Getting Started With Beer and Cheese
Cheese offers the same kind of variety, subtlety, sense of terroir and sheer bliss of a great beer, so there’s no reason not to dive right in. As a beer lover, you are already more than halfway there. Here’s my thoughts for getting started.
You may be lucky enough to find an organized public tasting of cheese and beer, but these, at present, are still few and far between. I organized one for the Chicago Beer Society recently that featured 24 pairings, from subtle to sledgehammer, and it was quite a treat for those who were able to attend. But I can tell you that the planning sessions were almost as much fun as the event. It’s a huge pleasure being able to try things out and discuss, even argue with a few other equally fanatical beer and cheese fans.
If you can rustle up three or four great cheeses and twice as many beers, you can have a fantastic little tasting. I’ll have some suggestions, but there are plenty of other places to look for inspiration. I find the folks behind the cheese counter at Whole Foods and other specialty markets to be well versed in what beers work with their cheeses. All you have to do is ask.
Here’s a few pairs that usually can’t miss:
A well-aged Gouda and an imperial stout. The caramelly, meaty cheese just melts in the presence of the smoothly roasty stout.
A toasty brown ale and a nutty cheese. There are many cheeses that fit this description: Compte, Ossau-Itary, Raclette and many others. Pick one and go for it.
A strong India pale ale (7%+) and a blue cheese. As there are lots of choices, fine tune your choices with the “match intensity” rule. A standard IPA might stand up to a blue brie, but it takes a huge Imperial version to match an aged gorgonzola.
Pale ale and traditional English-style cheddar. These have been plowman’s pals since time immemorial, so they’re going to work for you as well.
Stilton and barleywine. Guaranteed.
More Great Beer and Cheese Pairings
Stoudt Weizen, with Bubalis Bubalis Burrata, fresh mozzarella stuffed with curds and cream
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA with Golden Ridge Blue
Bell’s Best Brown Ale with ColoRouge Camembert
Goose Island Matilda with Haystack Peak, a ripened goat cheese
New Glarus Belgian Cherry Red with Redwood Hills Fresh Chèvre
St Arnold Fancy Lawnmower Beer (Kölsch) with Fair Oaks Farms Triple Cream Butter Käse
Alaskan Smoked Porter with Roth Kase Vintage Van Gogh Gouda
Rogue Ales Shakespeare Stout with Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue
Samuel Adams Boston Ale with Fayette Creamery Argylshire, a traditional cloth-wrapped English-style cheese
Two Brothers Dog Days Dortmunder, with Bass Lake Canasta Pardo, a sheep cheese with a very delicate dusting of cinnamon
Capitol Maibock & Meister Family Dairy horseradish white cheddar