Friday, October 24, 2008

Fromagination – Spooky Beer and Cheese Tasting

I try not to just randomly plug events. Unfortunately, with the limited staff here at MBR and the sheer number of events going on, it's hard to keep you updated with all of the beer news going on in Wisconsin. So, instead of trying and failing, we choose to just pick and choose stuff that sounds interesting to us and try to point out places to find the information on your own if these are the things that interest you. Although, if you are the type of person who can meticulously go through a few dozen websites every week, keep a calendar updated and make some sort of sense of all of the events in the State, I invite you to send me an email – because I may have a job for ya.

So, with that said, on October 28th at 6:30pm the artisanal cheese and craft food shop on the square here in Madison, Fromagination, will hold a cheese and beer tasting called the "Spooky Beers and Cheeses Class." What's the deal? What makes it so darn spooky? And where can I sign up? We caught up (finally!) with Fromagination's cheese and beer buyer, Bill Anderson, and the leader of this class Lucy Saunders.

I should note that if any of this sounds good to you, you should pre-register for the $35 class by either stopping in to Fromagination (12 S. Carroll St., Madison, WI) or giving them a call at 608-255-2430. Space for these classes goes quickly – I tried to attend one of their beer and cheese classes earlier in the summer and was shut out because the class was full.

Madison Beer Review: What gave you the idea for pumpkin beers and cheese? This isn't a combination that seems immediately obvious. What kinds of cheese go well with pumpkin beer? Or even just pumpkins or, more generally, fall foods. What kinds of recipes take advantage of cheese in cooking with these fall foods?

Bill Anderson: It was Lucy's idea. 
Lucy Saunders: The name of the class is Spooky Beer & Cheese – so the theme is very seasonal. I was interested in showcasing a variety of autumn ales and lagers and chose ones that fit the Halloween week. It's a little late for most of the pumpkin ales; in fact, I think that Lakefront has already sold out.
Bill: We'll actually be using a crème fraiche with cinnamon on pumpkin bread for the [New Holland Brewing Co.] Ichabod pumpkin ale.
Lucy: Another interesting fall pairing is a crostini of habenero jack cheese with Lagunitas' Hairy Eyeball beer, which is a strong ale. I'd love to tell you more, but I shouldn't give away the whole class.

MBR: Do you have any favorite pumpkin beers? Not necessarily just the ones that you will have available at the tasting, but, really any favorites?

Bill: I've only had the Ichabod and Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Lager.  I didn't taste them side-by-side, so it's hard to say which I preferred.  Both were good.
Lucy: I like several varieties of pumpkin ale, and have even used them in cooking, baking and ice creams. But at the October 29 tasting, we're featuring Spooky brews - including: Tyranena Headless Man Amber Alt, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Nosferatu, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and a surprise or two ….

MBR: How did you, Fromagination, get hooked up with Lucy Saunders?

Bill: Ken [Monteleone – Master Cheesemonger at Fromagination] kept finding her name when he was doing research before he opened the shop.
Lucy: I met Jeanne Carpenter, who is involved in the specialty cheese blogging world, through a beer and cheese tasting at the Milwaukee Public Market. I present beer and cheese tastings for fundraisers and all kinds of events, so it was a natural to work with Ken. Jeanne and I presented a class together and then when Bill joined the shop, we worked together.

MBR: What kind of tasting/foodie experience do you find is most represented in her tastings? Hardcore? Casually curious? A good mix?

Bill: Just people who want to have a good time and taste some good food and good beer!  Its always a pretty laid back group, but we welcome people who are hardcore about food and beer!  There are always those kind of folks around the shop.  I'm one myself.
Lucy: I think there are more people who are casually curious and open to tasting. The October 29 event is more playful, based on a theme that's not driven by terroir, or technique, but just the conceptual element of seasonality.

MBR: What can someone attending this tasting hope to get out of it? Do you find people are more interested in the cheese and are surprised about beers? Or do you tend to get beer-knowledgeable people?

Lucy: I find that people are most often open to the experience when they approach the pairings as a way to explore new flavors. Sometimes, people are unfamiliar with a cheese or a beer, and I encourage people to taste in their order of preference. For example, if I know how a beer tastes, I'll sample the cheese first, then the beer, to experience the flavor progression.
Bill: Some of both.  I find that they often go hand-in-hand.  After all, this is Wisconsin.  We have a lot of good beer and a lot of good cheese.  It's hard to be interested in one without being interested in the other.

So, if all of this is making you drool. Head over to Fromagination or give them a call and get signed up for the class!

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