The sweet life of Matt and Cody: How to taste beer and cheese like a pro

Cody Moore and Matt Lawrence

Last week we brought you a guide to transforming the daily chore of eating into the wonderful hobby of tasting. We provided tips and hints for how to extract the most flavor from both coffee and chocolate. This week we continue with the theme of slowing down and taking a moment to enjoy a bite in true Fort Collins style. We mean, of course, by way of beer and cheese.

Beer

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A beer is poured at a local Fort Collins bar.
A beer is poured at a local Fort Collins bar.

With more breweries than water fountains in this town, finding unique, local beverages is no problem. How to sample and savor these craft brews takes only a little knowledge and planning.

Choose between four and six beers to try; too many results in palate fatigue (what happens when that eighth beer just tastes like water). Many bars and taprooms offer flights of about four different beers, or pick up a mix-and-match six pack at a local liquor store. Order your beverages of choice in order from lowest alcohol percentage to highest, starting with a lighter colored lagers (pales, ambers, or blondes) and moving toward hoppier, more heavily spiced ales or sours, then finishing with the darker porters, and stouts.

Before drinking your beer, pour a few ounces into your mug. Take note of the amount of foam (referred to as the head) and the color. Swirl the beer in your glass. Like in wine tasting, this releases some of the beer’s aromatic chemicals into the air, giving you a feel for some of the subtler nuances and flavors contained within. Finally, take a swig and enjoy the mouthfeel, the body

(thickness) and consistency. Take a minute to try and separate out any distinctive flavors and spices. There is no wrong way to describe beer, so have fun trying to guess what the brewmasters added or did to produce your unique brew.

Pro tip: Let your beer warm up a little. Though room temperature isn’t ideal, the warmer your beer is, the more volatile the aromas get and the more flavor nuances you can actually detect.

Cheese

Cheese

Though not as commonplace as the iconic Fort Collins breweries, cheese is still a core part of downtown’s cuisine. Similar to most kinds of tasting you don’t need to be an aficionado to enjoy the different flavors and feels of the food you’re tasting.

For sampling, start with mild cheeses and progress to the more pungent cheeses.  Finish of with a sweet dessert-like cheese. Pairing cheese with crackers is a great way to bring out more of the flavor of the cheese or to help mellow out a stronger cheese. You can find cheeses to taste at the grocery store or you can go a cheese bistro, like The Welsh Rabbit. The advantage of going to a bistro is that they have a wider selection of quality cheese and will put it in tasting order for you.

Cut off a piece of cheese and take a wiff. Some cheeses will not smell the same as they will taste, so keep that in mind for some of the stronger smelling cheeses. Then take a bite and let it melt in your mouth. Next, try the cheese with a cracker and note some of the differences. When you’re ready to move on to the next cheese, take of bite of a plain cracker and a sip of water to cleanse your palate. Once you make your way through them all use your newfound cheese knowledge to combine different flavors together and enjoy. 

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Collegian Foodies Matt Lawrence and Cody Moore write about food every Thursday. They can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter at @LawrenceFoods and @codymoorecsu