Within the next 24 hours, you’ll likely find yourself with a pint of dark Guinness in your hand, toasting in memory of Saint Patrick. Of course, the obvious question will inevitably come to mind: would cheddar, or perhaps something more complex, pair well with that rich beer you’re guzzling? And if Guinness is not your stout of choice, there are plenty to choose from that will warm you up as winter slowly but surely crawls into spring.
You’ll find that many of these stouts couple with cheese just as well, if not better, than a wine pairing. This month, we’re celebrating the excuse to drink excessively in St. Paddy’s honor, and what better way to indulge than with an accompanying cheese plate—or platter, the holiday did start as a feast after all. Here’s an easy guide on how to pair cheese with stout.
Strike the Right Balance
While matching cheeses with beers, a general rule of thumb is to find a balance so that the intensity of one does not overwhelm the other. Stouts are hearty beers and can carry heavy nuances of roasted coffee, dark cocoa, or even peanut butter, so pair with more mature and funky cheeses.
Seek Complementary Notes
This goes for both taste and texture. Stouts can smooth out a sharp cheddar, or a sweet ale can counter an especially salty blue cheese. “With a blue, I’m looking for anything that’s got a little bit of residual sweetness about it, like a milk stout…beautiful,” said Rachel Schaal of Parish Hill Creamery during the 2018 Boston Beer and Cheese Fest. Cheesemaker Joe Alstat of The Grey Barn and Farm agrees, saying “I’m personally not a stout fan, but when I drink it with a blue cheese, I enjoy it.”
After sampling several stouts this winter, my personal favorite turned out to be a wildly flavorful imperial stout by Evil Twin Brewing called “You’re In The Jungle Baby!” with pasilla chili peppers, honey, tangerine peel, and cocoa nibs. Salty. crumbly West West Blue from Parish Hill Creamery brought out the beer’s slight sweetness, while the ale tamed the cheese’s slight gaminess.
The stout also pleasantly emphasizes earthy mushroom flavors in Berkshire Bloom, a mild and creamy Camembert-style cheese from Cricket Creek Farm. If you’re a bigger fan of firm cheese like cheddar, try this beer with Grafton Village’s Shallot and White Pepper Cheddar Cheese, which has a creamy peppery finish that draws out the stout’s slight spice.