Don’t stop at wine and cheese
There’s a whole world of beer out there
One of my favorite meals is a wedge of cheese and a cold brew. The way beer bubbles slice right through the mouth-coating fats in the cheese is so delicious. It’s also extremely easy to pair them – you just have to figure out what you’re in the mood for and how to find some balance with the flavors.
To start, choose one cheese or beer that you’re already in love with. Let’s say you like tangy fresh goat cheese. Consider the chevre – it’s dense and creamy on the tongue, herbaceous and lemony with a hint of lavender.
How can you play off those flavors? If you were planning a dinner party, who would get along with the chevre? A bold and bitter IPA would utterly dominate with its boastful hops – but what about a lemony saison? Those fizzy bubbles, that floral body, the light scent of spring – plenty in common with that chevre. They’d have lots to talk about.
Yet opposites also attract. You might soon find a sweet as syrup barley wine making out with a salty, meaty Stilton in the corner… they really do emphasize each other’s qualities.
Start by toying with trusted and true combinations detailed below, then get kinky with some experimental matchmaking. Find what you like and enjoy the hell out of it.
Mild Cheese + Mellow Beers
Moses Sleeper from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont with Allagash White from Allagash Brewing in Maine
Notes in beer: Lemon and orange peel with a lingering hint of white pepper
Notes in cheese: Fresh butter and toasted almonds with yeasty notes near the rind.
Why this pairing works: The zingy lemon notes and effervescence in the white ale cut right through this dense, creamy brie-style cheese like a knife. Both have notes of yeast and fresh citrus that happily comingle, creating an effect that tastes not unlike a lemon meringue pie.
Farmhouse Cheddars + IPA’s
Willi’s Bandaged Cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy in Wisconsin with West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company
Notes in beer: fresh evergreen, pine, and tropical fruits with a slight bitterness
Notes in cheese: pineapples, fresh soil, sweet corn, with a mineral finish
Why this pairing works: the barny flavors in this local Wisonsin cheddar mellow the bitter hops in the IPA, enhancing the fruity characteristics. The combination creates a complex, woodsy flavor experience enough to convert those who normally dislike IPA’s.
Firm Sheep Milk + Malty Ambers
12-month Manchego from Spain and Bell’s Amber Ale from Michigan
Notes in beer: Toffee and hazelnuts with sweet brown sugar malts
Notes in cheese: Salty marcona and grass with a smooth lingering sweetness
Why this pairing works: The sweet notes of this malty amber ale combined with the salty, nutty flavors in aged sheep milk creates a praline pecan effect. Try it with some salted nuts to really enhance the combination.
Aged Alpines + Robust Belgians
Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin with Tripel Karmeliet from Belgium
Notes in beer: bananas and ground cloves, with lingering notes of lemon zest
Notes in cheese: roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, and fresh hay
Why this pairing works: Aged alpine-style cheeses like this raw milk beauty from Wisconsin are rich with deep, complex flavors and require something equally indulgent, like a floral Belgian ale. Together they taste something like banana cream pie.
Salty Blues + Rich Stout
Bleu d’Auvergne from France with Nitro Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Co in Colorado.
Notes in beer: sweet cream, dark chocolate and black coffee
Notes in cheese: spring grass and fresh herbs with a sprinkle of salt and peper
Why this pairing works: This creamy French blue has just enough robust character to play off the toasty and sweet malts in this milk stout creating a salty-sweet combination perfect for dessert, like chocolate-covered pretzels or caramels with sea salt.