by Mike Retzlaff
Everyone I know (at least of any consequence) likes beer and just about everyone likes cheese. It is often a very pleasant experience to consume both at the same sitting! Unfortunately, those combinations that I felt paired really well have been lost due to my affliction with CRS (can’t remember shit). However, I’m pretty sure the pairing of artificial beer with artificial cheese was never on that list.
When pairing anything, we’re hoping that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Carbonation can obliterate or enhance the texture of a cheese. Hoppiness can augment or overwhelm the flavor. A malty beer can completely negate the subtle nuances of delicate cheeses.
The key rules of pairing are:
a) Find characteristics from the beer and the cheese that complement each other.
b) Find characteristics that contrast with one another.
Complementary examples include:
* Nut brown ales pair well with the nutty flavors in some cheeses like Asiago.
* Sour beers pair well with bright and citrusy goat’s milk cheeses.
Contrasting examples include:
* Stouts have some sweeter and darker notes that work well with stronger bleu cheeses.
* Sour beers pair well with rich cheeses – especially those with stronger flavors.
I found the following pairing guide and thought a few others might also find it interesting and even helpful. Of course, this is not the final say-so as your mileage may vary. All tastes are subjective but it certainly seems a good place to start. It might even encourage us to try alternate pairings. Keep notes if you are subject to CRS!
Hard Cheeses — Suggested Beers
- Sharp Cheddar – Stout, Pale Ale, IPA
- Aged Cheddar (X Sharp) – Czech & German Pilsners
- Smoked Gouda – Rauchbier, Gratzer
- Dutch Gouda – Amber Ale
- Aged Gouda – American Barleywine
- Gruyere – Belgian Wit, Wheat, Bock, Oktoberfest, Porter
- Emmenthal (Swiss) – Amber Ales, Oktoberfest, Marzen
- Asiago – Nut Brown Ale, Fuller’s London Porter
- Provolone – American Pale Ale, Vienna lagers
- Parmigiano-Reggiano – English IPA, Amber Ale, Marzen
- Romano – IPA, IIPA, Belgian Tripel, Sweet Stout
- Havarti – Belgian Pale Ale, American Pils
- Pepper Jack – Winter Warmer, IPA
- Feta – Light lagers, American Wheat
- Bleu – Porter, Imperial Stout, IPA
- Roquefort – Strong Belgian Ales, Dark Ales
- Stilton – English Barleywine, Old Ale, Oatmeal Stout
- Gorgonzola – American Barleywine, IPA
- Mozzarella – Wheat, Belgian Wit
Soft Cheeses — Suggested Beers
- Boursin – Belgian Tripel
- Farmer’s (pressed ricottta) – Belgian Golden Ale
- Mascarpone – Saison, Fruit beers
- Munster – Kolsch, Flanders Red Ale
- Washed Rind (soft & stinky) – Strong Belgian Ales
- Camembert / Brie – IPA, Kriek, Blonde
- Goat – Wit, Weizen, Lambicm, Flanders Red, Oud Bruin
There are plenty of other combinations to consider. In addition, particular breads and crackers can really enhance the experience. The inclusion of cured meats can certainly be worth the effort. Perhaps the best combination for you will be an unexpected surprise. In any case, if you have a favorite or happen upon a really good pairing, say something and we’ll have a follow-up on this subject. It would be good to put together a list of specific pairings; especially with local beers.