When it comes to pairing cheese with drinks, it’s easy to gravitate to the wine. No matter what type of cheese it is, there always seems to be a wine pairing. But what if we were to tell you that cheese pairs just as well — if not better — with beer? And no, not just cheeseburgers and cheese pizza.
Beer has a seemingly endless number of styles that can match the many types of cheese out there. Sweet beer with salty cheese, wild fermented sour beer with hearty and fatty cheese, crisp pilsners with tangy goat cheese — the possibilities go on and on.
We spoke with Gary Fisch, the owner of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey, for a beer and cheese starter guide. Fisch’s store has featured wine, beer, spirits, and gourmet cheeses for 30 years, so he knows a thing or two about the perfect pairing.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Try these pairings and you’ll become a beer-and-cheese convert.
Soft-ripened goat cheese with chocolate stout
Rich and creamy cheeses are a great match for chocolaty, coffee-esque stouts. The pairing is “decadent and dessert-like,” Fisch says. “Think chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. However, for soft-ripened cheeses, my personal preference is goat cheese. With this, the mild creaminess of the cheese is still in balance with the sweet chocolatiness of the beer, but with a little added tang.”
Beaufort with a Belgian dubbel
Ommegang’s Abbey Dubbel is a sweet and yeasty Belgian beer that’s slightly fruity. At 8.2 percent alcohol by volume, this beer is big in both flavor and power.
“It needs a big cheese to stand up to it,” Fisch says. “Beaufort is a huge mountain cheese. Fruity and nutty, along the lines of a Gruyere Alpage, but also creamy and rich. A big cheese for a big beer!”
Blue cheese and barleywine
Barleywines are are easy choice when pairing with cheese. The strong and sweet beer matches funky and salty cheeses with ease. Put some blue cheese next to your barley wine. You won’t regret it.
Raw cow cheese with a Belgian dubbel or tripel
Mild, semi-firm and salty cow cheese made with raw milk is incredible when done right. It’s raw in the sense that it’s unpasteurized, giving many of the cheeses a tangy flavor. Big fruity, funky, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter Belgian tripels take raw cheese to the next level.
When faced with a salty cheese, grab something like a Chimay Red. The combo is salty and sweet and everything neat.
Washed-rind goat cheese with saison
Tangy and pungent washed-rind goat cheeses are full of fresh flavors and are basically asking to be paired with a yeasty, funky saison. Proof in point? Patacabra with Brooklyn Sorachi Ace.
Sorachi Ace “is noted for its unique lemony aroma, which adds to this pairing and balances out the earthy scents of the Patacabra,” Fisch says. “This is a pairing that offers delicious dank, earthy notes, while also showcasing bright citrus fruits.”
Cheddar and a hoppy pale ale or IPA
A big English cheese with a pale ale is a staple known as the “ploughman’s lunch,” Fisch says. But hoppier American pale ales take on the slight acidity in cheddar, complement it, and then deliver on their own front.
Citrus hops and tropical fruits found in beers like Cigar City’s Jai Alai belong on the table next to your hearty cheddar.