Fine Dine Love

Alcohol Pairing, Beer, Cheese, Drink

The Odd Couple: Beer and Cheese Pairings

10 Mar , 2016  

Just like there are couples who seem like an odd match but work despite (or maybe because of) their differences, there are plenty of food combinations that shouldn’t work but actually do – cheese and jam, chocolate and chilli, strawberries and balsamic vinegar, prosciutto and melon – and the growing trend of pairing beer and cheese is yet another example of this.

Cheeses may seem fussy, like something to nibble on at pretentious cocktail parties, and beer is anything but – but in spite of this, and with great craft beer on the rise, many are giving this odd couple a try, and you should too. Here’s a crash course on how to do just that.

Nutty cheeses

A malty brew complements aged Gouda very well

A malty brew complements aged Gouda very well

The combination of nutty, aged cheeses and beer is one of the best (if not the best) beer and cheese pairings according to experts. Aged Gouda and Cheddar pair best with something stronger, though even this varies. For example, a malty brew with a caramel base complements aged Gouda very well, though an IPA with similar tones does too. Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its dense, nutty flavour, works better with a heavy, bitter stout while earthy, sharp Cheddar is balanced out by the bitterness in a full-bodied IPA.

Fresh cheeses

Fresh cheeses and wheat beers make for the perfect pairing

Fresh cheeses and wheat beers make for the perfect pairing

Fresh, lighter cheeses, like a soft Goat cheese, go very well with wheat beers and the citrus notes in saison as well. Goat cheese or chevre’s signature tart flavour is cut right through by the high carbonation in saison while the citrusy notes refresh the palate. Wheat beers and fresh Mozzarella work well too, though a pairing like fresh burrata and fruit beers can be even better – it’s almost like a cheese and berry platter, making it all the more interesting. For creamier cheeses, what you need to consider besides flavour is how to get around the richness, which can get quite overwhelming very fast. Brews with higher acidity and carbonation work best in this case, as they provide relief from the intense creaminess of these cheeses.

Bold cheeses

When pairing a bold cheese make sure your beer is bold too

When pairing a bold cheese make sure your beer is bold too

When it comes to pairing bold cheeses with beer, many say the bigger the better. If your cheese is funky and creamy, try a brew that’s equally bold, with the right note of bitterness and high carbonation. Most double IPAs should be up to the task, but if you’re not a fan, try a yeasty saison instead – just remember to keep the flavours big so the cheese doesn’t completely overshadow the beer.

Blue cheese works well with an American IPA, which is just bitter enough to combat the cheese’s strong flavour without being too strong or heavy. If you’re a fan of blue cheese paired with honey, however, you may prefer a malty brew with caramel notes to combat the pungent cheese. The flavours of each provide a good contrast and complement each other well.

If you haven’t tried pairing your favourite craft beers with cheeses yet, we definitely recommend you give it a go. And while there are no hard and fast rules, there’s one you should always keep in mind: strive for the right balance of flavours to do right by both the cheese and the beer. You have plenty of cheeses to choose from and, now, more than your fair share of breweries as well.


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Freyan Patel is a Mumbai-based freelance writer who nourishes her fixation with good grammar by writing high school-level English textbooks by day and fretting over typos in tweets by night. She also indulges her unhealthy obsession with food by eating, dreaming of, and occasionally writing about it in her free time. She likes funny people, reality TV, words that are fun to say, pina coladas (but isn't too keen on getting caught in the rain), and anyone who gets her references to corny retro songs.

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