How to Pair Beer with Cheese
Editor’s Note: We’re trying to find the best beers to drink with our favorite foods. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is here to help.
Beer and cheese have a natural affinity. In fact, they are almost the same thing. Both start with grass; barley and wheat in the case of beer, and actual grass in the case of cheese. Dairy cows are often even fed the spent grains left over from making beer. In each case the grasses are broken down into simple sugars through natural enzymatic processes. The starches in barley are converted to maltose during malting and in the mash stage of brewing. Enzymes in the cow’s stomach convert grass to lactose. Finally, in both cheese and beer, those simple sugars are fermented by yeast and other microflora. After a period of aging, voila: beer and cheese. It’s no wonder they go so well together.
Beer and cheese also share similar flavors: nutty, tangy, floral, and earthy. They can both offer a sharp, dry texture or a smooth and creamy one. And where there is no complement there is delightful contrast; the sweetness of some beers is an ideal foil for cheese’s saltiness. And beer’s scrubbing bubbles work to whisk away the mouth-coating richness of cheese.
Putting together a beer and cheese tasting is as easy as assembling an assortment of cheeses of different textures and types and choosing a bevy of beers to go with them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.