Corned beef and cabbage. Brown bread. Beer. Oh, so much beer. These are the staples of the Americanized version of St. Patrick’s Day—pardon my formality: St. Paddy’s Day. Actually, forget the first two items on that list. It’s really all about beer: the primary staple of many a St. Paddy’s Day celebration. But this year, instead of the age-old beer-on-beer pairing (read: double-fisting Bud Light and Coors), treat yourself right and stop pairing beer with more beer. Take a break from shotgunning Miller High Life and up the class a little bit with some beer and cheese pairing. Enter, the cheese(man).
Certified Cicerone (the official term for a beer expert, like the “sommelier” of the wine world) Michael Agnew tells a bedtime story-esque version of why beer and cheese pair so well together. He notes that both cheese and beer originate from (relatively) the same ingredients—grasses in this case; both turn those ingredients into sugar (maltose in barley and lactose in milk); and those sugars convert into our two favorite things in life: beer and cheese. (Don’t worry, Mom, you’re still our favorite, too.)
Beer and cheese share many of the same taste profiles as well: nutty, earthy, grassy, tangy, sweet. And while similar tastes in both complement each other, starkly different tastes also pair well (think of a tart Gose alongside the unabashed nutty sweetness of Parmigiano-Reggiano). In his HuffPo article, Martin Johnson, a cheesemonger in Manhattan, also suggests that beer’s carbonation cuts through fattiness and further uncovers some of the more subtle flavors present in many cheeses.
But google “beer and cheese pairings” and the sheer number of results seems infinite. Articles like those from Esquire, AskMen, Serious Eats, and Beer Advocate offer tips, tricks, do’s and don’t’s for perfect combinations of this duo, including the suggestion to pair mild with mild, intense with intense, and stinky with stinky. Some advise against reckless abandonment when it comes to pairing; others tell you to just go for it choosing booze and cheese depending solely on your mood. If a methodical approach is more your style, the chart below lists a variety of beers and the best cheeses to nosh alongside them. Want a more in-depth version? Download this one courtesy of Whole Foods Market. A higher-tech resource is available, too. A few weeks ago, we wrote about Cheese Cupid, a new app that lets users pair cheese with a multitude of libations.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by options? Worry not, culture is here to take the fear (and potentially hours worth of reading) out of the pairing process. Because we know you’ve got better things to do to get ready for the holiday like dig out that beer bong or finally wash that ridiculous shirt you wore to last year’s St. Paddy’s day parade, we’ve listed some of our favorite beer and cheese pairings we came across during our research. You’ll see some of the suggestions are more specific than others by including the brewer or producer.
- Jack’s Abby’s Smoked Märzen with Brillat Savarin Triple Crème Brie.
- Odell’s Imperial Peach IPA with Montchevré Goat Brie
- Timmerman’s Framboise with mascarpone
- Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA with Colston Bassett Stilton
- Guinness with Cahill’s Irish Porter Cheese
- Berliner Weisse with Gruyére
- Harpoon’s UFO with Vermont Creamery’s chèvre
- Chocolate or Milk Stout with Gorgonzola Picante
- Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale with Cellars at Jasper Hill Cabot Clothbound Cheddar