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The Dummy’s Guide to Pairing Cheese and Beer

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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I happen to agree with that adage 100 percent. Add a platter of delicious cheese and it’s proof that God not only loves us and wants us to be happy, but also is letting us have a taste of heaven right here on earth. Many folks think that the perfect beverage to serve with cheese is wine. And surely for some, it is. But don’t discount the age-old fermented brew. Humans have been drinking beer since 9000 B.C.! Like cheese, beer is a complex and varied beverage. And like cheese, small batch, hand-crafted brew is a delight—and the perfect match for artisanal cheese. After all, they both start with the same ingredient: grass.

As we learned last month, the flavor of the cheese is derived from milk, which is flavored by the grass the animal eats. And beer is made from barley, a cereal grass often used for not only brewing beer but also for feeding animals. Two peas in a pod, right?!

Here’s the kicker: there are no steadfast beer and cheese pairings. As much as I would like to say “eat this” when you “drink that,” it just doesn’t happen. The only way you can know what goes with what is to try it out. And to be honest, that is the fun part. Now, don’t get me wrong—we can start with some basic concepts of beer and cheese pairing. There is a bit of method to this madness.

4 Ground Rules for Pairing Cheese and Beer

  1. Start by thinking about balance. You don’t want the cheese to overpower the beer or vice versa. A soft delicate goat’s milk cheese would be crushed by a sharp IPA.
  2. Next up: terrior. It doesn’t only apply to wine. If you drink beer and eat cheese from the same region, one could say that the complementary factors are what make the match work. The beginnings of each product are harvested from the same plot of land and often share some flavor characteristics.
  3. But in the same breath, let’s talk contrast. The differences in each could highlight a flavor or texture that we would have missed if paired with something too similar.
  4. Texture can play a role as well. A thick, creamy cheese may not pair well with a heavy stout. It may need a lighter, more effervescent beer, like a sparkling ale.

5 Failsafe Pairings

It can get messy if you think too hard. You just have to give it a whirl. Here is my starting point.

  1. Sharp cheddars, Colby or hard aged cheeses often go well with brown ales.
  2. Fresh chèvre or a pungent feta goes great with wheat beers (try a fruited wheat beer for fun).
  3. Smooth silky cheeses like mascarpone, Neufchatal or a triple crème stand up great with a fruity lambic or a kriek.
  4. Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola or Stilton pair beautifully with barleywines or an ultra-hopped beer like Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.
  5. A strong Gruyère will often pair nicely with a bock beer, while milder Swiss cheeses can be enjoyed with a Märzen.

Remember, cheese and beer pairings are not set in stone. If you like it…eat it and drink it. Consider that what you like together in December might not go well in August. Beer and cheese change as they age, just like all living things. So grab a baguette or a loaf of good country bread, a nice pint of craft beer and a slice of artisanal cheese and see what you think. You will be pleasantly surprised!

- Annie Lehrer

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  • http://blog.justinchen.net/ Justin C

    Great post! I just bought some Beehive cheddar that I’m going to try with some beers.

  • Anonymous

    What did you get from Beehive? Seehive or Barely Buzzed!?! Beehive cheeses go great with beer!

  • http://blog.justinchen.net/ Justin C

    I got the Barely Buzzed. Should I go with a brown ale?

  • http://twitter.com/chzmongerswife Annie Denny-Lehrer

    I don’t think the barely buzzed would go with a brown ale. See what i mean about no steadfast rules about pairing! The espresso and lavender throw a wrench in things. Try an APA.

  • http://twitter.com/beernewb Beer Newb

    Great intro lesson, will have to share this with our fans over at http://BeerNewb.com !

  • http://twitter.com/SimpleItalian Liz Trementozzi

    This is a great article. I never consider pairing beer with cheeses per se. I’d be curious of what combos would be good for Italian cheeses and beer.

  • Pingback: The Dummy’s Guide to Pairing Cheese & Wine | The Menuism Blog

  • http://www.marblecleaningmiami.com Marble Polishing BOCA RATON

    Remember, cheese and beer pairings are not set in stone. If you like it…eat it and drink it. Consider that what you like together in December might not go well in August!!

  • http://www.moldremoval.org Mold Removal Mission Viejo

    This is a great article.

  • http://www.protectthehuman.com/users/stevenbrown66 Tenesha Marguez

    Excellent, page The data I stubled onto useful. We’ve made note of it and can take a look at once again soon after. Thanks.

Annie Lehrer is a nurse practitioner who will soon be a farm girl and cheesemaker. Born and raised in St. Louis, she’s been in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother since she can remember. Having a house full of family, friends and delicious food is her idea of the perfect way to spend an evening. A former travel nurse, Annie has lived in various cities across the U.S. exploring diverse culinary scenes. Food—and everything associated with it, from earth to belly—is her passion. She dwells in downtown St. Louis with her cheesemonger husband, Simon. When not caring for patients at the hospital, Annie is swillin’ craft beer with her beer nerd crew, researching livestock, writing recipes, planning chicken coop designs, keeping up with the St. Louis art scene and spending time with her big Lebanese family. She loves cheese. She writes about all things cheese on her blog The Cheesemonger’s Wife. She’s funny as hell. You can try and keep up with her crazy life on Twitter.


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