West Virginia Craft Beer and International Cheeses Pairing Dinner

By Candace Nelson - 10:00 AM

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinner

Chef Ohlinger, the former chef/owner of Richwood Grill, hosted his third dinner in the 2015 Appalachian Global Dinner Series last week. The goal of the Appalachian Global Dinner Series is to highlight the role of Appalachian cuisine in global culture, and to bring West Virginia recognition as a culinary destination, as per the website. Chef Ohlinger would combine dishes he's learned through his travels with an Appalachian twist during the inventive dinners at Richwood Grill, and while he's searching for his next permanent location, he is completing this year's dinner series in a host of guest kitchens in the area.

His third dinner in the series this year was the West Virginia Craft Beer and International Cheeses Pairing Dinner in celebration of American Craft Beer Week. The dinner was held Wednesday (May 13) at Iron Horse Tavern for $40.

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinnerWest Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinner

From the event's Facebook page: This Spring’s Craft Beer Dinner, a bi-annual tradition since 2007, will feature six West Virginia-made small-batch beers paired with six small plates featuring rare artisan cheeses. The plates will be prepared with ingredients designed to highlight the unique characteristics of both the beer and the cheese. The cheeses are from single-producer farmsteads that are made in very small quantities, a compliment to the primarily seasonal single-batch local beers. A craft beer or microbrew is, by definition, brewed using traditional methods without the use of rice or corn and with an eye to what is distinctive and flavorful, rather than to mass appeal. A craft brewery produces less than 15,000 barrels annually, traditionally brewed in a single brewery by a single brew master.

Gjetost: Pasteurized Goat’s and Cow’s Milk, Norway.

Paired with Gardner Farms Sorghum Tamari Pork Loin // Blackwater Brewing Company's Wood Hick Maple Porter

Blackwater Brewing Company (Davis) is an independently owned nano-brewery, located near the entrance to Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV. Owners Lincoln and Amanda Wilkins focus on producing high-quality, small-batch craft beers. Wood Hick Porter - A vanilla maple Baltic porter wit ha rich malty sweetness and complex blend of deep malts. 7.4% ABV

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinner

Where's the cheese, right? Well, it's that malleable brown triangular piece on top. The Gjetost is a brown whey goat's and cow's milk cheeseIt is created by boiling milk, cream and whey; the heat turns the milk sugar to caramel, giving the cheese its color and sweet taste. I've never tasted a cheese like this. But it's essentially combining two of my favorites: a caramel flavor and cheese. The slightly sweet taste of the cheese was so, so good with the pork loin and perfectly roasted sweet potato and a richer soy sauce flavor in the tamari. The beer was also tasty with some deeper sweet flavors. This dish set the bar high for the rest of the meal - and it was a full plate, not just a bite of cheese.

Beehive Farmstead: Pasteurized Cow’s Milk, United States.
Paired with Fossil Farms Venison Sliders // Big Timber Brewing Company's Dry Stout

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinner
Big Timber Brewing Company (Elkins) is a production microbrewery and taproom located in the heart of Appalachia, in beautiful Elkins, WV. Dry Stout - Dark and roasty with a hint of chocolate, this beer has a light mouthfeel and dry finish. 5.0% ABV

The first thing I loved about this course was the little baby Gherkin pickle. Then, I quickly plucked a piece of the melted cheese to taste the flavor on its own: familiar provolone in taste. I quickly assembled my sandwich to get a good combination of the flavors. The flavor of the venison burger was great - though a little dry. Nothing a quick swish of the stout couldn't fix. The almost coffee flavors of the beer were a good match.

Blue Cheshire: Unpasteurized Cow’s Milk, England.
Paired with housemade Bangers & Grilled Apples // Morgantown Brewing Company's 80 Schilling Scotch Ale

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinnerMorgantown Brewing Company (Morgantown) re-opened in 2009 under new ownership, revitalizing West Virginia's oldest operating brewery. Alumni-owned and operated, the team at MBC is committed to high-quality, on-premise craft brews that satisfy the evolving tastes of today's responsible beer consumers. 80 Shilling Scotch Ale - The 80 Shilling Scotch Ale is a traditional Scottish session beer reflecting indigenous ingredients. Long, cool fermentations are traditionally used in Scottish brewing. 4.9% ABV

Housemade bangers? How cool is that? These were excellent, paired with the sweetness of the apple and the moist, crumbly slightly salty bite of the cheese. Add the scotch ale, and I'm pretty sure we were quickly transported to the UK. Despite it being a bangers dish - the cheese was super prominent, and it was so delish.

