Wine and cheese seems to be one of the natural pairings in the food world. The ‘and cheese’ just seems to flow natural naturally after the mention of wine.
I’m not sure where this close association springs from, but I have a theory that it stems back to our first experiments in entertaining as young adults, when offering our guests wine and cheese seemed the height of sophistication. It was easy and it stuck and, unlike pigs in blankets, it never really lost its cachet.
However, amongst wine experts, opinion seems much more divided. I have regularly heard wine educators suggest that while they can indeed be enjoyed together, wine and cheese are not necessarily a good pairing. A maxim I have often heard is, “bread is for tasting wine, cheese is for selling it.”
One pairing that sees no divided expert opinion is beer and cheese. Beer just has the ability to punch through the tongue-coasting properties of cheese and refresh the palate. This is clear at the most basic level…what do you enjoy more with pizza, beer or wine? A good spritzy lager just cuts through the greasiness of the pizza while the mild bitterness of most lagers works well to complement the mild spiciness of a pizza.
Of course, beer and cheese can be much more elegant than this, but it highlights one of the basic properties that works in the pairing.Once you introduce beers that have real flavour, the pairing goes from just cleansing the palate to really complementing the flavours.
Getting away from the everyday lagers that make up more than 95 per cent of the beer market – but just five per cent of the flavour range of beer (and that includes the premium imported lagers) – you have a huge flavour pallet to work with.
Included below are a few suggestions for beer and cheese matches. If you’re interested in discovering a new flavour combination, give them a try. Still, if you enjoy them, be adventurous. It is easy to think that there are hard and fast rules with food and drink matching. Even though most beer writers, and many wine writers, agree that beer and cheese are a great match, I rarely see any two suggest exactly the same pairings. There are loose guidelines but never rigid rules. You will encounter few matching disasters, but some of the best pairings are the ones discovered by accident. The fun is the path of discovery.
Chevre (goat’s cheese): a Bavarian Hefeweizen, such as Schofferhofer or Weihenstephan. Burleigh Brewing make an excellent version, just called HEF. Coopers Pale Ale works nicely too.
Mature Cheddar: a beer with a little more kick, such as a good hoppy Pale Ale. Try Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale or Meantime India Pale Ale from the UK.
Blue Cheese: beer matching enters the sublime here. A good India Pale Ale such as Murray’s Icon2 IPA works nicely as does Coopers annual Vintage Ale, but a peaty scotch ale such as Redoak’s Wee Heavy or BrewBoys Seeing Double is just perfection.
Triple Cream Brie: Go Belgian. A Chimay White Label, the Canadian La Fin du Monde or the excellent local version, Mad Abbot Tripel, made by Port Macquarie’s Little Brewing Company.
If you’re in Brisbane this weekend and would like to find out more about beer and cheese, the Brisbane Cheese Awards are holding a people’s day featuring beer and cheese masterclasses, presented by Australian Brews News editor, Matt Kirkegaard.