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Your Artisanal Cheese and Craft Beer Tailgating Picks of the Week

In honor of Dallas Week, we have a local beer and a Texas cheese. I'll let "Hoppy" Jeff Wells go first this week. (Hoppy, you'll recall, is 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.) He writes:

Nestled just a few miles from the Redskins practice facility in Ashburn is the area's largest craft brewery: Old Dominion Brewing Co. Old Dominion has been producing beer for the D.C.-area market since its inception in 1989. As its customer base has grown and the craft beer market has continued to flourish, ODBC has blossomed, producing 31 styles of beer and three soft drinks.

And one of the nation's best examples of an American Pale Ale is brewed at Old Dominion: Tuppers' Hop Pocket. Americans have internationally been known to do things their own way. Influenced by the Pale Ales (or Bitters) of
Britain, American Pale Ales are known for their strong American hop character. Hops (Botanical name: Humulus Lupulus) are a perennial plant that act as a natural preservative in beer and contribute the aromatic properties. Highly hopped beers tend to have more bitter flavors than lower hopped beers. American Pale Ales gain their name by the use of hops grown in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. These varietals (most commonly Cascade, Chinook and
Mt. Hood) have flavors and aromas reminiscent of pine and citrus fruit.

It can be argued that the nation's most beer-knowledgeable husband and wife team reside in the D.C. area. With over 25 years of international beer experience, Bob and Ellie Tupper have tasted and taken detailed notes from more than 14,000 beers. Bob, a history teacher at an independent Montgomery County school, and Ellie, a production editor of scientific books in the District, partnered with the brewers at Old Dominion in 1994. The couple donates half of their net profits from sales of their great beers to charities that "assist the homeless get back into the mainstream of society."

As Bob eloquently puts it, "I think many of us are given ways of helping others if we keep our eyes open."

(Ed. note: Bob also notes that if beer fans are truly interested in helping such causes, they should forego one beer a week and give the money directly to charity rather than count on their Tuppers' purchases.)

Steinberg here. Ellie Tupper suggests pairing Hop Pocket Ale with a well-aged Vermont cheddar. She also suggested a good Stilton, perhaps with some sliced apples. But I'm going with something a little more unusual, since it's from Dallas and made by a Cowboys fan.

So Paula Lambert founded the Mozzarella Company 24 years ago in an effort to bring Italian-style cheeses to the Dallas area. American regional cuisine was just starting to take off, and she soon began incorporating southwestern flavors into her Italian-style cheeses, through the use of chiles, cilantro, Mexican Marigold mint, etc.

About a decade ago she visited Ig Vella, who makes a delicious Dry Monterrey Jack (also available locally), which features a rind rubbed with cocoa and spices. Lambert wanted to do something similar with a Texas flair, so she took a puree of ancho chiles, mixed it with olive oil and salt and applied it to the exterior of her Montasio-style dry goat cheese. (Italian Montasio, of course, is a cow's milk cheese.)

The result was called Montasio Festivo, and it's available at Cowgirl Creamery in downtown D.C. Lambert reports that Clyde's Restaurant Group has also decided to feature it on some of its cheese plates for several months starting in October, so Lambert is making about 80 or 100 extra wheels this year, a 50 percent increase over her standard production.

The anchos provide a dark red rind and a spicy flavor, but the cheese isn't hot or fiery. Still, Lambert recommends serving it with something unobtrusive, like ciabatta or plain crackers, so the chiles can do their thing. She also suggests a hoppy IPA, so Tuppers' should work just fine. (Or a Sangiovese, if you want to be snooty.)

As for the Cowboys? "We have this coach, Bill Parcells; he's trying to win and we're all for him," she says. "And then we have the TO situation. It's too bad he didn't get to practice. What can you say? It's been on the news every day since he's got here."

Her prediction is 22-21 Cowboys, but she thinks a Tuppers'-Montasio Festivo pairing could help bridge the gap between Dallas and D.C. fans. "It will transcend their rivalry," she said. "I think that's perfect."

Tasting notes next week.

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 15, 2006; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Beer and Cheese  
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Dan, you're the cheese guy here, what we need is your expert opinion on exactly how bad do the Cowboys stink - what type of cheese best captures their particular odor? I'm thinking of a really sweaty Bill Parcells (which paints a really nasty picture) - what kind of cheese pairs nicely here? You know, as a pubic service to those who can't be at the game and experience the smell 1st hand.

Posted by: Rob Iola | September 15, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

So Dan, are you following thru and taking these cheese and beer selections up to Newark Saturday?

Posted by: jhorstma | September 15, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

What about PEARS, for God's sake? The giant-headed hot Italian chick on the Food Network said nothing's better with cheese than pears. I disagree, but she's hot and Italian, and I'm strangely drawn to her giant head.

Posted by: Mike | September 15, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

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