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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bring in 'da Brett, Bring in 'da Funk: Wild Ales and Truffle Tremor


I've written articles here before about the use of Brettanomyces in brewing.  It's a wild strain of yeast that turns the beer sour and leaves behind funkadelic (oh yeah, I went there) flavors and aromas that have been compared to horse blanket, barnyard, damp wool, and mildew.  Pretty appetizing stuff, huh?  It's no surprise that wine makers avoid Brett (as they say on the streets) like the plague.  Not that I could blame them.  Vintners fight year-round to protect their precious crops from frost, drought, animals and insects to produce flawless wine.  It would be ridiculous to endure those hardships only to allow the pressed perfections to be dominated by a nearly uncontrollable fungal infection.

But brewers... brewers are a different breed.  The majority of breweries neither malt their own grain nor grow their own hops, so they don't develop the same attachment to the raw ingredients.  They aren't their babies.  They didn't bring them into creation, didn't nurse them or snuggle up next to them singing lullabies to get them through the dark nights (okay, winemakers probably don't do that either ... or do they?).  For brewers, ingredients are nearly a means to an end, which is why they feel no remorse when experimenting with controlled spoilage.

Now I know the idea of intentionally consuming spoiled beer sounds weird, but if you think about it, we consume infected products every day.  Bread, yogurt and most importantly, cheese (the real stuff, none of that commercial crap), all use various forms of yeast, mold or bacteria to develop.  Some of the worlds most highly regarded cheeses have characteristics of dirt, body odor and mold, yet they're delicious. So why is Brett-infused beer any different?  It isn't, so drink up...

Today is probably the first pairing I've done where the focus is more on food than beer.  Don't get me wrong, Ommegeddon was a solid brew, but this cheese was phenomenal.  It is a must try for anyone who has any interest in anything delicious.  It's called Truffle Tremor, an aged goat cheese infused with black truffle by the California creamery, Cypress Grove.  These are the same guys that make the world renowned Humboldt Fog that I paired with Southampton's Cuvee des Fleurs back on April 5th.  It's bright but rich, fresh but funky (funky fresh?), all with a subtle earthy undertone of truffle.  If I was a wealthy man, I'd put this shit on everything, burgers, pasta, salad, EVERYTHING.

Ommegeddon is essentially Ommegang's Hennepin, but with Brettanomyces added at bottling.  The beer is great, but the wild characteristics were actually much tamer than expected and got lost a bit behind the cheese, which was very mature and especially pungent.  This beer would be a great pairing for Truffle Tremor when fresh, but at this age, something with a bit more bite like Orval or Oro de Calabaza would have probably been more appropriate.

Anyway, next time you're at Murray's or Whole Foods, pick up a hunk of this cheese and grab a Wild Ale to go with it.  Buy more cheese than you think you'll eat because I guarantee it'll disappear faster than you expect.  You won't be disappointed.

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