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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 09/08/2006

Your Artisanal Cheese and Craft Beer Tailgating Picks of the Week

Well, I held it together for three days. I mostly wrote about sports, and never used the phrase "smells like dirty socks." But that's all over now, as we debut what's sure to become our most popular feature: the artisanal cheese and craft beer tailgating picks of the week. Each Friday I'll recommend an American artisanal cheese, and my former co-worker "Hoppy" Jeff Wells will recommend an American craft beer. We'll try to tie them to a local game, although this week we failed in that regard. Then on Monday we'll all compare tasting notes from our tailgates.

I'm pretty sure Peter King was thinking of doing the same thing this season, but I totally scooped him.

Cheese first. The pick is Red Hawk, an organic washed rind triple creme from California's Cowgirl Creamery (note the subtle jab at Cowboys fans). I asked Cowgirl co-founder Sue Conley for her pick, and she headed straight for the Red Hawk. Why?

1) It sounds sorta like "Redskins."
2) "It's a manly cheese," she says, and "men tend to prefer big, strong cheeses."
3) It smells, Sue says, "like a high school football team lockerroom." See the tie-in? Clever, right? She also did indeed use the phrase "smells like dirty socks."
4) And yet, she says, it's a crowd favorite: "it appears challenging at first but then it's actually really friendly and everybody will like it, and it's great with beer."

Specifically, Sue recommends it with dark beer or spicy beer; it's much harder to pair with wine, but she suggests a Riesling. She also recommends pairing it with a raisin-walnut bread. (I sorta raised my eyebrows at the idea of bringing raisin-walnut bread to a tailgate. "Or, you know, they could just put it on a cracker," Sue allowed.) The flavor is "earthy, creamy and complex." You should also know that Red Hawk won Best-In-Show at the American Cheese Society's Annual Conference in 2003, which is about as good as it gets for an American artisanal cheese.

Plus, Sue is a D.C. native, grew up watching Skins games while eating kraft slices and bologna (really), and predicts a three-touchdown victory on Monday night.

On to the beer, and I now yield to Hoppy Jeff, a native Washingtonian, 10-year veteran of the craft-beer industry and proprietor of the soon-to-be-open Wells Ales & Lagers restaurant in Brooklyn:

Game 1 Beer Pick- Allagash White
As football season begins and we embrace the final days of summer, there are certain craft beer styles that suit the occasion perfectly. Tailgating on a hot summer day calls for the world's most thirst-quenching fermented beverage: Wheat Beer. Beers brewed with a portion of wheat tend to be light-bodied, refreshing, and have flavors reminiscent of banana, melon and clove.

In fact, in most parts of Germany and Belgium, a hot summer morning begins with a White Beer ("Weisse" in German, and "Blanche" or "Wit" in Belgium). "White" is the description that the light colored beer gains when it becomes cloudy due to the addition of yeast. The brewers of "White" beers in Belgium not only contribute wheat to the water, barley, hops and yeast in the brewing process, but they also tend to use various spices. The subtle addition of coriander and Curacao orange peel give the beer a lemony, citrus zest that makes the brew even more

You don't have to go far to find one of the world's greatest Belgian-style "White" beers. It is produced in Portland, Maine at arguably the country's most innovative Belgian-style brewery, Allagash Brewing Company. Allagash "White" is a two-time Gold Medal Winner at the Great American Beer Festival and also a recipient of the gold medal at the internationally respected World Beer Cup. Founded in 1995 by New England native Rob Tod, Allagash can be considered the definition of an American microbrewery: independently owned with an annual output of 5,000 barrels of beer (33,000 cases).

(So there you have it. And Sue Conley said the beer and cheese should pair nicely. I'm heading to NASCAR madness in Richmond right now with a wheel of Red Hawk and a raisin-walnut baguette in my back seat. It's likely that I'm the first person in world history to bring a washed rind triple creme cheese and a raisin-walnut baguette to a NASCAR track.)

(And I hope all you people who have been e-mailing and asking for more cheese updates are happy.)

By  |  10:53 AM ET, 09/08/2006

Categories:  Beer and Cheese

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