Cheese is as beguiling as it is varied. There are washed rinds, cellar-aged, leaf-wrapped and now to add to that list: ale-soaked. Take the Raspberry BellaVitano, for example.
Made by Sartori Foods in Plymouth, Wisconsin, this unique cheese is soaked in Wisconsin-brewed New Glarus Raspberry Tart Ale. If you’re not familiar with Raspberry Tart Ale, you may have heard of Spotted Cow, which the brewery is most famous for. But the raspberry ale is fruity, pungent and brewed with real, fresh raspberries. The Wisconsin framboise ale lends a slight sweetness to the cheese, but it’s not overpowering.
It’s a combination of aged cheddar and parmesan, which makes its flavor strong and complex. On first bite, you're hit with the sharpness of the cheddar and then quickly taste the nutty, saltiness from the parmesan. The cheese is firm in texture and cuts like an aged parmesan. Aged 11 months, it’s made completely from cow's milk.
Laura Werlin, author of Cheese Essentials, recommends pairing the cheese with onion jam and rosemary crackers. For a sweet combination, she suggests roasted hazelnuts and crushed raspberries with lime peel and sugar. Instead of the obvious choice of New Glarus, Werlin suggests a scotch ale or even a Guinness stout for beer accompaniments and a dry Riesling for wine. But honestly, this flavorful cheese is good all by itself. It’s no surprise that it won "Best New Cheese" and "Best American Cheese" during the 2008 World Cheese Awards in Ireland.
Raspberry BellaVitano cheese can be found at Binny’s, Whole Foods or wherever artisan cheeses are sold.