I went to my first Super Bowl party when I was a sophomore in high school. I had no clue what was happening on the field but I liked the commercials and loved the food. I have always been a sucker for a party sub and a giant tub of Doritos.
(A quick warning to parents out there: if you deprive your kid of all junk food and enforce a strictly organic meal plan, chances are good that you won’t end up with a quinoa addict. All of my mother’s good intentions created me — a kid with a major potato-chip habit who sat with the snack bowl in her lap at elementary school sleep-overs. But I digress. Back to the point of this post.)
The annual party where I now watch the big game still features a sub, though in a grown-up version — homemade, with gourmet fixings. The hosts also started a very cool tradition of serving craft beers brewed in each team’s home state. In keeping with that idea, I decided to pair up some Colorado- and Washington-made cheeses and beers.
Colorado: Haystack Mountain Sunlight and Avery White Rascal
Sunlight is a semi-firm, raw, goat’s milk cheese made in Longmont, Colo., by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy. The cheese is aged for at least 60 days, with a sticky, orange washed rind and a somewhat springy-textured paste. It’s not nearly as funky as some well-known washed rind cheeses — like Epoisses. Sunlight is creamy and mildly sweet, with a lightly tangy hit at the end.
I thought the cheese would pair well with a floral IPA, so I chose Boulder-based Avery Brewing Co.’s India Pale Ale.
I expected the bitterness of the hops to balance the creaminess of the cheese. But while my panel of tasters — aka some adventurous friends — really liked the beer (which isn’t overwhelmingly hoppy), they thought it overpowered the cheese.
Instead, they preferred the Sunlight paired with Avery’s White Rascal, a Belgian-style white ale. It’s an unfiltered beer, spiced with coriander and orange peel.
If you decide to test out these pairings (which I picked up at my local Whole Foods), let me know which you like best.
Washington: Beecher’s Flagsheep and Elysian Split Shot Stout
Flagsheep is a pasteurized, mixed-milk, clothbound cheddar produced by Seattle-based Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. (I cheated a little on this one because while the cheese is made in the Seahawks’ hometown, it’s also produced at the company’s NYC location. But it’s delicious and I think it counts.)
The name is a riff on Beecher’s more traditional Flagship cow’s milk cheddar, since Flagsheep’s twist is the addition of sheep’s milk. It is aged about 18 months, resulting in a firm and flavorful cheese with a taste of caramel.
To stand up to Flagsheep’s bold flavor, I chose a brawny beer — Split Shot Stout from Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Company.
It’s an espresso milk stout brewed with Stumptown coffee, a roaster based in Portland and popular in both the Pacific Northwest and here in NYC. While the beer smells like an alcoholic espresso, the flavor includes notes of chocolate. It basically tastes like a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Cheddars and stouts typically pair well together and this Washington match is no exception.
If you want to try this pairing, the beer is available at Whole Foods and the cheese is sold at Beecher’s.
Beecher’s, 900 Broadway, 212-466-3340
(My Super Bowl coverage isn’t yet complete. Check back Saturday for an easy, cheesy dip perfect for game-watching.)