Last week we feasted on beer, cheese and cider galore to find the perfect pairings for a corporate beer and cheese event we hosted downtown. No matter how much beer and cheese we eat, we are constantly surprised by how well some unlikely matches work — and which ones definitely do not.
Many experts from both the wine and beer sides will tell you that beer and cheese are much more natural bedfellows than vino and fromage. Most wine somm’s will admit that a lot of red wine and dry whites often clash with the cheese.
Wine is great with food — but it’s easy to get it wrong thanks to its acidity which easily clashes with food. Beer, on the other hand, uses bitterness, not acidity to balance its sweetness. Plus beer brings one secret weapon to the table that wine doesn’t. Bubbles! Palate cleansing, scrubbing, cutting.
Beer and cheese are farmhouse products, both start from grasses, both fermented and aged. Both balance sweetness and acidity with fruitiness and funky fermentation flavours.
Here are some delicious pairings we discovered. TRY THIS AT HOME and let us know what you think.
Amsterdam Boneshaker + Le Bleu D’Élizabeth
- This award winning cheese (1st prize winner for Blue Cheese in the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix) has funky, barnyard flavours like damp hay and fresh earth which contrast the beer’s brightly bitter orange peel and floral bitterness.
- This beer has backbone: its big sweet caramel and toffee four-malt base contrasts the full sour cream, salty notes in the cheese.
- Ahhh mouthfeel, the reason why beer and cheese work so well, the creamy, crumbly cheese sticks to your mouth and beer’s lively bubbles and ample bitterness scrape it clean.
Hot Tip: WARM IT! It’s important to let the beer warm a little bit — a refreshing, lighter alcohol golden ale enjoyed after 5 minutes out of the fridge, but for bigger higher alcohol brews give ’em 10 to 20 minutes (check this handy temperature guide). Let your cheese sit out for 30 minutes before serving to bring out its full flavour.
Muskoka Spring Oddity + 18-month-old Manchego
- Manchego can only be made in La Mancha in Spain (it’s a Protected Designation of Origin), and it has a distinctive piquant flavour, and peppery quality that complements the beer’s gin-like juniper and floral flavours. Plus the peppery, piquant quality of the cheese softens the bitter finish of the beer in a good way.
- Crafted from unpasteurized sheep’s milk, the earthy ewe milk flavour brings out the fruity, floral punch of the beer’s heather, juniper and orange peel ingredients.
- We chose a mature Manchego so it’s creamy, crumbly weight matches the full, boozy body of the ale.
Hot Tip: INTENSITY MATCH! The beer’s herbaceous, peppery quality and higher alcohol means you want to reach for a higher intensity cheese, it would just clobber something with softer notes. With cheese, higher intensity is about the strength of its flavour, and how long it lasts. You can get stronger flavours from longer aging. And for a longer finish, choose a harder cheese.
Pommies Cider + Double Smoked Cheddar
- Cheddar and apples are classic pairing, I like to think of this paring as the grown-up version of a kid-favorite snack.
- Like with a BBQ sauce, you want sweet characteristics to balance the smokiness. Pommies is made from a blend of five Ontario dessert apples, so its crisp, juicy Ida Red notes and sweet, Golden Delicious centre contrasts the double-smoked cheddar, and even kicks the smokiness up a bit in a good way.
- The young cheddar (aged 1 year) is super sticky and creamy, the cider’s vivacious carbonation scrubs the palate clean.
Hot tip: NO ICE ICE BABY! Should you serve cider with ice? No, It waters it down like it would with wine, instead crack it ice cold, but remember to let your cheese warm to room temperature.
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