Until Tria opened its doors, I thought the best cheese and beer restaurant in Philadelphia was Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South: Mouth-watering cheesesteaks and plenty of cold beers in the cooler to wash them down.
But Tria is something completely different. The trendy little room is a celebration of funky fermentation, with a menu that explores the wide range of the tastes and scents that erupt when you let nature do its thing.
In other words, this is not your father’s Ballantine and Cheese Doodles.
For the record, wine is the third leg of this trio. I imagine that, under the right circumstances, I might stumble over the proper red to complement a slab of aged Gouda.
But for me, beer is the better accompaniment to these sharp, in-your-face flavors. Cheese is farmer’s food; it is fun and full and hearty – just like beer. As brewer Garrett Oliver notes in his book, “The Brewmaster’s Table,” beer “can find such harmony with cheese that you won’t know where the beer ends and the cheese begins.”
This is where Tria shines.
Owner Jon Myerow has put together a glorious list of two dozen brews to pair with your dairy selection. As with the cheeses, the list offers a wide range of exotic tastes – no drab industrial lagers, and certainly no light beer. You’ll find a white ale from Japan, a porter from Kensington, a cherry beer from Belgium, a 5-year-old vintage ale from England.
“Basically, I started with the kinds of beers I’d want to drink with food,” Myerow told me. “But if I used only my own tastes, it would probably be all Belgian beers.”
So, in addition to a healthy sprinkling of Belgian classics, the menu includes world-classic offerings from Germany and Britain, as well as local micros. More notable is that Tria does not waste any valuable cooler space on common premium standbys like Hoegaarden and Guinness. “You can buy them everywhere else,” Myerow reasoned. If I have any complaints, it’s that the menu doesn’t offer suggestions on which beer might match well with specific cheeses.
Does the powerfully hoppy Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA go well with the aged pecorino tartufello? What’s best with Stanser Schafkase sheep’s milk cheese – Unibroue Epherme or Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout?
Good questions. When I find out (say, after another 10 or 20 visits), I’ll let you know.