What is Beerkaese?
Beerkaese is a semi-soft shelf cured cow's milk cheese which has a tangy, nutty flavor. It also has an intense odor as it ages, which some consumers find offputting. The cheese is also marked as “beer kaese.” The cheese is a specialty of dairies in the American Heartland, and is available in many grocery stores and specialty shops across the United States. People outside of the United States can specially order the cheese, or purchase a similar variety made by a local dairy.
Despite the Germanic name, beerkaese is an all-American cheese. It was developed in the 1930s, when the repeal of Prohibition made drinking alcohol legal again. The cheese was designed to pair with strong beers and ales, so it was crafted to be very robust. Beerkaese also pairs well with dark breads such as rye and pumpernickel, along with garnishes like pickled onions. The strong flavor of the cheese makes it less suitable to pairing with wines and delicate flavors.
The cheese bears a great deal of similarity to many Swiss and German cheeses. A rind is allowed to develop on beerkaese as it cures, resulting in a cheese with a creamy ivory interior and a yellowish to tan hard rind. Beerkaese is typically made in the form of a brick cheese. Consumers slice off pieces of the brick as desired, leaving the rind on the unused cheese to keep it as fresh as possible.
When young, beerkaese has a more mild, creamy flavor. The cheese is usually allowed to age, developing an intense flavor and odor which leads to comparisons with Limburger, a classically stinky cheese. Like other American cheeses, beerkaese is made with pasteurized milk, and along with other “brick” cheeses, it is traditionally pressed with bricks during the molding process.
When selecting beerkaese or any semi-soft cheese, try to get a sample of the cheese if you are purchasing it whole. If you are purchasing a wedge, examine it closely. The beerkaese should have a smooth texture and an even color. Discard any cheese with signs of cracking, mold, or discoloration. The texture of beerkaese can vary slightly, depending on the dairy, but as a general rule, the cheese should not be runny.
After you bring cheese home and open it, re-wrap it in parchment or waxed paper, to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria or molds. Keep the cheese under refrigeration, preferably in a contained area of the fridge so that the cheese does not pick up odors or flavors from other foods. Beerkaese can also be double-wrapped, so that its odor does not permeate the fridge.
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