I’ve written a few times about cheese and beer, about pairing the two and about some of my favourite beers to drink with good Cheddars. I’ll tell you what else completely owns though, brown ale and a good melter like Emmental.
You can go straight-up cheese on toast and that’s fine, that works nicely; grate it on there, stick it under the grill, job done, classic. I like to do something a bit extra if time allows though; when I’m making a white sauce for pasta or lasagne I always make slightly too much, stir some grated Emmental into the spare whilst still warm, leave to cool and then keep it in the fridge until you need it. When you take it out it’ll have set into a firm paste; you spread that onto some thick cut toast, grate some more cheese on top, grill it until molten and you’re onto a winner. Sort of like a Welsh rarebit for cheats.
I’d been living under a croque-monsieur shaped rock until a few months ago. I know, I know; how I managed to go so long without ever trying such a classic snack is both beyond me and unforgivable. My first ever went some way to making up for it though, doing it in style I had one at the Le Poechenellekelder, just off the Grand-Place of Brussels, in the (rather small) shadow of the Mannekin Pis. It was fantastic, molten cheese, crisp bread and good ham. I washed it down that day with a Rochefort 6 – another first for me – which worked really well. When I make it at home I use a micro grater to get the cheese really fine, it seems to melt better that way, and I like to dip the outside of each slice quickly into a mixture of beaten egg and milk to give a puffy almost French toast quality.
I love the malty quality of a brown ale with cheeses like Emmental and Cheddar. The nutty quality that you sometimes get from darker malts, umami and marmite, sesame seeds and peanuts, that sort of thing. They work really well to pick out the sweetness in the cheese and can really complement the peppery, piquant notes of a strong Cheddar. A good, firm bitterness and a spritz of carbonation work well to balance out the creaminess too, when the cheese leaves a fatty film across your mouth, these qualities in the beer will help to cut through and wash them away. I opened a bottle of Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool on this occasion, it’s something I picked up at GBBF and had been looking forward to for a while. In reality it was a bit lighter in body and intensity of flavour than the food needed; a great alternative, if you can get hold of it, would be Dogfish Head’s fantastic Indian Brown Ale.
Try it yourself. Cheese on toast two ways with brown ale.