Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!
If the rules of pairing craft beer with artisan cheese, or any food for that matter, were definite, would it be as exciting? The experience of craft beer and food pairing is constantly changing and always based on the individual’s perception. The different variations and seemingly limitless styles and flavors are what makes pairing craft beer and cheese so interesting.
So don’t dismiss a mango Stilton paired with a Munich helles because it’s against some rule—don’t knock any pairing until you try it. Take a look at these suggestions to help you create an enjoyable and memorable craft beer and cheese experience.
Pairing Craft Beer and Cheese: The Do’s
- Choose the cheese first. If the multitude of styles of craft beer seems daunting, try shopping for the cheese first. If you start with a local cheese retailer, they can offer insights on the cheese and help you decide what might pair best with different styles of craft beer.
- Look for common characteristics. Similar to the tips for pairing craft beer and food, look for characteristics (both in flavor and texture) in what you’re pairing that will complement each other. Ultimately, you should expect a great pairing to provide some type of balance; just like what you’re looking for in a great craft beer!
- Pick only one or two cheeses. One of the advantages of pairing cheese with craft beer is versatility. Many different beers can pair nicely with the same cheese. Pairing a few different beers with the same cheese allows distinct characteristics of each to come through.
- Order is everything. Typically, when tasting craft beer, you normally taste in order from lightest mouthfeel and lowest alcohol content, to heaviest mouthfeel and highest alcohol content. The same is applied to pairings. Begin with the lightest and work your way to the heaviest and most complex.
Craft Beer and Cheese: The Don’ts
- Shopping ahead. Cheese is best served fresh. Try to do your shopping the day of the tasting, or if necessary, the day before.
- Serving too cold. Many styles of beer taste better if allowed to warm up/breathe; the same is true for cheese. Remove cheeses from the refrigerator at least one hour before serving, depending on the type of cheese.
- Oxygenation. Oxygen can be detrimental to the flavor of both beer and cheese. Try to avoid cubing or slicing in advance, as to avoid too much exposure to oxygen.
- Double Dipping. Just like craft beer, cheese has a myriad of flavors, some stronger than others. Make sure to have separate knives and/or serving plates available for each cheese.