So happy together
Beer and cheese: a fine partnership
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum email@example.com
When presented with a tray of creamy brie, bold gorgonzola, sturdy cheddar, or another favorite selection, what beverage should you pair with it? Most people would reach for a bottle or two of wine. But how about a bottle of beer?
The Meat House’s certified wine educator, Tom Brock, likes to experiment with cheese-and-beer pairings. He often taste-tests different combinations with his co-workers, sometimes with beers from the store, and other times with ones from his private collection that resides alongside the wines in his personal cellar.
“Historically, beer has been paired with cheese and foods. I like to focus on local beers and cheeses and buy from my local vendors instead of from large chain stores,” Brock said.
The keys to a good cheese-beer pair are much the same as those for wine. The beer should match the cheese’s flavor intensity and take into account factors such as the bitterness of the hops and the density of the flavors. And when tasting multiple cheese and beer pairings at one time, it is best to move from lighter to heavier flavors so the richer beers and cheeses don’t wash out the favor of the milder selections.
One key factor is the temperature of both the beer and cheese. It’s important to let both come to room temperature to enjoy their full flavor profiles.
“If they are ice cold, you won’t be able to taste them well. It will emphasize the bitter and you won’t taste the sweetness,” Brock said.
At a recent tasting, Brock demonstrated these principles with some of his own beer-cheese pairings. He began with an organic triple-cream cheese from Vermont’s Champlain Valley Creamery paired with Manchester Brewery’s Imperial Blonde Ale. The tasters first sipped the beer, tasted the cheese, and then sipped the beer again. At first taste, the beer had a strong, somewhat bitter hops flavor. The cheese was creamy, rich and salty. The final sip of the beer was a surprise — the hops flavor was smoother and not so bitter, and the cheese’s decadence was enhanced.
The second match was a firm Conte cheese from France paired with Britain’s Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. This cow’s-milk cheese was bold but not overpowering. The ale lightened the Conte’s complex nature while the cheese enhanced the beer’s roasted malt flavor.
The third paring featured Brock’s personal go-to beer, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, matched with Rogue Creamery Blue. The combination created what Brock called a taste explosion. The beer brought out the creaminess of the cheese while it smoothed out its traditional blue cheese flavor, and the cheese greatly intensified the beer’s hops flavor, which is well-known with an IPA.
The final pairing featured the flavor “big ones.” The cheese was Old Amsterdam Gouda, aged for two years, which had a nutty flavor with hints of toffee and caramel. This cheese’s flavor was bolder than that of the blue cheese. Brock matched it with local Pennichuck Brewing Company’s Pozharnik Espresso Russian Imperial Stout, a deep dark beverage with coffee, vanilla and chocolate notes that was also aged two years. The beer had an almost dessert-like quality, but after a taste of the cheese, the beer seemed to sweeten even more with rich vanilla and coffee flavors.
Brock discovered these pairings through lots of trial and error, and he wants to encourage others to experiment with their own favorite beers and cheeses: “Have fun with it,” he said. “Make it an experience with friends and family and try new adventures with different cheeses and beers.”