Enjoyable Combinations

a bavarian meal in the evening
Credit: Bayerischer Brauerbund

Specialty beers are increasingly becoming the drink of choice to accompany cheese rather than wine. Combining cheese with selected beers is giving connoisseurs a whole new flavor experience.

Be it red, white, or rosé, wine has long been considered the perfect accompaniment to specialty cheeses. Although fine wines have lost none of their appeal, brand new worlds of aroma are being opened up by combining fine beer varieties with selected dairy products. The diversity of the craft beer industry has led cheese experts on a voyage of discovery, and exposed them to brand new taste adventures.

But a word of caution: For true enjoyment, it is essential to match the type of cheese to the right style of beer. Both products are extremely complex and have special aromas that do not always harmonize well with other palate-pleasers. This makes it all the more important to select the perfect combination of food and drink. The rule of thumb for beginners is that full-flavored, mature cheese varieties are best combined with strong, beers that are full of character. Mild cheese, on the other hand, suits light, clear beers. Malty, dark varieties complement salty, robust cheese flavors. If taste-lovers bear this in mind, there is an unparalleled symbiosis of flavors to be enjoyed.

Things are a bit more complicated for some beer varieties, however: Beer sommeliers highly recommend a high-alcohol Imperial Stout to go with a salty blue cheese such as an English Stilton. The sweetness of malt and the tang of salt complement each other to create a delicious taste sensation. Heavily hopped India Pale Ale is a perfect complement for goat’s cheese, Cheddar, or Gorgonzola. As a guiding principle, beers with strong hop notes often reduce the sharpness of the mold and elevate the floral, acidic nuances. Lagers go with hard cheese; sparkling white beers suit Mozzarella or Feta. Highly aromatic cheeses such as Romadur or Almkäse go hand-in-hand with Bavarian Märzen beer, Schwarzbier, or Bockbier—both light and dark varieties. Soft cheeses such as Camembert, or even young Gouda, are ideally suited to fresh Pilsner, for example, because of their aromas. For a very special gourmet experience, combine Belgian fruit beers, with their notes of cherry, peach, or blackcurrant, with a mature Roquefort or Bleu d‘Auvergne.

Let’s begin our taste journey: Beer and cheese should always be sampled on their own to begin with, so that every individual flavor can be fully appreciated. Only then should you take the plunge and start combining them. First, let the cheese melt on your tongue, and then add small sips of beer. This is the best way to combine the two aroma elements, taking you to whole new worlds of flavor.

Visitors can indulge in these temptations at drinktec 2017. Exciting presentations on the subject of cheese and beer will be held by well-known beer sommeliers at place2beer. Innovative startup brewers will also be inspiring visitors by offering the chance to take part in cheese and beer tasting sessions at their stands.

Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).