When it comes to pairing beer and cheeses, the art is a delicate one. Using a few principle guidelines allows one to determine what tastes best with a cold pint of beer.
While it comes as no surprise that pub grub is designed to soak up all the alcohol, the joy of getting messy with a plate of beer cheese dip or chicken wings dipped in a blue cheese sauce, is inexplicable. The key to understanding beer and cheese pairings is to know that the flavour of one shouldn’t overwhelm the other, and also drawing a connection between the intensity in the flavour of each. Once you pick a cheese that you want to enjoy eating, finding a beer that matches the same intensity of flavour is important. They must either be complimentary or contrasting in nature, and allow the best qualities of both elements to shine through simultaneously.
The clean, citrusy flavours of witbiers work really well with a soft cheese like goat’s chevre or pair a burrata cheese with fruit beers. The floral notes of these fresh cheeses usually echo the herbal hop flavours of beers like the pilsner. Similarly, the unique earthiness of such light beers taste well-rounded when eaten with cheeses that have a sharp tartness to them. Since most fresh cheeses have a buttery richness, the acidity and carbonation of the beers cut through beautifully, allowing the intense fruity flavours of the beer and cheese to be prominent.
Image Credits: Hamish Johnston
The ultimate type of beer-cheese pairing is to pair your malty brew with a nutty-caramelised flavour. With underlying caramel notes, pairing an aged gouda cheese with a Vienna lager or an American brown ale, highlights the rich malt, dark fruit character of the beer; whereas the caramel notes of the cheese is what one can experience when you first take a bite. Similarly, pairing IPAs with aged or sharp cheddar cheeses allows the beer to cut through the sharp density of the cheddar and taste wholesome.
Funky & Creamy Cheeses
Pair creamy, bloomy rind cheeses like brie, or funky ones like camembert, with a double IPA, as these beers often have tropical, citrus flavours and an underlying bitterness. As creamy or funky cheeses boast of a yeastiness and earthy flavour notes, they work well to be eaten with Belgian farmhouse ales too. The higher the fermentation on the beer, the funkier the cheese. The extra spritz created in these beers, as a result of being fermented, allows the drink to wash over the palette – thereby cleansing it when you take a sip after a bite of these cheeses.
If you’re a hop lover, pair IPAs with creamy blue cheese varieties. The texture and mild pungency of these cheeses cuts through the inherent bitterness of the beer. Similarly, the fruity flavours in both, beer and blue cheese, echo each other’s flavours effectively. You could also try experimenting with pairing a malty beer with some Italian gorgonzola, since the rich deep flavours of the beer match up to the mellow sweetness of the cheese, providing a flavour contrast.