Beer and cheese? What’s that all about? Like most people, you may be under the impression that cheese should only be served with red wine. Or perhaps you’ve heard the experts singing the praises of white wine as the best accompaniment to cheese, because its crisp sweetness brings out the flavours.
But don’t despair. Anything goes. Fortunately, delicious cheeses can be enjoyed with all kinds of beverages.
But you really should try having beer with cheese, because they actually make a great pair. In fact, they are a much better match than most might think.
Beer has a highly complex taste and refreshing carbonation. Especially the carbonation works very well with cheese, as it cuts through the denseness and richness of most cheeses. Many beers also have a sweet, slightly caramelised taste that goes very well with somewhat heavier and riper cheeses.
RULES OF THUMB WHEN PAIRING BEER AND CHEESE
When you begin exploring the pairing of beer with cheese, a world of experiences awaits. And surprises as well. So experiment and find out what suits your personal tastes. Do you like the cheese and beer to taste similar? Or do you prefer divergent flavours that complement each other? Both can be quite delicious.
There are some rules of thumb worth remembering when pairing cheese with beer:
- Mild cheeses go well with mild beers. A beer should never stifle the cheese with alcohol, strong flavours or a lot of hops.
- Riper and richer cheeses can handle a stronger beer and a higher alcohol percentage. A full-bodied, matured cheese often goes well with heavier beer types, like pale lager, brown ales or even stouts. You might also give a heavy barley wine a try.
- Sharp blue cheeses can handle a heavy black stout, which can otherwise easily smother other flavours. Heavy, fruity beers also go well with blue cheeses. Hoppy beers tend to take the edge off blue cheese and bring out their floral notes and acidity.
- Fruity beers in general go well with cheese. So bring out your Belgian cheery beer and other beers with prominent fruitiness. Your cheese and beer-loving guests will thank you for it.
HOPS DO INTERESTING THINGS TO CHEESE
Many beers are spiced with hops. Hops are herbs that add bitter and fruity notes to beer. And it goes particularly well with cheese, where the bitterness and floral notes can lift the cheese to new heights.
Serve a hoppy lager or India Pale Ale paired with blue cheese – and experience the floral notes as they unfold. Or try a sharp cheddar with a hoppy lager, which highlights the acidity in the cheese. The right hops can also bring out flavours in a creamy blue cheese reminiscent of elderflower.
An aged gouda, with its sweetness and caramel notes, also makes an interesting complement to a hoppy beer. A hops-rich lager can make gouda taste of spring as well as bringing out the acidity in the otherwise rich cheese.
KEEP IT SIMPLE WITH A CLASSIC PALE LAGER
Fancy microbrews can be interesting to pair with various cheeses. But you can also make do with less. A relatively simple pale lager from just about any brewery actually goes quite well with many cheeses.
Soft cheeses, like brie or other white mould cheeses, will bring out the caramel notes in a pale lager. And in aged cheeses – both hard cheeses and semi-soft, danbo-style cheeses – a classic pale lager really brings out the caramel notes and the sharpness.
So even though you don’t have time to stop by the craft beer shop with all their experimental imported beers, there’s no need panic. A good beer from the grocery store will also go well with your cheese selection.
WANT TO HOST A BEER & CHEESE TASTING?
Regardless of whether you’ve found a selection of unique beers to serve with your cheeses or if your local supermarket is your supplier, the aim is to taste and enjoy.
- Start by tasting the cheese and beer separately. Take your time and notice the various taste notes. Are there bitter notes or sweet? Caramel? Fruity? Floral?
- Then notice what happens when you taste the cheese and beer together. Take a small bite of cheese. Smell it, too. Notice all the flavours. And smell the beer before sipping it. How do the tastes combine? Do they harmonise or challenge each other? Do you taste anything new, which neither the cheese nor the beer had on their own?
- Try different combinations, if there are several beers to choose from. Which beer do you think goes best with your cheeses? What do your guests think? Does everyone agree? If not, then there’s a good basis for an interesting and entertaining discussion.
And now, just lean back, enjoy and have fun. Because that’s what beer and cheese is all about. They create a lovely, relaxed atmosphere – not to mention fantastic taste sensations.
Cheers and bon appetit!
This article was written by Mikkel Bækgaard, freelance food writer and food blogger / www.mikkelsmadblog.dk.