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Beer & Cheese Pairings for Your Holiday Table

Cross-posted from my blog Paul and Amy on Beer

Last week my partner in crime, Paul, and I had a tree trimming party. To keep our party-goers sated, we wanted to offer up not just a selection of beers, but also a cheese plate that would complement our beverages. We experimented a bit and now we’re happy to share the results of our incredibly hard work. These are our four favorite beer and cheese pairings; feel free to use them at your own holiday table this year:

Holidale 2012

by Berkshire Brewing Co.
Barleywine Style Ale – 9.5% ABV – South Deerfield, MA
Beer Tasting Notes: Holidale 2012 is a very nice cold weather brew. It has lots of bitter orange, a very mild malt sweetness, and it’s very well balanced. There’s a hint of spiciness to it, perhaps from nutmeg. It’s not as rich or sweet as a traditional barley wine, but I also like that it’s not overwhelming with spices the way many holiday beers are.
Cheese Tasting Notes: Ombra, by Josep Cuixart in Navarre, Spain. This firm sheep’s milk cheese is slightly nutty with a hint of sweetness. Because it was well-aged (our hunk came from an 8-month-old wheel), it had started to develop a little of the grittiness from the crystallization of amino acids. The mellow, nutty, sweetness of the cheese went well with the rich, spicy, bitterness of the beer.

Attic & Eaves

by Slumbrew
Toasted Brown Ale – 7.5% – Ipswich, MA
Beer Tasting Notes: The Attic & Eaves is a deep brown and ruby red color in the glass and somehow manages to remind me of caramel and cream when I smell it. The flavor is toasty, nutty, and rich. This isn’t the most complex beer, but it’s warming and yummy. Simple and friendly and a great way for newbies to ease into dark beers.
Cheese Tasting Notes: Stilton, by Colston Bassett in Nottinghamshire, UK. This velvety, creamy cheese with its marbling of greenish blue veins was a perfect accompaniment to the Attic & Eaves. The toasty notes and slight bitternesss of the beer are completely mellowed by a cheese that might otherwise be overwhelmingly rich. I was surprised at how well these two went together, but this was by far my favorite pairing of the evening.


by Southern Tier
Imperial Stout brewed with Chocolate – 10% – Lakewood, NY
Beer Tasting Notes: This pitch-black beer is chocolatey, with notes of vanilla and butter, but not a hint of sweetness. The high ABV makes it a sipping beer rather than something for serious drinking. The chocolate aroma makes it seem rich, but the bitter notes and lack of sweetness create a hearty drink that’s not for the timid beer drinker.
Cheese Tasting Notes: Delice de Bourgogne, by Fromagerie Lincet in Burgundy, France. This meltingly creamy cheese is similar to eating salted butter. It’s insanely rich, with a slight sour cream tang. It works perfectly with the dark bitterness of the Choklat.

Once Upon a Time – KK

by Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
A recreation of a hoppy, black, ale originally brewed in London November 15th, 1901 – 7% – Somerville, MA
Beer Tasting Notes: This beer was an interesting choice for the holidays. It’s as dark as a porter, but more hoppy than most winter beers. It also has a nice butterscotch sweetness that helps to balance out the spicy bitterness of the hops. You might call this a black IPA, but I like it much more than traditional IPAs. The additional richness and sweetness works well to keep the bitterness in check.
Cheese Tasting Notes: Ascutney Mountain, by Cobb Hill in Hartland, Vermont. This Alpine-style tomme is made using Jersey cow’s milk. The cheese is firm and slightly crumbly with notes of grass, nuts, and earth. The Flavor wouldn’t work with a very rich beer, I think it competes, but with the IPA soul trapped in a dark beer body of the KK, it works perfectly.

Amy Scheuerman

Amy Scheuerman culture's web director and associated editor for culture's special issue publications. She spent eight years in North Carolina where she developed a love of barbecue and biscuits before moving up north to get a degree in nutrition. When not visiting farms or cooking, Amy enjoys curling up with a book, a local beer, and a bowl of truffle-chili popcorn.

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