Pairing Local Beer & Cheese During San Diego Beer Week

by Beer Answers on November 25, 2009

San Diego Beer Homage with Artisan Fromage Event

Wine and cheese tasting is so last year. The new, new thing is craft beer & cheese pairings.

During the recent (first ever) SD Beer Week we enjoyed a delish lesson in pairing cheese and beer at O’Brien’s, a warm and friendly brew pub located on Convoy Street.


O’Brien’s Pub 11-8-09  before the Local Beer + Cheese Tasting Crowd Arrived

Tom, O’Brien’s brew master and owner teamed with George and Mary Palmer who own, Taste Artisan Cheese Shop.

During  this local craft beer and cheese tasting event, we tasted three flights with two different beer and cheese pairings.

Beer & Cheese #1: Lightening Elemental Pils ABV: 5.5% (from Lightning Brewing Co. in nearby Poway) paired with Humboldt Fog cheese.

Humboldt fog

Now we are huge fans of Humboldt Fog cheese. Humboldt (a goat cheese) tastes creamy and flavorful.  Somehow it’s not heavy.   According to the tasting notes provided by Mary and George, Humboldt from Cypress Gove Creamery in Arcata, CA, is an American Original.

Humboldt Fog cheese image from Taste Artisan Shop @

Tasting notes: Lightening Elemental Pils (Pilsner) had very little sulfur and was a good palate cleanser.   It’s a lager beer produced year round by Lightning.  We enjoyed the clean taste.  This is definitely a pairing we’ll serve our friends.

Beer & Cheese #2: Pizza Port Carlsbad Twerp (named for the Belgian city of Antwerp) paired with Ossau Iraty cheese from the Pyrenees in France.

Ossau Iraty

Tasting notes: the Ossau Iraty cheese tasted mild and rich.  It really smoothed the hoppiness of Twerp for me.  I had a chance to taste Twerp first at the SDBW kickoff and liked it.  Besides, Twerp is a cool name.

Ossau Iraty image from Taste, Artisan Cheese & Gourmet Shop

Beer & Cheese #3: Ale Smith Nautical Nut Brown & Alpkase Spicherhalde Cheese

My standout favorite beer of the night was Ale Smith Nautical Nut Brown beer.  ABV: 4.8%.  Now these Alesmith guys make only draft, so if you’re not near San Diego it may be hard to find.  The Alesmith team has won 400 awards!

Tasting notes: The chocolaty, malty, creamy flavor profile of Ale Smith Nautical Nut Brown makes it a very food-friendly beer.  Okay, I’m glad this is not a Podcast, because I actually can’t pronounce Alpkase Spicherhalde Cheese (from Bavaria, Germany) but it is complex—both fruity and nutty.

It pairs so great with Alesmith Nautical Nut Brown!  if you’re not familiar with Nut Brown Ale,  you just have to try it.  You can find out more about this team here.

Beer & Cheese #4: The cheese was a Shroposhire Blue, a true English Stilton infused with the annoto Lost Abbey 10 Commandmentsherb. It is moderately salty with Stilton’s mellow flavors, but more mineral and rich than tongue licking spice.

It was paired with a Lost Abbey, 10 Commandments Ale, ABV: 9%.  A dark saison or farmhouse ale to which carmelized raisins are added to the boil to create layers of flavors.  An overall nice pairing.

Beer & Cheese #5: The cheese was a Black Butte Reserve, a seasonal cheese make only during spring when the grasses are green and lush. The intense flavors of the greases influence the milk, which are then made in 20-pound wheels and aged for 6-9 months.

Tasting notes: The beer was an Alpine Nelson from Alpine Beer company. They used hard to source Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand that give the beer a unique tropical fruit aroma that differs from the more common pine and citrus notes found in American hops. This made for a great combination with the Black Butte cheese but could have easily worked with the next cheese in the tasting.

Beer & Cheese #6: Our last paring of the evening was a Winchester Jalapeno Gouda from Winchester Cheese company just outside Temecula, CA. The farm made gouda is a premium cheese, aged a minimum of 60 days. Jalapeno and red peppers give it a moderately spicy taste that enhances the sharp flavor of the Gouda.

Tasting notes: The chosen beer was a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, an award winning brew. This made a nice balance with the spiciness of the cheese.

O’Brien’s Pub
4646 Convoy St.
San Diego, CA 92111

Taste Artisan Cheese Shop
1243 ½ University Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103

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