DRINK WITH THE WENCH PRESENTS THE FEATURED BEER PAIRING SERIES
Back in the day, it used to be my job to pair wine with food. Now, after several years in the beer industry, my palate has been trained to understand food and beer pairings. And so, I have decided to take a stab at developing a “Featured Beer Pairing” series on my site, providing beer pairing suggestions and recipes for some of my favorite dishes and then educating people on the “method in my madness.”
Featured Beer Pairing: Barleywine + Prosciutto Wrapped Figs Stuffed w/ Bleu Cheese
The Dish: Dried Black Mission Figs stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped with prosciutto.
The Beer Style: Barleywine
Style Description: Originally the “catch-all” high gravity style, the Barleywine is considered to be the richest and strongest in the ale category. Average alcohol falls between 8-12% abv, making it one of the most alcoholic styles in modern brewing. Color ranges from deep amber to darker brown. The English barleywine boasts intense malt flavors and aromas, ranging from bready and biscuity to nutty and roasty, with sweet hints of dark caramel, toffee, and molasses. Unlike its English counterpart, the American Barleywine style tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Both styles are full-bodied and lay heavy on the tongue. Carbonation is typically moderate to low. Alcohol is noticeable in fresher versions, but tends to mellow out with age. Because of its beastly alcohol content, this style has the ability to age for several years.
Why the pairing works:
Bleu cheese loves barleywine. Barleywine loves bleu cheese. They want to make babies. This I can promise you. But the question is why?
Bleu cheese is one of the most pungent styles of cheese, period. This is a result of using of cultures of the mold Penicillium in its production. It takes quite some time to acquire a taste for the style, needless to say. The most well-known, readily available versions of bleu cheese include Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton.
Since the flavor of the bleu cheese is so strong, it needs an equally strong beer to match it. Anything weaker, will be overwhelmed. High-gravity styles with large malt and hops bills tend to accompany bleu cheese very well. Excellent pairing styles include stouts, IPAs, double IPA’s, Belgian strong ales, and barleywines.
One of my favorite ways to serve bleu cheese is to stuff it into dried figs (fresh figs when in season), and then wrap the figs with prosciutto. There is a lot of balance in this dish. The figs bring flavors of concentrated fruit and sweetness. The prosciutto adds a richness from fat, a bit of smoke, and saltiness. The sweetness in the figs helps to mellow the pungency of the blue cheese, while the fat and saltiness of the prosciutto compliments the fat and salt in the cheese. Each little bite sized morsel just bursts with intense flavor.
The figs compliment the caramelized sweet flavors in the barleywine, while the alcohol and intense flavors of the barleywine helps to mellow the salty fat in the prosciutto and the pungency of the bleu cheese — and visa versa. Both the dish and the beer have lots of complex layers of flavor. Both are extremely strong, powerful beasts. Both are beautiful on their own, and together they are magical.
- Dried Black Mission Figs (WHOLE) — or –
- Fresh Figs (HALVED)
- Bleu Cheese of choice
- Prosciutto strips (cut in half)
1. This is really easy so I’m not sure why I am even giving you the recipe. Slice to the middle of the dried fig (do not cut in half). Stuff with bleu chese. Wrap entirely with a piece of prosciutto. Hold in place with a toothpick.
2. Pair with your favorite barleywine. AND CHEERS!