The beer takes the cheese

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First Posted: 8/17/2014

Wine and cheese pairings have long been viewed as a semi-sophisticated event and one that highlights any variety of flavors within both the wine and the cheese by either complimentary or contrasting flavor characteristics. However, with the craft beer boom, beer and cheese pairings have become all the rage and with an even wider assortment of flavors available within beer compared to wine, it is easy to see why.

Beer dinners where food and beers are paired together for specific flavor profiles are popping up throughout our area, but some can be a bit pricey to attend. However, setting up a simple beer and cheese pairing event can be done in the comfort of your own home. The trouble, however, can begin with knowing where to start.

As with any food pairing, beers should be paired with cheeses that have similar characteristics, for example a more flavorful beer such as a barelywine should be paired with a cheese that is equally flavorful such as blue cheese or aged Goudas. The idea is to have a pairing where one item’s strong flavor does not cancel the others out completely.

Many cheese and beer pairing suggestions are made throughout the new book from author Janet Fletcher entitled “Cheese and Beer.” The book is entirely dedicated to cheese and beer pairings and is broken down by beer style and has a plethora of suggestions for each.

Some starting suggestions to try at home would be with the approachable American Pale Ale style that has a a light hop characteristic but is smooth and easy drinking for even the uninitiated to craft beer. Some suggested beers to try are: Sierra Nevada- Pale Ale; Oskar Blues- Dale’s Pale Ale; Deschutes Brewery- Mirror Pond; or 21st Amendment- Bitter American. These beers go extremely well with a wide variety of cheeses but are exceptional with Cheddar and Manchego.

With the impending Oktoberfest season upon us another great pairing is between the popular Märzen style and cheese. The style is malt forward but extremely sessionable beer with a smooth body and refreshing characteristic, some great examples of the style are: Ayinger- Oktoberfest; Paulaner- Oktoberfest; Great Lakes Brewing- Oktoberfest, and Hacker-Pschorr- Oktoberfest. The best cheeses to pair are aged ones such as Abbaye de Belloc, Comté, and Gouda.

There are endless combinations available, from the simple, to the very complex flavor profiles. Whatever your decision, it is a great way to experience beer and cheese together to help develop your own palate.

If you are interested in hearing more about this topic tune in Saturday August 23 at 10 a.m. to the Beer Geeks Radio Hour, heard locally on Sports Hub 102.3 FM. An interview is planned with Cheese and Beer author Janet Fletcher. Tune in for more beer and cheese pairing ideas!