Summit Suds: Outer Range Brewing Co. partners with Whole Foods Market for Willoughby cheese, can distribution
FRISCO — Frisco’s Outer Range Brewing Co., Whole Foods Market and Jasper Hill Farms have partnered to bring life to a product that’s better with age: cheese.
As part of an initiative to augment the Vermont creamery’s offerings with various local brews, Outer Range was selected as the finalist for an exclusive batch of Jasper Hill Farms’ Willoughby cheese washed in the brewery’s Quiet Depths saison.
“We wanted something that was really unique to us and represented what we were trying to do,” said Blake Santmyer, associate team leader of the specialty department at the Frisco Whole Foods and Certified Cheese Professional. “And the Outer Range beer seemed like it.”
Santmyer met with Front Range colleagues and championed the merits of the neighboring business for the program. According to Santmyer, the first vote was tied between the saison and Barrel-Aged Raspberry Sour from Boulder-based Avery Brewing Co. Quiet Depths won Colorado in the end while other Whole Foods in the company’s mountain region, like Utah and New Mexico, picked different local beers for their wash.
Along with the cheese collaboration, the partnership means Outer Range beer will be canned and distributed outside of the taproom for the first time.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Emily Cleghorn, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Outer Range. “We’re stoked.”
Willoughby is classified as a washed rind cheese, meaning it’s in the same family as the more common taleggio and Limburger. Washing the cheese has it develop a bacteria culture that gives the cheese its unique aroma, orange hue and flavor. At one point in history, monks creating the cheese decided to experiment with their wash by using other in-house creations like beer or wine.
“They’re traditionally just washing it with a saltwater brine as the cheese is maturing,” Santmyer said. “That style lends itself to a lot of different creative ways to whether you want to wash the cheese in beer, kombucha — all different types of fermented beverages work really, really well.”
In fact, 2018 saw a Willoughby released with Brew Dr. Kombucha Love washed rind.
The Quiet Depths version of Willoughby has a smooth, faint orange rind. I found it to smell earthy and musty like mushrooms. Don’t be deterred though, as underneath the layer is a white and soft cheese — similar to brie — that has a slightly salty and smoky flavor. When eaten with the rind, you get the funky taste from the saison, but it’s a bright, more floral than the wet, earthy smell. The rind has an almost crystalline quality that pops in your mouth, like it captured the carbonation from the beer.
Quiet Depths doesn’t stray far away from the Belgian farmhouse style with Brasserie de Blaugies yeast, Saaz and East Kent Golding hops and a grain bill of mostly Pilsen malt. The pale yellow beer is clean, smooth and somewhat dry on the tongue, with a subtle taste of fruity banana esters. At 6.2% alcohol by volume, it isn’t cloying sweet or overpowering. When combined with the Champagne-like effervescence, it makes for a pretty suitable white wine substitute.
When eaten together, both the flavors from the rind and the glass become more pronounced, yet stay balanced, creating a splendid marriage. They don’t hit you over the head with flavor, but they are far from bland.
The two are perfect for an afternoon picnic in the warm sun with cured meat for the earthiness, herbed crackers and, as Jasper Hill suggests, apricots, which lend a brightness. It’s rare to think of beer and cheese together aside from the eponymous soup, but since Quiet Depth has a wine-like profile, it more than works.
The cheese is exclusively available to Colorado Whole Foods stores through the end of September, and cans of Quiet Depths can be found in select stores permitted to sell alcohol while supplies last. Though Summit County’s Whole Foods can’t distribute the beer and the first batch of cans sold out quickly at the taproom, it is set to be available on draft at Outer Range Brewing Co. with a limited number of cans released Tuesday, Sept. 24.
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