Summer Beer Classes

Now that I’m back I’m hitting the ground running. I have a bevy of public events and classes coming up that I want to let you know about. Check these out.

Beer & Cheese Pairing at Midwest Supply
June 23, 6-8 PM, FREE
People usually talk about pairing wine and cheese, but beer is a much better companion. In fact, they are sort of the same thing (learn why by coming to the event). In the class we’ll talk about some basic principles of pairing beer and cheese while sampling the wares of some of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s best cheese makers and brewers. Midwest Supply is going to stay open later than normal so you can stock up on your brewing supplies while you’re there.

Summer Fresh Beer Pairing Dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill
June 24, 6-9 PM, $75
With Chef Jeremy Reinicke
Fresh, light, easy. These are all the words that spring to mind when we think of summer food. But summer beers are no different! They’re fresh, light and easy to drink. Join Cicerone Michael Agnew and Chef Jeremy Reinicke for the perfect pairing of yummy warm-weather favorite foods and summery suds.
Menu: Assorted Fresh Cheeses; Summer Harvest Salad with Honey Basil Vinaigrette; Tuna Tartare with Dill on Toasted Baguette; Roasted Leg of Lamb with “Flanders Red” Marinade; Summer Berries with Puff Pastry and Aged Balsamic; a Selection of Summery Craft Beers.

Beer, Wine & BBQ at Cooks of Crocus Hill
July 29, 6-9 PM, $75, SOLD OUT get on the waiting list.
With Chef Mike Shannon and Sommelier Leslee Miller
Smoky. Sweet. We’re not just talking about the food either! Chef Mike, Sommelier Leslee and Cicerone Michael are back together again, this time pairing grapes and grains with the great summer flavors of the grill. Join them as Mike fires up the grill and Michael and Leslee throw down the pairings. There’s no better way to beat the heat this summer.
Menu: Grilled Tomatoes with Mozzarella; Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette; Coconut Shrimp with Vanilla Gastrique; Knife and Fork Manchego Burger; Grilled Peaches with Grand Marnier Cream.

Hope to see you there!

Beer Classes with Michael Agnew at Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater

I’m happy to announce a couple new beer classes for the fall, this time at  The Chef’s Gallery in Stillwater. Located in the Grand Garage in historic downtown Stillwater, Minnesota, the Chef’s Gallery is a complete source for all your culinary desires. They pride themselves in having everything from the expected to the extraordinary: the finest cookware, bakeware, utensils, gadgets, gourmet food, dinnerware, and serving pieces from around the world. What they don’t have, they will happily order for you.

I’m excited to be teaming with James Norton and Becca Dilley of The Heavy Table for pairings of local beers and cheese. I’ll also be pairing (literally and figuratively) with Chef Bret Bannon. We’ll be exploring pairing great craft beer with appetizers. You can download the complete Chef’s Gallery fall class catalog in pdf format here.

A Perfect Pair: Local Brew and Cheese
With James Norton and Becca Dilley
Thursday, October 7, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Wisconsin is famous for cheese and beer, with Minnesota not far behind! The wares of the two states’ artisan cheese makers and craft brewers bear this fame out. Michael Agnew is a Certified Cicerone (one with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving a wide range of beers). Together with Becca Dilley and James Norton, authors of The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin, they take you on a tour of the best the two states have to offer, and teach you how to create pairings of these perfectly-matched delicacies. Our Midwestern Tour de Fromage starts with lighter cheese – goats milk, Mascarpone and Camembert – to match the softer flavors of Pilsner, Kölsch or wheat beers. Next is stronger but still fairly mellow cheese – perhaps one soaked in raspberry beer from New Glarus, or cheese with a touch of smoke or washed-rind pungency – with fruity, funky, flavorful ales to match. We will finish with aged Wisconsin cheddar and bleu cheese for bold flavors that stand up to big brash locally-brewed India Pale Ale and Barleywine. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste local cheese and ale at its best.

