Beer and cheese, what a concept!
Of the many indulgences I enjoy a bit too much, nothing ranks higher than cheese. At parties, I shamelessly make a beeline towards the cheese plate. I am lucky enough to live by a deli in Toronto with a fantastic selection of cheesy comestibles for my enjoyment.
But cheese does not just have to be enjoyed on its own. Like most foods, cheese can often be elevated to a higher level when paired with beer. I am not talking about your classic beer-cheese dipping sauce for pretzels. Brie, blue cheese, cave-aged Gruyère, goat cheese and even Parmigiano-Reggiano can pair well with a good beer.
The basic steps for pairing beer and cheese are similar to those for pairing beer with any food.
The first step is to match the flavour of the cheese with the style of the beer. Delicately flavoured light cheeses like mozzarella or goat cheese, for instance, would be well at home with beers of a similar intensity, like pale lagers or saisons.
The next step is to decide whether you want to complement or contrast the flavours in your cheese. Say you have a six-month-old Manchego on hand for a party. A beer like Black Oak Brewing Co.’s Nut Brown Ale would perfectly complement the cheese’s caramel and nutty flavours. A beer with sharp acidic notes like Sawdust City Brewing Co.’s Coriolis Effect Berliner Weisse would work well to contrast, say, a sweet creamy Havarti.
If you follow those basic steps and experiment a bit, you will soon be able to up your cheese plate game with a selection of fine beers.
Here are a few of my favourite pairings to get you started.
Goat Cheese: Bench Brewing Co. Twenty Mile Farmhouse
Named after the Twenty Mile Creek stream that runs through the farms, orchards and vineyards of Niagara’s Twenty Valley, this beer has subtle notes of honey, lemon and pepper that will only work to enhance the rich, creamy base of a quality goat cheese.
Cheddar: Walkerville Brewery Geronimo IPA
High fat cheeses like cheddar often benefit from something bitter that can cut through their texture. For that, I usually go with a good IPA. The orange, grapefruit and pine flavours cut through a cheddar of any age, while the earthy, sweet flavours of the malt backbone enhance the cheese’s flavour.
Gruyère: Propeller Brewery ESB
This Swiss cheese benefits from the accompaniment of some dark, sophisticated beers that bring out its sweet, salty or slightly nutty notes and celebrate its texture. This ESB has notes of toffee, molasses, plums and biscuit, which join forces to enhance the Gruyère.