“I’ve been getting seduced by craft beer,” says Janet Fletcher, a food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle who has won three James Beard Awards and the IACP Bert Greene Award and authored more than 20 books including the class Cheese & Wine which sold over 80,000 copies. “I found that there were amazing harmonies between beer and cheese. Beer has that really refreshing carbonation that cleanses the palate. And a lot of beers have a maltiness that goes well with nutty, buttery cheeses.”
Determined to learn more, Fletcher hired the owner of several gastropubs to tutor her several times a week for a few months in order to learn more about beer. The experience helped her organize beers into styles. In that way, she was able to take beer styles (IPAs, Pale Ales, etc.) and using that knowledge along with her years of experience with writing about cheese, write Cheese & Beer (Andrews McMeel 2013; $24.99), an introduction to two dozen popular craft-beer styles and the cheeses that pair best with them.
“It’s probably one of the most fun books I’ve ever written,” she says, noting that a compelling reason for doing so was that she felt like people needed guidelines because the choices of beers and cheese were endless.
“When pairing a beer to a cheese,” she says, “you can either choose to play up either the contrasts or the similarities with textures and flavors. What I typically do is taste the beer then taste the cheese, then go back to the beer to see if the beer has changed.”
Simon Rusk, pub operations manager at The Livery, a microbrewery in Benton Harbor opines that bigger flavored cheeses like aged cheeses (Parmesan, Romano) and tome, a French cheese typically made in the Alps, would match well with a stronger style of beer such as Hop Trial May 13, a double IPA so called because it’s in the trial stage having recently been developed by their brew master David Sawyer.
“With beer pairings you can both match and contrast the flavors,” says Rusk. “McGilligan’s, our flagship India Pale Ale, goes very nicely with a blue cheese.”
At Sawyer Garden Center in Sawyer, Michigan, Cindy Haughey suggests pairing Sartori cheeses such as their Extra-Aged Asia go with Nut Brown Ales, Porters, Belgian Trappist Ales and American Pale Ales. Sartori’s Salsa Asiago goes well with American Pale Ales, IPAs, Malty Lagers and Brown Ales while their Rosemary and Olive Oil Asiago works well with IPAs, Porters and American Pale Ales.
Rachel Birschbach, associate marketing manager at Sartori Cheese, shared information on the cheese company’s recent of Leinenkugel beers and their cheeses.
According to their results Leinenkugel’s Classic Amber is a great match for their SarVecchio Parmesan, which won Best of Class at the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest. The cheese also goes well with other IPAs, Sweet Ciders and Dark Malty Ales. Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss compliments Sartori’s Raspberry BellaVitano and Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark works well with the creaminess of Sartori’s Dolcina Gorgonzola. Sartori’s BellaVitano Gold, the base cheese for their Espresso BellaVitano and Raspberry BellaVitano, pairs with IPAs, Sweet Ciders and Dark Malty Ales as well as Leinenkugel’s Original.
“In some ways, beer and cheese pair better than wine and cheese,” says Christian Moersch, president of brewing operations at the soon to open Round Barn Brewery in Baroda, noting that cows and goats feed on grasses and grains which impact the flavor of their cheeses and grain is also used in making beer. Moersch says his favorite pairing is white cheddar, such as the one sold at the family owned Drier’s Meat Market which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, which comes from upstate New York, with their Wood Oaked IPA.
Tunie Duensind, deli manager at Roger’s Foodland in St. Joseph, suggests a combination of Round Barn’s Vacation Wheat Beer with the award winning Camembert made by Old Europe Cheese in Benton Harbor. Also good matches are while cheddars, Chevington (a semi-soft cow's milk cheese made in Northumberland, England) and Port Salut, a semi-soft pasteurized cow's milk mild flavored cheese from Pays de la Loire, France and IPAs. Duensind also recommends accompanying Chimay, a Trappist ale with Camemberts and Port Saluts as well as Chimay cheeses.
“Amber beer goes well with a good Manchengo,” says Francois Capt, general manager of Old Europe Cheese which makes a variety of European-style cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Manchengo – a firm, buttery flavored cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain, Gouda and Edam. “Guinness would be good with Camembert and blue cheese with a lighter beer like a pale ale.”
But ultimately says Capt, it’s a matter of preference and personal tastes.
“You have to love beer and you have to love cheese,” he says. “It’s individual taste. All my life I’ve eaten Camembert with red wine, but most people would say to pair white wine with Camembert. It has to be your own experience.”