It might feel a little early to be focusing ahead to Christmas but it’ll be here before you know it, which is why breweries are already announcing release dates for holiday beers, and this year one of the most coveted Christmas beers, Tröegs Independent Brewing’s Mad Elf, has also turned into cheese.
I know, I know, can’t we at least make it through the pumpkin beer onslaught before we start to focus on the next wave of seasonal efforts? Trust me, I’m not one of those people listening to 24-hour Christmas carol radio stations in early November or setting up decorations prior to Thanksgiving but when one of your favorite breweries partners with a local creamery to make a special cheese using one of your favorite beers and distributes it throughout Pennsylvania, you grab a chunk and give it a try.
To celebrate the return of Mad Elf, the cheerful 11.0 percent ABV ruby red Belgian-style ale that helped make the brewery famous, Tröegs collaborated with another Pennsylvania-based business, Caputo Brothers Creamery, to release Mad Elf Beer Cheese, a merry and creamy limited edition holiday cheese made with Mad Elf and 100 percent Pennsylvania cow’s milk. It’s actually the third cheese the two companies have created, after the successful launch of Tröegenator Beer Cheese last year and Perpetual (IPA) Beer Cheese earlier this year, each created using one of the brewery’s beloved staple year-round beers. Taking inspiration from the beer’s notes of cherry, chocolate and honey, the third cheese in this collaboration series features a healthy dose of Mad Elf, starting at the beginning when the cheese curds are bathed in the potent holiday beer.
Once the curds are pressed and aged, the semi-soft wheels get a spice rub of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, created just to complement this cheese. Hershey’s Natural Cocoa was also added, along with freshly ground espresso, before it was mixed with more Mad Elf, rubbed onto the rind of the wheels and left to dry for two days in Caputo’s cheese cave. The final result, according to Caputo Brothers and Tröegs, is a deliciously savory and sweet cheese that offers some notes of cinnamon, coffee and honey. While I’m no cheese monger, I recently opened the cheese and gave it a little taste test, trying it first by itself and then on a triscuit – classy, right?
Being used to more mass-produced cheese, it took a bite or two to fully grasp, and appreciate, what Caputo Brothers and Tröegs had created – and while I didn’t have any Mad Elf to wash it down, I’d have to imagine the cheese and beer would pair wonderfully together. What I learned is that I enjoyed the cheese more on the cracker than a standalone snack but then again, it’s not too often I’m just sitting on the couch chomping away at a block of cheese. It’s abundantly creamy and smooth, offering a great texture and a robust taste, and I could definitely pinpoint the flavors.
If you’re purchasing Mad Elf Beer Cheese and expecting it to taste just like a bottle of the namesake beer, you’re going to be disappointed. What I did notice is that it offers the cinnamon flavor and a touch of both the sweetness of the chocolate and the pep of the coffee, especially while eating a piece of the rind, though I was never really able to pick-up on the honey. Perhaps it was overpowered a little by the tartness of the cheese, which I’d imagine is a product of the aging-process. Overall, I thought it was tasty. I’ll fully admit, I wasn’t sure about it after the first few pieces. It just isn’t something I would necessarily gravitate towards regularly, however I would strongly consider grabbing another block for the holidays and it would be a great inclusion – and conversation piece – for the holiday charcuterie board.
Mad Elf Beer Cheese can be found exclusively at all 185 Giant, Martin’s and Giant Heirloom Market locations throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states like Maryland and West Virginia. It’s $9.99, a small price for anyone who loves the combination of beer and cheese – and looks forward to the release of Mad Elf. Speaking of which, Mad Elf is now available in bottles and cans, while supplies last. And now back to your regularly scheduled October.