Sorry wine, it’s time to step aside and let the best pairing beverage accompany the cheese board, beer. Beer and cheese go together like ramen and jammy eggs. The two have a wide range of complex flavors that when paired right, form the perfect beverage and food pairing.
With wine long dominating the cheese pairing scene, it can be difficult for some to wrap their heads around beer being the best beverage for the job, that is until you try it. When you take a look at all the beer styles and flavors and then start pairing them with all the styles and flavors of cheese, it’s not hard to see beer is best.
Where to begin, however, can be a bit of a daunting task. Before we get into this creamery’s phenomenal recommendations, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
The one thing to remember is: intensity is key. A strong, bold beer needs a strong cheese to match. You’ll want to pair those American barley wines, strong ales, and imperial stouts with a pungent cheese.
The same rule goes for those lighter brews. With a less intense flavor, they’ll need a less intense cheese. Think pilsner with Harvarti and goat cheese with a wheat beer. Ignore intensity and you’ll find one easily overwhelms the other, letting the flavors get lost on your palate.
Complement and Contrast
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There are two goals when pairing, to either find flavors that complement or flavors that contrast. First, we’ll start with complement. Like when you’re pairing food, these flavors should go well together. Textures too. Like peanut butter and chocolate, they should form a harmonious relationship creating a sensational experience of common flavors and textures.
The contrast on the other hand can be more challenging, and also more fun. Here you’ll want the beer and cheese to each bring something different to the table. Rice is a great example. On its own, rice is good but one noted. Add teriyaki sauce on the other hand and you’re presenting a contrasting flavor that works together beautifully.
There’s eating and drinking, then there’s tasting. When pairing these two luxurious ingredients together, you’ll want to be doing the latter.
To appreciate the flavors to the fullest, you’ll want to first take a sip of your beer. Let it coat your tongue as the flavors hit your palate. Then take a bite of cheese. Follow that with another sip of beer. Notice how the flavors complement or contrast? That’s called tasting.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump into the good stuff, beer, and cheese. Cypress Grove offers up six exceptional pairing recommendations for you to try.
1. White Ale & Ricotta
First up, White or Wheat Ales. These beer styles are on the lighter side. Unlike the typical light lager, however, they tend to have more spice notes. For them, you’ll want to either complement with refreshing, light cheeses like a creamy cheese such as ricotta or contrast with a robust stilton.
2. Hoppy Ales & Cheddar
Hoppy ales, on the other hand, have more going on. Bitter, citrusy, piney beers such as these are going to need a stronger cheese. A tangy cheddar would be a great match.
The trick here is to match the hoppiness of the beer with the sharpness of the cheddar. An IPA, for instance, would be best for an extra sharp cheddar cheese whereas a less hoppy pale ale would do better with a medium cheddar.
3. Saisons & Camembert
This is where things start to get funky. Funky in flavor that is. Saisons can lean more towards an earthy, spiced flavor or be more funky and fruity. That means they need a potent pairing to match.
In this case, Cypress Grove recommends pairing the funky with stinky and turns towards cheeses like Camembert, Taleggio, and Comte. Try one or all in a cheese plate with a peppery, yeasty saison for a real treat.
4. Sour Ales & Soft-Ripened Goat Cheese
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The world of sour beers is an ever complex one. These tart brews can run the gamut of sweet and bubbly to downright mouth puckering. A good sour requires a fine cheese and one that packs flavor. So pair fruity with the bold and try a soft-ripened goat cheese. Or you could even opt for a hard cheese like an extra-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano or Stilton.
5. Tripel & Stilton
Belgian ales are also known for their complex flavor profile and tripels are no exception. With a strong yeast quality and higher ABV, an intense, strong blue cheese like Stilton is your best bet. It matches the tripel both in strength and flavor. Cypress Grove also recommends pairing a cheese with caramel notes, suggesting either gouda or clothbound cheddar.
6. Stout & Comte
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A good stout will be filled with roasty coffee and chocolate notes. When it comes to finding the best cheese to pair with it, there’s a wide variety of options, making it a great beer to either complement or contrast. The French Comte cheese has a creamy, nuttiness to it that will pair rather nicely. Ricotta, on the other hand, is excellent for a contrasting pairing. Here, it’s more about what you’re in the mood for.
However, you choose to pair your favorite brew with a hunk of cheese, have fun with it. Mess around and see what combinations you like. After all, that’s what pairing beer and cheese is all about.
Did you try one of these recommendations? Let us know what our favorite pairing is in the comments below.