Brews and Brie
Once an obscure and marginalized commodity, craft beer has grown increasingly popular in recent years, to the point that artisanal brews are now popping up on the radars of the most passionate food aficionados. For years, the art of pairing food and drink was reserved mostly for wine (and, in recent years, spirits). Beer was cast off as a drink for the unrefined. However, as more and more people reconsider the notion of what beer is—and, more important, what beer can be—they’re beginning to discover that craft beers are as versatile as any spirit or wine.
When it comes to perfect pairings, you can’t go wrong with beer and cheese. The two are made for each other, in part because both are products of the farm but also because. beer contains a key ingredient, carbonation, which helps to lift and accentuate a cheese’s flavors on the tongue.
When pairing beer with cheese, the basic food-pairing rules apply. Fare with strong, bold flavors does well with strong, bold beers. Delicate foods, on the other hand, typically require delicate beers. Your first step and probably the most important: Taste both the beer and the cheese separately.
If the cheese is young and has a light or mild flavor, a Saison, Hefeweizen, or Witbier would pair well. Blue and cave-aged cheeses, which are known for their robust flavors, should be paired with beers of a similar profile, such as Imperial stouts, barley wines, and tripels. Cheeses that are accented by herbs and spices are best served with hoppy, bitter beers like IPAs; while sweeter, malty brown ales pair well with nutty, firm cheeses.
Following is a list of commonly obtainable beers (by style) and the categories of cheese that they pair best with. But remember, as with all pairings, the idea is to have fun and explore.
Pilsner — Lagunitas Pils
Floral and herbal hop notes on the nose, crisp and dry finish (Light-flavored cheese)
Saison — Saison Dupont
Grassy and effervescent with a slight bitterness (Light to mild cheese)
Hefeweizen — Schneider Weisse
Sweet banana and spicy clove on the nose, light to medium mouthfeel with lingering sweetness (Light to mild cheese)
IPA — Bear Republic Racer 5
Lots of citrus and pine with just enough malt to balance the bitterness (Mild cheese)
Brown Ale — Dogfish Head Indian Brown
Robust, nutty, and malty with earthy hop tones that keep the sweetness at bay (Mild to strong cheese)
Stout — Victory Storm King
Strong, full mouthfeel with notes of coffee and chocolate (Strong cheese)
Belgian Strong Dark Ale (aka Belgian Quadrupel) — Ommegang Three Philosophers
Port and cherry notes with deep caramel and slightly roasted undertones (Strong cheese)
Eric Hanson is the manager/buyer at Top Hops Beer Shop in New York City.