Mt. Lehman Blue Capri and Central City Thor’s Hammer Barleywine: I have to start this post by giving a full on shout out to Ken Beattie from Eureka Beer Guide who introduced me to pairing blue cheese and Barleywine together. It truly created what he refers to as a “Eureka Moment” when I first tried it (he paired it with Blue Stilton), and it opened up some amazing pairing beer and food pairing possibilities for me. If you are looking to hire someone for a corporate or general beer and cheese pairing, he’s the one you want to talk to. For this one, I was simply taking a pairing I know that works well and incorporated a BC blue goat cheese (hard to find!) and a 2013 bottle of Thor’s Hammer from my beer cellar to see how they interact.
Overview of the BC Cheese Makers and Brewers: Established in 2013, Mt Lehman Cheese Co is a fairly new operation in Abbotsford, BC and this is the second cheese of their’s that I’ve paired with a BC beer (click here to see the other one). So far I have been impressed with their cheese, and I recommend that you give them a try next time you see it in a specialty store or supermarket. The beer in this pairing is made by Central City Brewery who operate a large brewery in Surrey, BC as well as a couple of brewpubs in Surrey and Vancouver. They make pretty great beer all around and this particular Barleywine ages for a year before being bottled around the Christmas season so it is ready to drink upon release.
The Beer: After a couple of years in the cellar this beer has balanced out quite nicely. Sporting a dark fruit forward aroma that features plums, dates, dried apricots, toffee and leather this beer does not taste like an 11.5% abv beer at all, it is so balanced that the strength is very deceiving. The flavours are mellowed dark fruits (mostly plums and apricots from the aroma) with loads of fruit leather and toffee up front, a very nutty middle engulfed in walnuts and almonds laced with molasses, and a rich cocoa fudgy finish that’s incredibly savoury. This is the real deal, one the best examples of an English Barleywine that I can think of, just a beautiful celebration of malts that I love so much.
The Cheese: Blue Capri is a blue goat cheese that is a rich and potent, so it’s perfect in smaller doses and made to be paired with a strong beer. It has a pungent basement musty aroma enveloped in whiffs of wet grass and mold. As with most cheeses, the stinkier the better and this one is a good example of why that saying exists. Tasted on its own, it had some really nice saltiness to it, some basement mustiness, moldy funk, saltine crackers and hints of lemon juice all wrapped in a pasty cheese texture. Local blue cheeses are very hard to find abd most are $20 or more per package, so I was thrilled to find a really good one at a much more reasonable cost and size that I will buy more regularly for various cooking and pairing activities.
The Pairing: You can almost never go wrong with pairing a potent beer with a potent cheese, so this cheese pairing worked out great. The beer develops some rich sherry notes, with hints of blackberry and wood followed by cherry, booze, heightened plums, dates with lots of earth and toffee notes as it finishes. The cheese, which was already great, enthralls with massive salt, broth and basement flavours that smother your entire palate, blasting over and over again with intense horse blanket and salty butter impressions before settling into a creamy textured cheese with crunchy bits of moldy funk and yogurt.
Overall Rating: Awesome at 9.5/10, it is so rich that it’s hard to finish both of them. My palate was so overloaded with awesomeness that I had to take a break and clean it with some water and crackers halfway through just to handle the rest of the cheese and beer. This is a masterful experience worth having and I truly recommend it to anyone who enjoys pungent cheeses and strong beer.
I usually get Mt Lehman cheese from my local Choices in South Surrey, here’s what to look for as the cheeses are all kept together by brand in the same section of the cheese aisle. I’ll try to take some pictures from their farm store as I hope to visit it in the very near future and grab some other great cheeses for the holidays!