for a future Beer and Cheese event without hesitation.
The format of the night was five cheeses, paired with two beers from The Bruery and/or Oxbow Brewing Company. We were greeted with a glass of The Bruery’s Hottenroth, a Berliner Weisse, and found some seats. Tim Prendergast, Meridian Pint’s Assistant Beer Director and Certified Cicerone® would give the story behind the cheese and then Patrick Rue from The Bruery or Tim Adams from Oxbow would provide the lowdown on their beer. As with pretty much every beer person I’ve ever met, all three were down-to-earth, nice people who seemed genuinely surprised that these many people were this geeky about beer.
First Course: Coupole (Vermont Butter & Cheese Company) paired with Saison De Lente 2012 (The Bruery) and Saison De Lente 2013 (The Bruery)
Second Course: Red Cloud (Haystack Mountain) paired with Sasuga (Oxbow) and Freestyle #13 (Oxbow)
Third Course: Hudson Red (Twin Maple Farm) paired with Sour in the Rye (The Bruery) and Freestyle #30 (Oxbow)
Fourth Course: Cheddar (Montgomery’s) paired with Funkhaus (Oxbow) and Barrel-Aged FPA (Oxbow)
Fifth Course: Caveman Blue (Rogue Creamery) paired with Smoking Wood (The Bruery) and White Oak (The Bruery)
I’m not one to take notes at events like this, so I can’t give my impressions of all the courses, but a few things stick out. First, the Montgomery’s Cheddar was a last-minute substitution after Tim could not get his hands on his first-choice. As a rule, Tim does only American cheeses (keeping with Meridian Pint’s American-only beer theme), but he had to go across the pond to get this one. It might be unpatriotic to admit this (and maybe it’s just because I’m a big fan of cheddar cheese), but this was the best cheese of the night. If you can find some, get it.
Oxbow’s Freestyle #30 was brewed with help from the beer directors at Meridian Pint and Pizzeria Paradiso. Oxbow’s location in Newcastle, Maine is next to a historic ship builder, and they used some of their cedar shavings to flavor this beer. As Tim Adams put it, “It was dry-hopped with boats.”
The best pairing was Rogue’s blue cheese with The Bruery White Oak. I was surprised to learn that Rogue Creamery is not affiliated with Rogue Brewery.
I left with a new appreciation for Oxbow. When I saw the lineup for this event, I was not expecting much from Oxbow as I had thought of them as a fine brewery, but a step below other New England breweries like Hill Farmstead, Allagash, and Maine Brewing. No more. The quality of their beers was fantastic and I would order one of their beers without hesitation.
Finally, have to give a plug to Asa and Matt, the two guys I sat across from. They were attending the conference from Pittsburgh where they are in the process of starting a new brewery called The Brew Gentlemen. College friends who shared an affinity beer, they decided during college to switch their majors and make a brewery happen. They have a location in the town of Braddock, PA, a once-proud steel town that fell on hard times but is starting to come back. Their willingness to take the leap made me envious. The next time I’m in Pittsburgh it’s the first stop I’m going to make.Thanks so much for taking the time to write that, Jon! I hope everyone has some great inspiration for their next Beer and Cheese pairing at home. It looks like 2013 is most definitely shaping up to be The Year of Cheese.