How (and Why) to Pair Beer and Cheese
Put down the wine and experience a bigger and bolder range of flavor with our beer and cheese pairing guide
Wine and cheese are an excellent pairing. But you know what’s just as excellent a pairing if you know what you’re doing? Beer and cheese.
“Beer pairs surprisingly well with cheese. Better, in fact, than wine, according to many people,” says Charles Duque, Managing Director (North America) of The French Dairy Board. “The freshness of the beer, its carbonation and its complex flavor profiles make it an ideal accompaniment for a cheeseboard. And unlike wine, beer has a bigger range of flavor, which opens up a new world of unexpected, delicious pairings.”
And those unexpected pairings are now taking an interesting new turn via a new collaboration between Delaware craft beer icons Dogfish Head and Cabot Creamery, a dairy co-operative. Their new release is The Perfect Pairing, a hazy pale ale “scientifically engineered” to pair with sharp cheddar cheese (specifically, Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar).
The Perfect Pairing (5.5% ABV) is part of Dogfish Head’s larger beer/cheese initiative, which includes a variety pack featuring three other hop-centric brews that pair well with cheddar.
“There are Cabot co-op farms within 20 miles of our family farm, so we’ve always loved Cabot cheese,” says Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione. “And as a brewer focused on IPAs, I’ve been pairing our beers with their cheeses for almost 30 years.”
For this collaboration, Dogfish Head added whey from Cabot to The Perfect Pairing’s recipe to create a “compelling body and subtle sweetness” that works nicely with the saltiness of the cheese.
Since we don’t want you to limit your pairing experience to just cheddar, we offer some additional advice for beer and cheese combinations below.
Order of tasting isn’t important, but beer temperature is
As Duque suggests, taste the cheese first, then the beer (That said, “You can also do the opposite in order to test the differences in sensory sensations.”). Serve the beer chilled but not ice-cold to perceive the aromas.
Complement the intensity of the beer and cheese
Basically, avoid overpowering one or the other. “When you pair a milder cheese like Brie with a strong IPA, the flavor is going to be mostly the IPA,” says Duque. “A good rule of thumb is to match the intensity of mild cheeses with light beers and strong cheeses with strong beers.”
Calagione suggests an interesting alternative: Contrasting pairings. “For contrasting pairings, you work to find a beer and cheese with completely different flavor profiles,” he says. “ The key to nailing both of these pairings, though, is matching the levels of intensity found in the cheese and beer. For instance, pairing a strong, funky blue cheese with a light, effervescent pilsner may not lead to the best tasting experience.”
Match cheese texture with bubbles
Also, consider the texture of the cheese in relation to the consistency of the beer. With softer, creamier cheeses that coat the mouth like triple crème or Brie, a more effervescent beers like a pilsner or lager will cut through the higher butterfat content and highlight the rich flavors. Harder cheeses like Mimolette or Comté should be paired with a less effervescent beer like a cask ale, stout or porter. As Duque notes, “Typically, the higher the butterfat content, the higher the chance a bubblier beer will pair well.”
When it comes to beer and cheese pairing, you be the judge
“Before you buy your fromage, think about what kinds of beer you like,” says Duque. “If you like darker, heavier beers like Belgian ales or IPAs, then strong cheeses like Epoisses or Pont Pont L’Eveque will be good matches. Or, if you’re into blond ales and pilsners, Emmental or Brie might work best.”
“Any beer can be paired with cheese,” adds Calagione. “It’s simply about experimentation to find the pairing you most enjoy.”
A quick pairing guide, via Duque:
Triple Crème – Farmhouse ale
Brie – Fruited Berliner Weisse
Emmental – Golden Ale
Mimolette – Stout
Camembert – Saison
Comté– German Pilsner
Epoisses – Belgian triple
Pont L’Eveque – Double IPA
Fourme d’Ambert – IPA
Bleu d’Auvergne – Wheat beer
As for cheddar, don’t feel restricted to Dogfish Head’s new brew (which is quite good). As Duque notes, “Cheddar is classically versatile, soft, strong and extra strong. The aged versions of this cheese are highly bitter, pungent, earthy, creamy, sweet, even hazelnutty. This cheese goes extremely well with dark beer, IPAs, stouts and porters.”
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