By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor
There are few ideas more deeply ingrained in culinary culture than the pairing of wine and cheese. Necessity is likely the mother of this delicious invention; cheese was probably paired with wine initially in order to calm the harsh tannins present in bold, young red wines, in the same way that cream is added to soothe the bitter intensity of black coffee. The pairing has since evolved into one of the more sublime experiences a diner can have. It's rare to read a detailed description of a fine wine or cheese that does not quickly mention its most ideal pairing partners, be it a Chenin Blanc with Loire chevre or red Bordeaux with dry cheddar.
Like so many culinary traditions, however, wine and cheese can come off feeling a bit obvious in today's adventurous and risk-taking culinary environment. Enter: beer. A classic beverage undergoing an unprecedented renaissance in this country, beer has quickly become a drink of choice for chefs and tastemakers looking to add a modern and fun twist to traditional pairings. While the idea of beer and cheese may seem novel, the pairing has been ingrained in some countries culinary cultures for as long as cheese and wine, if not longer. Ask an Englishman what pairs best with a piece of Stilton, and you're as likely to hear Russian Imperial Stout or Barleywine as ruby Port. The following is a list of Los Angeles beer or cheese establishments that have embraced the pairing, creating exciting new dining experiences for consumers.
Andrew's Cheese Shop
Located in beach side Santa Monica, Andrew's Cheese Shop opened in 2008 and has since built a huge Westside following as a go-to spot for cheese, sandwiches, and all things delicious. The man behind the operation (and the name) is Andrew Steiner, a cheese enthusiast of the highest order who cut his teeth as the Maitre d'Fromage at Los Angeles French dining institution Patina for years before opening his own shop. Andrew's dedication to artisan cheese shows, as the shop consistently stocks one of the best selections of cheese anywhere in Southern California.
For those seeking an intro course into the world of cheese and beer pairing, Andrew's monthly Grilled Cheese and Beer night is a must-attend. The ticketed event, which often sells out quickly, pairs four different grilled cheese sandwiches with complimentary beer. The pairings include a range of grilled cheese ingredients and beer styles, and the friendly team of hosts provide descriptions of the pairings that are detailed enough to be informative without being overwhelming to foodie novices. Both sandwiches and beer pours are unlimited, but be sure to save some space: the evening concludes with a beer and ice cream float. Elastic-waisted pants highly encouraged.
Vagabond Cheese Company
[Disclaimer: The author is personally involved in this endeavor.]
A relative newcomer to the Los Angeles cheese scene, Vagabond Cheese Company was founded by Alex Ourieff late last year for the express purpose of promoting artisan cheeses through beer-focused pairing events. Ourieff's operation (there is no physical storefront, making the name particularly apt) focuses on small cheese producers working with traditional cheesemaking techniques. Farmstead cheeses (meaning cheeses made exclusively on the same farms where the milked animals were raised) are the primary focus, and Vagabond tries to work with raw milk cheese as much as possible. The focus is on eccentric, hard to find cheeses, so even the most savvy cheese nerds are likely to find something exciting and interesting.
Vagabond works directly with Los Angeles breweries, setting up and presenting beer and cheese flights that are paired together. The goal is to create pairings in which flavors and sensations which are present in neither the beer nor the cheese are brought out, creating unique tasting experiences for aficionados of both beer and cheese. Vagabond has put on events with several LA breweries, including Angel City Brewery, Phantom Carriage Brewery, King Harbor Brewing, and El Segundo Brewing Co.
Wheel House Cheese Shop
Wheel House Cheese Shop, located in Culver City, combines a sleek, modern interior with a selection of fantastic cheese. The shop was opened in spring 2014 by owner Alex Josef and Steve Jones, the mastermind between Portland's famed Cheese Bar, who curates the selection. Much like Andrew's Cheese Shop and Vagabond Cheese Company, Wheel House offers both delicious products and valuable education for those who seek to know more about what makes the delicious things they eat so delicious.
To that end, Wheel House offers a range of cheese-based classes and events, including cheese and beer pairing classes. The focus is on education, and a variety of beer styles are paired with a selection of Wheel House's cheeses. Cheesemongers discuss the basics of cheese and beer pairings, including what flavor profiles can match up well and which to avoid. Cheese and beer pairing is a subject that should be a joy to learn about, and Wheel House approaches their classes as such.