The Cheese Shop – el Bait Shop

Fall. Cheese. Beer.

This summer at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market I came across a cheese booth operated by CJ and Kari Bienert. I was aware that CJ used to work for Gateway Market in town as their artisan cheese expert, but I was unaware they were opening a new store in Des Moines in November. We tasted a few samples, had a discussion about blue cheese, bought some wonderful Dunbarton Blue and Bandage Cheddar, and signed up for their mailing list.

Last week we received an email invitation to join them at el Bait Shop for a Fall Cheese and Beer Tasting. Our friend Eric decided to join us.

el Bait Shop is located on Market Street and SW 2nd in Downtown Des Moines. It’s the place to go in Des Moines if you like a ton of beer options or if you are just a beer snob. They have over 100 beers on tap and 100 in the bottle. They also have a full menu including wings, sandwiches, appetizers, and Mexican entrees. It adjoins the High Life Lounge if you are craving Miller High Life’s “Champagne of Beers” or some bacon-wrapped jalapeno tater tots.

Here is a shot of the menu, which is broken down into several categories to help you find your type of beer.

The event started at 4 and went until 7. We arrived just after 5 to find a nice table outside on the patio. We skipped the menu this time around. We were here for cheese, please. The fall cheese and beer tasting was $12 per order. It was 6 cheeses paired with a flight of 6 beers. We decided to order two and share between the three of us.

The cheese and beer list.

Clockwise starting with the scooped cheese:

1. Quark, Milton Creamery, Milton, Iowa – Pasteurized Cow’s Milk – I remember wishing I had some crusty bread or a cracker on which to spread this cheese. I found it a little lonely by itself.

2. Hidden Falls, Shepards Way, Nerstrand, Minnesota – Pasteurized Sheep’s Milk – Very Brie or Camembert type of cheese. Creamy. Eric really enjoyed, as he is a big fan of Brie.

3. Green Fields, Saxon Creamery, Cleveland, Wisconsin – Raw Cow’s Milk – I honestly don’t remember much about this one. All of the cheeses were great but some just caught more of my attention than others.

4. Evalon, La Clare Farms, Chilton, Wisconsin – Raw Goat’s Milk – Chad and Eric really enjoyed this one. It was their favorite. Reminded me of a great gouda cheese with a firmer texture.

5. Prairie Breeze, Milton Creamery, Milton, Iowa – Pasteurized Cow’s Milk – This was one of my favorites. The cheese was a crumbly cheddar-type cheese full of flavor. Honestly, it reminded me of Parmigiano-Reggiano with it’s texture and crumbliness.

6. Moody Blue, Emmi Roth Kase, Monroe, Wisconsin – Smoked Pasteurized Cow’s Milk – My other favorite. You need to like smoked cheeses to enjoy this one. It could be too smokey for some. I enjoyed it and thought it went very well with the peppery porter with which it was paired.

Paired with the following beers;

1. Samuel Adams, Harvest Pumkin Ale – They ran out of the Samuel Adams Pumpkin Ale so instead they substituted Leinenkugel’s Fireside Nut Brown. An excellent replacement!

2. Peace Tree, Cornucopia Farmhouse Ale

3. Sierra Nevada, Ovlia Abbey, Saison

4. Summit, Oktoberfest

5. New Belgium, Abbey Grand Cru – This beer was the overall favorite. This beer was smooth, creamy, and full of flavor. Very nicely paired with the Prairie Breeze.

6. Empryean, Black Pepper Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter – We were surprised at the intensity of the pepper in this beer. We all agreed it would be great with a steak.

Eric and Chad with the Science Center and downtown Des Moines in the background.

As you can see we didn’t find a beer or a cheese we didn’t like…

A great way to spend a beautiful fall evening.

The Cheese Shop of Des Moines is opening soon next to La Mie Bakery on 42nd Street in The Shops at Roosevelt. Check it out!

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