“It came to me in a dream,” Tyler Renaud said, feigning drama. Then he chuckled, “It sounded like a delicious idea.”
A delicious idea indeed. Two of Maine’s finest products – ice cream and craft beer – paired together in a float. Smiling Hill Farm of Westbrook and Rising Tide Brewing Co. of Portland recently offered the delectable amalgamation in Rising Tide’s tasting room. But they didn’t throw together any old combinations – a lot of knowledge, creativity and tasting went into finding the perfect pairings.
Tyler is the associate cheese maker of Silvery Moon Creamery at Smiling Hill Farm, but he also knows his ice cream. Stasia Brewczynski is his neighbor and the tasting room manager of Rising Tide. “We sat down at the brewery and tried all their beers with six or seven types of our ice cream,” Tyler said. “We spent about 2 or 3 hours mixing and matching.”
In the end, they settled on three unions – Maine Island Trail Ale and Smiling Hill Peach, SuSpence and Ginger (my favorite ice cream flavor, evah!), and Spinnaker and Vanilla. Tyler offers a few guidelines in pairing a beer with an ice cream.
“Lighter, wheatier beers work with fruity ice creams,” he said. “Your malty beers work with traditional flavors like chocolate and vanilla. And always serve the ice cream more towards 32 degrees. That way it won’t burn the beer, and it won’t burn your tongue.”
The Maine Island Trail Ale has a “bright malt body and bold notes of citrus and pine,” according to its official description. “The peach complements the flavors really well,” Tyler adds.
“SuSpence is very wheaty with a little spiciness from the rye,” he continued. (Suspence is a hefeweizen.) “The ice cream pushes that back, so you get the sweetness of the ice cream, and then the spicy grass mixes well on the back of the tongue with the ginger. And you get that little bit of heat from the ginger.”
As for the vanilla and Spinnaker? “Vanilla goes with everything,” Tyler says. “The two varieties of wheat make almost a banana flavor and the vanilla brings out the tartness, which goes well with the ice cream.”
“Whenever you’re pairing anything, you’re always looking for that third flavor. When the two components are brought together they should create a third flavor that is not in either of your original ingredients,” Tyler adds.
Stasia Brewczynski, tasting room manager at Rising Tide, likes events that feature local made products. “We’re really big on doing everything with local producers whenever possible,” she said. That includes everything from the ingredients in the beer to the glass growlers and the packaging. “This was a perfect opportunity to show neighbors what else is being made locally. Locally-made ice cream and local beer. I can think of nothing more natural than that.”
The local craft beer movement in Maine has seen tremendous growth in recent years,
and local artisan cheeses are on the rise also, but Tyler sees room for development. “Maine is definitely a Cheddar state,” he said of the consumers’ taste. And while there are some great Cheddars out there, he would like to introduce people to more styles. Silvery Moon Creamery recently brought home a second place ribbon for their Provolone from the American Cheese Society’s awards in Madison, Wisconsin. (Crooked Face Creamery in Skowhegan also won a third place ribbon in the Ricotta Made from Cows Milk category, Pineland Farms won a third in the Smoked Cheddar category and a first for its Cheddar Cheese Spread, and York Hill Farm won a third for one of its goat cheeses). The Queso Fresco – Queso De Verano – has become popular, and the cheddar curds along with the creamery’s aged cheeses are favorites. And the Provolone really is exceptional, Tyler says. “Especially when it’s smoked.” His preference though is the Manchego (or Moonchego as it’s called at the Silvery Moon Creamery).
Having studied culinary arts, Tyler moved to Maine from Vermont four years ago. “I always wanted to go into cheese,” he said. Then almost a year and a half ago, he saw a listing for a cheese maker at Silvery Moon Creamery, and he jumped at the chance. Silvery Moon Creamery is celebrating its 10thanniversary this year, and Tyler has been working to add more events for the business.
“Tyler’s good at coming up with ideas like this,” said Smiling Hill Farm co-owner Rebecca Knight Lilley. Tyler also organized a beer and cheese pairing night at Rising Tide. “He’s also used his culinary background to come up with new items for the lunch menu,” at Smiling Hill Farm. One of the favorite new additions is a sandwich of brie, ham, mustard and apples.
“I like keeping it local and keeping it simple,” Tyler said.
“It’s nice to see the kids step out from the PB and J and trying something different,” Rebecca added.
Silvery Moon Creamery will be partnered with the Maine Beer Co. at the Portland Brew Festival’s “Beer ME, Cheese ME” fundraiser for the Maine Brewers Guild at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. This event will feature rare and distinctive beers paired with local artisan cheeses.
Silvery Moon will have its Provolone, as well as its Moonchego, paired with Maine Beer Co. brews. Rising Tide will also be there but will be paired with Hahn’s End of Phippsburg. They will bring their Petit Poulet, a soft ash-covered bloomy rind cheese, and City Ships, an aged semi-hard cheese. Nezinscot Farm in Turner will have their Gruyere and a goat’s milk cheese paired with beers from Allagash Brewing Co. And Baxter Brewing has teamed with Fuzzy Udder Creamery in Unity, which will feature a pungent soft-ripened cheese that will be washed in Baxter beer and one of their sheep cheeses.