Cheese & Beer!
Cheese and Beer – A Match Made in Heaven
Cheese and Beer? The idea of the twosome is hard for many to swallow when in fact the mix of cheese and beer goes way, way back. In Belgium, during the Dark Ages, monasteries were famous for their exceptional beers and cheeses – part of their daily diets and a stable form of income. Today most bars in Belgium will serve bowls of cubed, semi-soft cheese that has been sprinkled with celery salt to accompany your malt beverage. It is a melding of a gastronomic sensation of heavenly proportions.
And we bet you thought wine went with cheese. It sure does, and that’s exactly what the public is fed by the mainstream “food & wine” press. Cheese can make an unpalatable wine tasteful, and better yet, complement a great wine. However the pairing of wine with foods sometimes tends to overpower the latter, killing any chance your taste buds might have of getting the fullest enjoyment out of the pairing. But hey, this is not a piece on wine (and we all love wine) so let’s move on.
Generally, beer and cheese are farmhouse products. Not too long ago in Great Britain, the average farmer’s diet consisted of cheese, beer and cold meat – this commonly referred to as “ploughman’s lunch” still a menu item in pubs to this day. The farmers produced cheese when they had a surplus of milk that they wanted to keep, and then they brewed their beer in the winter when they couldn’t farm. Both come from the same source too – grass. Barley, used in making beer, is a grass and milk is a byproduct of a cow eating grass. The result? Cheese and beer complement each other because they share some of the same flavors. The carbonation in beer also lifts the palate and brings out many nuances in the cheese.
So, just how do you pair cheese and beer? Foremost is using your own personal preference whether you are cooking with cheese or just serving it alone. Try pairing complex cheeses with complex beers. You can also try and make a perfect match or play around and make nuanced contrasts. Here are some examples:
Wheat Beers work well with Feta and goat cheese. Generally, the more pungent the cheese the more full character you want in your Wheat Beer. Schneider Hefe-Weizen, Weihenstephan Hefe-Weizen, and UFO Hefeweizen are suitable pairings.
A formless cow’s cream, cheese called Mascarpone that is used in desserts and sauces pairs great with most Fruit Beers. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Magic Hat #9, Melbourne Bros. Strawberry or Apricot.
Muenster, American cheese, Havarti and Monterey Jack go great with moderately hoppy Pilsners like Radeberger, Harpoon Pilsner and Stella Artios.
Gloucester, Colby and Cheddar with robust Brown Ales. Sam Smith Nut Brown, Shipyard Brown or Brooklyn Brown will suffice quite well.
Creamy Blues and Gorgonzola meld beautifully with Barleywines. Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Brooklyn Monster and Rouge Old Crustacean make for a great counterpart.
Stilton and Roquefort and have a pungent character so there is need for a strong Belgian Ale like Duvel, Lucifer, Northcoast Pranqster, Chimay Blue, and Unibroue Don de Dieu.
Emmental, Gruyére and Swiss with Dark Lagers, Bock Beer, or Oktoberfest Beer. Their sizable maltiness fits well against the nutlike meaty character. Harpoon Octoberfest or Munich Dark, Sam Adams Octoberfest or Double Bock, Salavator, Celebrator and Dornbusch Bock are appropriate choices.
Romano or Parmesan with moderately hoppy Amber Ales and Pale Ales like Stone Cat Ale, Harpoon Ale, Ipswich Ale, Magic Hat Bob’s 1st Ale, Shoal’s Pale Ale.
When the cheese is part of a salad, try enjoying it with an India Pale Ale (IPA), with their fruity maltiness and citrus-like bitterness. Wolaver’s IPA, Harpoon IPA and Tremont IPA are all suitable.
Now because we’re not all connoisseurs who have this stuff down by heart, we’ve created a simple guide. It’s an ideal starting point for the novice cheese and beer enthusiast.
- Parmesan with Amber Lager
- Feta with Wheat Beer
- American Cheese with Pilsner
- Colby with Brown Ale Sharp
- Cheddar with Pale Ale
- Gorgonzola with Barleywine
- Mascarpone with Fruit Beer
- Gruyére with Bock Beer
- Swiss Cheese with Octoberfest Beer
Remember, the most important thing is to have fun with this and experiment with your own tastes!
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