Beer and cheese
This season's must have pairing! A match made in gastronomic heaven
Beer and cheese make a fantastic pair, especially over the festive period. We all know how important cheese is at Christmas and in our opinion, you can never have too much of it. The classic aperitif with beer is a cheese or charcuterie board. So, with a few carefully selected beer pairings you can indulge your guests and take your cheeseboard to the next level. Our tips will guarantee the wow factor, with a good ratio of low effort and high impact, a key to hosting success. Our kind of snack! Enjoy beer and cheese, shielding from the cold, entertaining friends, at the end of a hard day, cheese night and board games or on every day of Advent if you so wish. The list of occasions when we don't want this iconic duo is a shorter one.
The great thing about beer and cheese is the diversity. The world of cheese is huge and ever growing. It would take you a lifetime to try everything. Just like the world of beer, especially the artisanal one. There are so many to choose from, from different parts of the world, produced using different techniques and made with different ingredients.
In terms of taste, both beer and cheese have complex flavours. Beer is carbonated meaning it works very well with cheese. It can cleanse the palate and cut through the fat and richness. Similarly, bitterness can be a neutraliser and acidity can refresh the palate and get it ready for more. Some beers also have sweet, caramel flavours (think tripel, quadrupel, barley wine and some Belgians), these go exceptionally well with heavier and riper cheese.
The first distinction we must make is between mature and fresh cheese. The former undergoes aging in various ways, they are also recognisable by their hardness. Fresh cheese, on the other hand, are those that are produced every day and have a livelier milk flavour, conversely, you can identify these by their creamy texture and softness.
These two big categories are the most important ones to bear in mind when pairing with combine beer, which makes our life much easier.
The perfect situation would be to have a complete list of every single beer paired with a specific type of cheese. It would be nice, but as you can imagine it is not that straightforward. For this reason, we start with the concept that you should always match intensity. There are many types of cheese, often with quite strong tastes. You need to find the right balance; you don't want one to overpower the other.
The other important principle, just like all other food pairings, is to match cheese and beer by affinity or by contrast. This means you want to look for a bridge to harmoniously unite or a juxtaposing flavour to provide balance, think about a slice of lemon on baked fish. In general, it is also good to remember that, as far as beer is concerned, acidic and bitter flavours degrease, while sweet ones intensify.
Below we want to focus on just a few styles of beer with their respective cheese pairings. We have chosen some popular but interesting and sought-after styles to get you started.
Lagers are generally light in colour, with low-ish alcohol content and a dry but not too intrusive bitterness. This is different to, for example an IPA. The catch all beer is lager, lager actually goes well with most cheese. The cheese that goes best with this type of beer lean towards the fresh, soft and lighter ones such as fontina and mozzarella. Soft white cheese, like brie or camembert also will be great, they will bring out those caramel notes in a pale lager.
If you want a British classic, like cheddar, that will work too. Make sure you stick to a mild one to go with a lager or pilsner. Try Heineken or Amstel for a pairing that will complement one another rather than contrast.
Basically, try it. If you don't like it, pair it with something else!
The perfect cheese to pair with this beer is a young goat's cheese. The spices and citrus fruits present in the white beer will perfectly match the marked flavours of this cheese. Be careful to choose a mild one, you want something to complement the fresh beer that has light, clean flavours. Other cheese such as mozzarella and burrata will also be delicious.
Cheddar and pale ale go together like chocolate and peanuts, or bread and butter. Especially a sharp one. And as you probably know, cheddar with a pale ale is the mainstay of the ploughman’s lunch. An English pub staple. Swiss cheese like Emmental and gruyere has rich, nutty, sweet but salty tastes, which cry out for a beer that is just as balanced. A pale ale delivers the complexity you need and a little dash of bitterness from the hops. They are also light and refreshing enough not to overpower this cheese. The same applies for Jarlsberg and parmesan.
A riper cheese is robust enough to handle a stronger beer. Strong can mean taste or alcohol content. A full-bodied, mature cheese will pair well with a style like brown ale, amber or even a stout. Of course a British-style ale will be sensational with an utterly English cheese but cheddar has had a lot of air time. If you fancy a different variation, brown ale goes particularly well with the nutty flavours of a hard cheese such as gouda, manchego or comté.
A mature cheese and barley wine is an absolute winner. A big bold 10% syrupy barley wine with an old Amsterdam cheese is one of the best pairings going.
Stiltons, Saint Agurs, Gorgonzolas and Roquefort are amazingly diverse and strong with lots of discernable flavours. They are punchier than your soft, creamy white ones but their complexity opens them up to many delicious pairings. A stout or porter will beautifully complement a full fat blue and simultaneously moderate the acidity from the mould (it's good we promise). A sharp blue cheese could also handle a heavy black stout, which otherwise has the potential to smother softer flavours. Heavy, sticky, fruit beers will also be great with this type of cheese.