Vacherin Mont d’or Alpage: Unpasteurized Cow’s Milk, Switzerland.
Paired with Caramelized Fondue // Chestnut Brew Works' Cask-Conditioned Halleck Pale Ale 

Chestnut Brew Works (Morgantown) started as a small beer brewery nestled in the woods of southern Monongalia County about 10 miles south of Morgantown, WV in 2013. The demand quickly outpaced the supply, so they've recently expanded operations and added a taproom in the historic South Park area of Morgantown. Cask Conditioned Pale Ale - CBW's famous Halleck Pale Ale, cask-conditioned with whole cone Simcoe and Cascade hops. 6.1% ABV

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinnerThis is the point when MK came out and warned us about what we got ourselves into. We hit the stinky cheese course. As the plates starting hitting tables, I could smell something. But it wasn't until the plate was right in front of me that I got an actual whiff of it - blech. Dear God. It is a foul, fungal odor. Something totally counterintuitive to what you'd want to put in your mouth. This is when you have to trust your chef, because this blew my mind. The flavors in my mouth outweighed any rotting funk smell to reveal a delicious goopy, creamy gruyere-tasting flavor. The result is a rich, slightly sweet and almost nutty cheese. So good. SO GOOD.

And, the Halleck, of course, is always delicious. Even crisper than usual, the hoppy beer made for a perfect balance.

Ardi-Gasna: Unpasteurized Sheep’s Milk, Basque French.
Paired with Pate au Poulet // Blackwater Brewing Company's Goldenrod Golden Ale

Blackwater Brewing Company (Davis) is an independently owned nano-brewery, located near the entrance to Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV. Owners Lincoln and Amanda Wilkins focus on producing high-quality, small-batch craft beers. Goldenrod Golden Ale - A Belgian-style blonde ale made with locally sourced Goldenrod honey. 6.1% ABV

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinnerThis was kind of like a chicken pot pie with some stewed chicken topped in an almost puff pastry coating. The chicken was pieced in some sort of sauce, and the topping was lightly crunchy. The chicken wasn't super flavorful, neither was the crust. And that's because the cheese was very strong. It's a sharp sheep's milk cheese (which I'm also just not really used to). I didn't love this course. I do, however, love this beer, which is a lighter, slightly sweet beer.  I actually took home a growlette of this beer when I was in the area doing a story. It's made with a local honey, which is pretty cool. I think that is my favorite beer from that brew pub.

Pata Cabra: Pasteurized Goat’s Milk, Spain.
Paired with Orange Brioche and Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company's Lilly Dipper Wit

Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company (Lewisburg) opened in 2014 with a passion for beer and some good storytelling between Wil Laska and David Kucera. This production brewery now distributes draft and canned craft beers throughout the state of West Virginia. Lilly Dipper Wheat - A Belgian style wheat ale offering a zesty orange, melon finish with hints of herbs and spices. 5.2% ABV

West Virginia Craft Beer and Cheese dinnerI was curious if we would have a dessert course! And how that would incorporate cheese - well, here's the solution. It was nice that this wasn't overly sweet. The brioche was perfect, and the cheese tasted more lie a custard, really, and gently seeped between the folds of the bread, creating a pastry of sorts. I was stuffed at this point, so I don't think I was able to finish it all, but I definitely wanted to.

So, what a cool way to celebrate craft beer week! A bunch of courses paired with local beers and cheeses I've never had. And this wasn't merely cheese and beers - the actual flavors of the meals allowed the cheese and beers to shine through. I have a hard time picking between the pork loin course, the bangers course and the stinky cheese course for my favorite. That's a good problem to have. Can't wait for the announcement of the next dinner!

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