Session beer (\ˈse-shən ˈbir\) n. Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between ingredients, such as malt and hop characters, and typically, a clean finish—a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.
Living in the land of breweries, we Coloradans are familiar with the easy drinkability, balance, and approachability of our favorite breweries’ session brews. And while the Haystack crew has sampled their (ahem) fair share of local session brews, one that stands out to us is Left Hand’s Introvert Session IPA. Their hopped-up Introvert is a complex and artistic soul whose characteristics are worth exploring. Hoppy aromas of tropical papaya and kiwi mingle with woodsy pine, and are balanced out by honey malt for a clean, bitter finish.
And it goes without saying that for every beer-drinking session, snacks are an absolute must. This led us to the question: Hey, what about session cheeses?
In today’s cheese market, the same “session” dynamic exists. Cheese is one of the most popular foods served during a beer-drinking session, so it’s important to make sure that your cheeses offer the same sessionability as your beers. While we love huge, fatty triple-cream cheeses, and sharp, intense blue cheeses, we find that these can be a bit overpowering for a cheese session. As we looked at our own line of cheeses, it became clear that certain cheeses were more ”sessionable” than others. After many a cheese-eating session, we have arrived at our definitive guide to Haystack’s most sessionable cheeses.
Most hardcore turophiles look down their noses at cheeses that contain added flavors, but this complex concoction offers exceptional snackability and flavor while allowing the chevre’s bright, acidic tang to shine through. You don’t have to take our word for it; this grab-and-go showstopper was awarded for excellence at the 2012 American Cheese Society competition. We like to serve it with crackers or grilled bread for maximum sessionability. But fair warning: The most common mistake is not offering enough! Serve it up en masse, and don’t be surprised if you see someone drinking from the bowl. Bonus pro tip: use the oil to dress salads or to glaze veggies before grilling.
This “gateway to goat cheese” is made from an 80%/20% cow/goat milk blend. The result? A mild, easygoing cheese that’s snackable, versatile, and perfect for a summer session. While more intense, meaty Alpine-style cheeses feature similar versatility, they tend to be heavy, expensive, and generally less approachable than our dear Buttercup. Buttercup’s mild, sweet cream flavor profile and its soft texture delivers a craft cheese experience without much pretense or intensity. Cube it, slice it, melt it, get it.
Most Monterey Jack styles made from goat milk are so dry and goaty, they’re barely palatable. Not only is this cheese palatable, it’s sessionable. Once again, the turophiles may look skeptically at this cheese because of its mild roasted chiles, but the smoky sweetness of the chiles is in balance with the sweet cream flavor of the cheese. Since the chiles are mild, there’s no spice to compete for the spotlight, allowing for the pleasant mingling of chile and cream flavors. Like Buttercup, this cheese can be enjoyed cubed up in a pile, added to a quesadilla, or melted on a burger. And again, you don’t have to take our word for it; the American Cheese Society awarded this cheese for excellence in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin of all places, where people know a thing or two about cheese sessions.
If you’re lucky enough to come across a piece of this elusive wonder, don’t let it go. Made from raw milk, this washed rind cheese offers a pleasant texture and a complex, funky aroma from the b. linens brine. The complex, umami taste is accentuated by fruity, piney, floral IPAs. Considering the complexity of this cheese, we recommend enjoying it on a cheese board with some simple charcuterie and an Introvert from Left Hand Brewing.
We hope that your summer is filled with joyous beer and cheese sessions! Let us know your favorite pairings and tag us on your session table! @haystackmtncheese