A Perfect Pair: Craft Beers and Appetizers
With Bret Bannon
Thursday, November 18th, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
The rise in craft breweries has opened a new world of beer and foodpairing. Careful brewing allows for complex and subtle notes similar to those found in wine, and has sent chefs to the kitchen to create the same level of complementary pairings. Tonight we’ll taste a variety of domestic and imported beer, and perfectly pair them to foods based on flavor profiles. Sit back and relax as Chef Bret and Cicerone Michael prepare Chickpea Fritters with Anchovy Dipping Sauce, peppered and Grilled Chicken Skewers with Zippy Dipping Sauce, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Crostini, Creamy Smoked Trout with Apples and Horseradish on Crispy Brown Bread, and Roasted Rosemary, Walnuts and Crispy Panko Calamari with Garlic Aioli.

Cheese & Ale at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Last night was the Cheese and Ale class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. Fromager Ken Liss and I took guest through a varied course of six beers paired with six artisan cheeses. There were some expected brilliant pairings and some pleasant surprises as well. And as always, there was Ken’s “secret ingredient” that I will talk about later.

As a welcome beer I poured Flat Earth’s Sunburst Ale, an apricot infused Belgian Pale Ale that turned out to be one of the favorites of the night. Other beers were Lagunitas Pils, Saison Dupont, Meantime IPA, Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen Rauchbier, and Deschutes Black Butte Porter.

Ken brought a wide range of cheeses including Brillat Savarin cow’s milk brie, Le Cabrie goat’s milk brie from Wisconsin, Colliers Powerful Cheddar, the Italian sheep’s milk cheese Pecorino Ginepro, Saenkanter aged gouda, and Cashel Blue, a creamy blue cheese from Ireland.

Some of the pairings were obvious. IPA and cheddar are made for one another and the Meantime IPA and the Colliers cheddar was a perfect match. The beer’s fruity and grassy notes complemented herbal/grassy flavors in the cheese while the bitter hops cleared the creamy cheese off the palate. The IPA also paired brilliantly with the blue.

The light pilsner was a perfect match for both the cow’s milk and the goat’s milk brie. Floral saaz hops complemented light floral notes in the cheeses and the pils malt added sweetness to these otherwise salty, creamy bries.

Like IPA and cheddar, porter is made for blue cheese. The Black Butte and the Cashel Blue bore this out as bitter black malt and chocolate notes blended brilliantly with the creamy, pungent, and spicy blue cheese.

The most surprising pairing for me was the Brillat Savarin brie with the Black Butte porter. I would have expected the full-flavored porter to overwhelm the much lighter cheese. Instead, the buttery cheese brought out a creaminess in the beer while the cheese’s saltiness balanced the roasted malt bitterness in the beer such that the cheese not only stood up to the bigger beer but complemented it beautifully.

The match made in heaven for the evening was another pairing with the Brillat Svarin. Paired with the Schlenkerla Rauchbier, this was a match to make the angels sing. The salty brie was perfect with the bacon flavors in the beer. Think canapés with brie and cured meats. Ken’s “secret ingredient” further enhanced this pairing. A bit of smoked salt sprinkled onto the cheese pushed it into cheese and beer bliss. This was another pairing that I would not have expected.

A Thought on Pairing Beer and Cheese

A while back I was pitching a beer and cheese pairing class at a local cooking school. The person I was pitching to was clearly a wine connoisseur and somewhat protective of the wine/cheese relationship. She challenged my intentionally provocative assertion that beer is a better pairing with cheese than wine. She highly doubted that this could be the case. While that debate was carried on in fun, it did get me thinking. Here’s my take on it.

What is cheese? It starts as grass. This grass is broken down into simple sugars by an enzymatic process. The resulting product (milk) is fermented with various naturally occurring microflora to create cheese. What is beer? It starts as barley (a grass) that is broken down into simple sugars through enzymatic processes. The resulting product (wort) is then fermented by various naturally occurring microflora to create beer.

Beer and cheese are kindred souls. Why wouldn’t they go well together?