Wine is great and all, but for our money, beer and cheese go together like Brady and Belichick. They’re great enough on their own, but in tandem they take on otherworldly properties.
So we asked a couple of experts—Samuel Adams Brewer and Director of Brewery Programs, Jennifer Glanville, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Owner, Kurt Beecher Dammeier—for their best brew-and-curds marriage advice.
Here are the top five takeaways.
1. Embrace the Process
Unlike with wine, the carbonation found in beer lifts the creaminess of cheese from the palate, says Glanville. Beers’ hop character also cuts creaminess, readying the palate for the next bite. Craft beer has thousands of flavor compounds and can contribute additional flavors to easily complement a wide variety of cheeses. The character of the beer—whether it’s from the malt, hop, yeast or spices added—just adds to the possibilities.
2. Complement, Cut or Contrast
Follow the 3 C’s when pairing craft beer and cheese. The beer you choose can complement and enhance the cheese’s flavor, cut through its richness or contrast its flavor. In any case, you’ll be creating new flavor expressions that will enhance your experience.
3. Determine Descriptors
Dammeier recommends using descriptors that could be applied to either cheese or beer. Define your cheese and beers with only those and then pair accordingly. For example: Rich, sweet, creamy, nutty, citrusey, earthy or floral. Both beer and cheese could be described in this way. On the other hand an adjective like malty is just for beer.
4. Ditch the Crackers
Sometimes there’s a cheese you really want a cracker for at the table. But if it’s really good cheese, crackers can distract from the great flavors already in front of you. Who needs the extra carbs, anyway? Use fruit or nuts as a palate cleanser. Or better yet, beer!
5. Relax and Enjoy
Delicately lead your guests into the thought process behind specific pairings, and if they don’t see it, don’t sweat it. Both our experts believe the heart of the experience is the continuous, tasty search for great pairings. Because in the end, it’s beer and cheese—have fun with it.