Wisconsin’s perfect pair - beer and cheese, of course!
Lewis and Clark, Batman and Robin, and milk and cookies all represent famous duos. You cannot say one without the other. But, what about Wisconsin cheese?
Depending on your personal preference, you might say beer or wine is a perfect combination with Wisconsin cheese. In my mind, both of those pairings are right as long as they come from Wisconsin. Actually, one of my favorite things to do is travel around the state, stopping at local cheese shops and discovering small town breweries and wineries!
Home to 127 cheese plants and more than 200 breweries, Wisconsin is commonly known as the land of beer and cheese. It seems like a suitable name since our state has won more awards for its cheese than all other states or country, according to the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
The only thing that makes the pairing of beer and cheese even better is knowing that Wisconsin produces beer and grows some of the main ingredients needed such as barley and hops.
In the 1860’s, Wisconsin was the top hops producer in the nation and peaked in production at over six million pounds in 1867. While production levels might not be as high today, hops growers remain a unique part of Wisconsin agriculture closely tied to the dynamic duo of beer and cheese.
The addition of hops to beer adds both flavor and longevity. Different varieties of hops plants produce unique flavor elements such as citrus, earthy, or bitterness. These flavors come from the female flower of the hops plant known as the strobilus. These cone-shaped flowers contain lupulin glands that house the compounds brewers seek.
A single hops plant takes three years to reach full maturity and can grow 15 to 25 feet tall each growing season. The strobilus are harvested in the late summer and early fall and then processed into pellets which are used for brewing.
Who knows, maybe some of your favorite beers are made using Wisconsin grown hops.
On the other side of the table, Wisconsin wine also serves as a wonderful pairing for Wisconsin cheese.
Recently, Wisconsin has seen a boom in the wine industry with many wineries and vineyards opening up around the state. To date, there are well over 80 Wisconsin wineries to purchase from and many of them use Wisconsin grown grapes.
Viticulture, the growing of grapes, has not always been as easy as growing hops in Wisconsin. Before the 1900s, vineyards had a hard time making it through the harsh Wisconsin winters. The breeding of cold-climate varietals by the University of Minnesota in 1908 made it possible to grow grapes in below-freezing temperatures and viticulture to thrive in Wisconsin. Varietals commonly grown in Wisconsin include Marquette and St. Pepin.
Whether you are a fan of beer or wine with cheese, know that Wisconsin produces all three. Next time you are in the store, I encourage you to buy locally produced Wisconsin products to help support our farmers, communities, and Wisconsin economy. For inspiration on what type of beer or wine you should pair with your favorite cheese, visit www.WisconsinCheese.com/our-cheese/pairing.
Julia Nunes is Wisconsin's 73rd Alice in Dairyland