As the popularity of craft beer continues to rise, wine has some competition for cheese’s favorite companion. More and more beer types and flavors are being produced and perfected in various regions of the world, opening up the possibilities for beer and cheese pairings. There’s freedom in finding the flavors you love and matching beer and cheese together based on your favorite tastes. But if you’re looking for some help, we’ve got you covered.
Tip 1: Focus on Commonalities or Contrast
Just like with wine and cheese, the goal is to either:
- Find commonalities that complement one another
- Contrast and strike a harmonious balance.
Ultimately, you want to highlight the best qualities of both elements when tackling beer and cheese pairings.
Think about your favorite desserts. They probably all strike a balance between light and heavy, or salty and sweet. We love berries and cream together, because they are light and refreshing and slightly sweet without being heavy-handed.
Similarly, you want cheese and beer that hit a sweet spot when paired together (figuratively and sometimes literally!). For example, a mellow, wheat beer is the perfect match for a mild mozzarella because they have the same subtle qualities. Try a nuttier cheese like Parmesan with a malty beer like a dunkel. Another surprising pairing that works incredibly well is a stout beer with a blue cheese — the ideal combo of salty and sweet.
Tip 2: Cleanse that Palate
Ask yourself what feels refreshing without feeling overwhelming. You know how you eat those little crackers in between wines when you do a tasting? Or how sometimes restaurants serve a light sorbet in between courses? Washing down a complex cheese with a palate cleansing beer can kind of feel like that.
Consider the goal of the beer when it comes to your choice of cheese. Do you want to neutralize sharpness? Try a bitter beer like a hoppy IPA. Need to scrub your palate and wash a flavor down with something drinkable? Go for a light, carbonated beer like a hefeweizen or pilsner. Need something more acidic to really clear things out and hit the reset button for the next cheese? Grab a sour ale.
Tip 3: Don’t Tip the Scales
Beer ranges from light to heavy, just like wine and food. Just like complementary flavors, it’s all about finding the right balance with beer and cheese pairings, from subtle to overwhelming. Just like too much chocolate can overpower any dessert, certain heavy hitters can drown out their companions. You can decide on the weight that works best with your cheese of choice, but we’ll leave you with a couple tips:
If you love a crisp, light lager, enhance the smooth and mellow flavors with a mild Fontal.
A milk stout is a great match for cheddar, because the smoothness of the beer allows the cheese’s sharpness to shine through.
Be careful with IPAs and barrel-aged beers. Their intensity will drown out softer flavored cheeses that tend to conform to the flavors around them, like Mozzarella.
6 Tried and True Beer and Cheese Pairings
Want to skip right past the “why” of it all and go straight to some straightforward recommendations for the best beer and cheese pairings?:
- Parmesan & IPA
- Cheddar & Porter
- Asiago and Saison
- Fontal and Stout
- Feta & Belgian
- Mascarpone and Pilsner
We’ve created a handy infographic for you to download and keep nearby.
Although these are a few rules of thumb from our cheese experts, above all, you should experiment and make sure you’re having some fun. You can also go beyond the cheese platter and pair your next beer with one of our signature recipes, where cheese is always the main ingredient. Be sure to sign up for our emails so you can get new recommendations and recipes sent straight to your inbox!