Having friends over to taste a new beer you’ve discovered, but don’t know what to serve with it? Want to show off your cheese collection, and think an array of beers would be nice as well? Relax. Beer and cheese is a natural pairing that goes back centuries. Use your instincts, and try these tips. Your friends will love you for it.
Beer and cheese both originated on the farm. Both were made in the slow seasons and stored for use. People throughout history have survived cold winters on diets consisting largely of beer and cheese. Beer, cheese and cold meats make up the classic ploughman’s lunch still served in English pubs.
Wine and cheese pairing works by contrasting the flavors and can go terribly wrong. The best way to pair beer and cheese is to match similar taste characteristics. Beer has nutty, earthy flavors that complement cheese very well. Match bold beers with strong cheeses, fresh cheeses with light beers, and sharp cheeses with heavy brews.
Here are some suggestions of perfect beer and cheese combinations. To get started, try the beer-and-cheese pairing charts of the Brewer’s Association and First We Feast. Experiment to find your own favorite matches.
India Pale Ale with English Farmhouse Cheddar
Let’s start at the farm. The robust hops of an IPA stand up to the complexity and sharpness of a good farmhouse cheddar. The citrus notes and bitterness match the sharp edge on an aged cheddar and bring out those qualities in the cheese tasting.
Brown ales also work well. The contrast of bitterness and caramel sweetness in roasted malt brings out the similar contrast and creamy yet sharp complexity of the cheddar. This pairing calls for a picnic on a grassy slope. Grassy slopes, where cows graze, are the origin of cheese. Grasses, namely wheat and barley, are also the origin of beer.
Wheat Beer with Chevre and Mozzarella
Light pairs with light. The light acidity and floral or fruity notes of a mild wheat beer complement the tang and sometimes saltiness of a fresh goat cheese. A wheat beer does not overpower a mild mozzarella. Try a stronger wheat beer with a more pungent feta cheese.
Stout with Blue Cheese
Blue cheese loves stout. Blue cheese has a strong, lively, complex and characteristic flavor. A rich stout will complement this strong cheese well. The roasted malt matches the mold of the cheese. The earthy, heavy taste of both make for a perfect combination. Another pairing for blue cheese is an American red ale or an IPA. The hops give a pungent complement to the tang of the moldy cheese, while the malt brings out the sweetness in the cheese in a quieter fashion than the stout does.
Pilsner with Mild Cheddar or Havarti
Life isn’t always intense. Pair a moderate beer with a moderate cheese. A mild cheddar, Monterey Jack or Havarti is a good choice for a summer afternoon. Enjoy the mildly sweet creaminess and tang with an easy Pilsner.