Beer and cheese make a perfect pair. I have said it many, many times here at the NYCR, behind the counter at a cheese shop, and talking with other cheese geeks.  It is pretty universal that when these two are brought together, there is an opportunity for good things to happen.

As the Specialty Products Coordinator for Whole Food Market, Chris Manca takes concepts such as beer and cheese together, develops them, and finds a way to make a product from them. With the plethora of local artisans and producers  in the Northeast, what better way to celebrate this than by exploring a collaboration between local cheesemakers and brewers to create an exclusive product for Whole Food’s in the NE region?

Enter the collaborative effort of Sprout Creek Creamery from the Hudson Valley and Sixpoint Craft Ales of Brooklyn — a washed rind cheese named “Point of Origin.”

A washed-rind cheese is typically bathed in a salted solution that may include whey, brine, wine, beer, etc.  This addition to the rind during the aging process helps break down the curd from the outside, which can have a big impact on texture, aroma and flavor.  The aroma is usually pretty pungent (think Taleggio or Époisses), but the paste in many cases is well-balanced and relatively mild by comparison.

Point of Origin is a raw cow’s milk cheese that is washed in Sixpoint’s “Diesel” and aged for two months  at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie.  The wash is straight Diesel, which is a combination of Black IPA and American Stout.  No additives or additions of whey or brine were added to the solution.

I let the small wheel come up to room temperature, as always, before tasting.  The rind is a very dark orange, almost brown.  Diesel is a dark brown (almost black) beer, so no surprises there. The wheel is pretty clean on the nose right from the outset.  That surprised me a bit as this style tends to be pretty pungent once it comes up to temperature.

Cutting into the wheel revealed a very pale yellow paste with just a couple of mechanical openings here and there.  The texture is very elastic and springy.  Not a lot of resistance at all in cutting through the wheel.

As I took a bite, I tasted butter and some dried hay, with a bit of beef broth in the background.  Not a whole lot of funk at all, but pretty mild as I expected.  What I loved about this cheese was the long finish.  Here is where the beer comes in, as you get elements of yeast and roasted coffee that linger in the background.  This element is much more apparent as you sample the paste closer to the rind.

I would like to taste a little more salt in the paste to bring out more of the subtle hay and broth elements that are just below the surface.  Overall, this is a good gateway to introduce people to the world of the washed-rind cheese.  The clean nose and subtle flavors make Point of Origin very approachable and a nice addition to your local cheese board.

Sprout Creek and Sixpoint plan to release a new cheese every season to showcase a new beer and pairing.  I am looking forward to following these cheeses from season to season, as this collaboration is something to celebrate and support.