Party host: Tommy Keegan, owner of Keegan Ales in Kingston — the site of this month’s Beer and Cheese Festival
Photograph by Jennifer May
We’ve been living a lie. All those gallery openings and company parties we’ve attended that served wine and cheese? They were a fraud, a forced marriage. The real love affair is between beer and cheese.
As ArtisanalCheese.com puts it, “Beer is the de facto complement for cheese in many cultures worldwide. Cheese and beer grew up together on the farm, and the grain used to produce beer is often the same as that which is fed to milk-animals to produce cheese. More importantly, the flavors of beer and cheese — earthy, yeasty, musty, fruity, rich, toasty, floral — jibe in a way that many feel those of wine and cheese cannot.”
Kingston’s Keegan Ales owner Tommy Keegan and Chef Marcus Guiliano of Ellenville’s Aroma Thyme Bistro understand that, and on Sunday, March 23, at 1 p.m., the brewery and bistro team up for their third Beer and Cheese Festival. “Marcus and I are friends, we do business together, and he pitched the idea to me, literally, while sitting down over a beer,” Keegan remembers. “That first year, we set a date for it, then kind of forgot. One day he called me and said, ‘Do you know we have a festival in 10 days?’ We promoted as quickly as we could, and 150 people showed up. It was fun but kind of nerve-wracking, and we thought if we actually paid attention, we could do it better and better.”
They have, drawing more people and offering more beers — this year, there will be samplings from Chatham Brewing Company, Cross Roads Brewery, Ommegang, Ithaca Beer Company, and perhaps more. Other chefs may participate as well, bringing more than just blocks of cheese but also cheese-infused dishes like soups and mac ’n cheese.
For those still stuck in the wine-and-cheese paradigm, Keegan has a few tips for pairing beer with la fromage. “Generally, the more pungent the cheese, the fuller-character, stronger the beer,” he says. “I like really sharp cheeses, and they go well with IPAs. A sharp cheddar and that beer play nicely off each other.” On the milder side, he says, goat cheeses are really great with wheat beer.
What about his signature brew, Mother’s Milk? “Maybe a Colby or Gloucester, a cheddar… The creaminess of that beer — it’s made with lactose — pairs well with those creamy cheeses.”
Tickets to the festival are $30, which includes the beer and food. Order by calling 845-647-3000 or 845-331-2739 or visit hudsonvalleybeerandcheeseweek.com.