Say Cheese!

By Andy Sparhawk

Just as the appreciation of craft beer has evolved throughout your adult life, chances are, your enjoyment of other foods has changed too.

Cheese is an example of a food that earlier in life may have seemed limited to you—yellow, square and wrapped in cellophane—but now has as much diversity as America’s skyrocketing craft beer scene.

It’s no wonder that with the myriad of options available, craft beer and cheese work exceptionally well together. Many cheese professionals believe that beer may even be a better pairing with cheese than, dare I say, wine.

Quite the Pair

Cheese, wine and craft beer are all fermented foods, which tend to work well together. The difference lies in the physical make-up of cheese and craft beer as opposed to wine. Cows and goats are more likely to produce milk for cheese from consuming grains, not grapes—see what I did there?

Cheeses’ texture and make-up interacts well with craft beer. Hops work as a cutting agent against the fattiness of cheese, while carbonation lifts fat and protein off the palate so you’re ready to enjoy another taste.

Patience When Pairing

Everyone has a unique palate and experiences tastes differently. The subjectivity of pairings is further complicated due to the many different interpretations of beer styles and types of cheeses.

Understandably, it is easy to be overwhelmed. Instead, use the resources below, and visit a cheese shop in your area to ask for suggestions. Then trust your own judgment of what works best for you.

Craft Beer and Cheese Resources

MouCo Cheese Co.

During American Craft Beer Week, I had the chance to visit MouCo Cheese Company (MCC) for a little crash course on cheese.

Headquartered in the craft beer-mecca of Fort Collins, Colo., MouCo specializes in soft-ripened cheeses. Just as the early craft brewers in the 70s and 80s recognized a void in the styles of beer available in America, Birgit Halbreiter and Robert Poland saw that the American cheese scene lacked the types of cheese that they enjoyed. So, in 1999, they founded MouCo.

Prior to running the small cheese company, both Birgit and Robert had careers in the brewing industry, leaving New Belgium Brewing to open MouCo. With beer sensory backgrounds, each has a deeper understanding of what’s happening to both beer and cheese when pairing.

Today they work with a variety of craft brewers throughout northern Colorado, supplying them with cheeses to enjoy in their tasting rooms. MCC was even kind enough to share some of their pairing suggestions with us!

MouCo Cheese Company’s Craft Beer Suggestions

“Cheese and beer go well together because beer is like scrubbing bubbles for your mouth,” said Halbreiter. “Various cheeses enhance beer’s distinctive characteristics like hoppiness and sweetness. In return, beer will enhance the cheese’s creaminess and nuttiness.”

By adding different variables—cheese in this case—to your craft beer experience, you’re able to control and create brand new flavor profiles for both the food and beer. Cheese is a simple choice, as there is a low level of preparation needed.

No, you’re not going to like everything you pair. But, remember, just as years ago the major factor in your beer choice was if it was cold or ice cold, you’ve now developed an appreciation for the different flavors and characteristics of craft beer. Now, take the extra step and try them with artisan cheese!


Andy SparhawkAndy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association's craft beer program coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

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