There are many foods to enjoy with beer, not the least of which is cheese. In fact, few gastronomic adventures are more delightful, straightforward and simple than a great glass of beer and a quality hunk of cheese.
Cheese and beer enthusiasts offer a couple reasons as to why cheese and beer pair so well. Some say beer is even better-suited than wine to pairing with cheese. Beer is particularly intriguing because of the endless variations that can be created by altering the malt, hops, yeast, and other ingredients. In this sense, beer has a leg up on wine in its differentiation and versatility.
What Makes Beer Special?
First and foremost, it’s all about carbonation. Unlike most wines (with the exception of sparkling varieties), beer is carbonated, and the bubbles function as a palate-cleanser. Cheese is a rich and mouth-coating substance that creates a pervasive taste on the palate, which can often overwhelm other tastes. The carbonation in beer, however, cuts through the richness and whisks away the remnant cheese. As Carl Crafts from the well-known DC restaurant and bar Churchkey notes, this fizzy attribute of beer has the advantageous effect of allowing “both the cheese and the beer to shine through.”
Second, both beer and cheese have the same roots and often similar basic tastes: earthy, tangy, or grainy for example. Some emphasize this point more than others, but the fact is that both beer and cheese originate from grass and undergo a process of fermentation. With beer, barley and wheat (the primary ingredients) are part of the Poaceae or Grass family. For cheese, it is the grass the dairy cows eat that is converted into lactose. In both cases, the grass is broken down into simple sugars which then ferment. More ingredients are added, time works its aging magic if needed, and: enter the beer and cheese.
What Makes a Good Pairing?
While there are recommendations for which beer to pair with which cheese, it is difficult to go wrong; the marriage of beer and cheese is very forgiving, flexible, and fun. You do not need to be an expert. And it oftentimes can be more affordable than wine and cheese.
That said, here are a few general guidelines to help you get started.
Complement or contrast?
Depending on the effect for which you are striving, you can choose either complement or contrast. Complementary pairings emphasize strong cheeses with strong beers and light cheeses with light beers, while contrasts mix and match and are a bit more adventurous.
For example, when making a complementary pairing,
- – the intense flavors and aromatics of Limburger or blue cheese will pair well with darker, more robust beers like Bockbier or Schwarzbier.
- – lighter, younger, and more vibrant cheeses like brie or Butterkäse flourish with milder, brighter beers such as Hefeweizen or Pils.
- – try a Rauchbier with a smoked cheese.
When looking to achieve an inspiring contrast, match a light cheese with a dark beer, or vice versa. Try: Camembert or Tilsiter with a Dunkelbier or Cambozola with a Maibock.
Stick with a region
Choosing cheeses and beers from the same region is another way to create a great pairing. Similar climate, ingredients, and regional preferences all play important roles in the crafting of beer and cheese. Here are the recommendations of the Bavarian Brewers Association (Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V.):
- – Butter Cheese + Hefeweizen, wheat beer light, Radler (beer with orange lemonade) oder Russ (beer with cola)
- – Bavarian Cottage Cheese (Frischkäse), Boursin, or Quark with herbs + wheat beer
- – Camembert, depending in ripeness + wheat beer light or dark, or lager
- – Mozzarella + pilsner
- – Obatzda + Oktoberfest beer
- – Allgäuer Emmentaler + Light lager, Export, Pilsner
- – Young Gouda + Export, Pilsner
- – Tilsiter + Bock Beer (Märzen), Dark Beer (Dunkles Vollbier),
- – Romadur + Dark Export, Bock Beer (Märzen), Dark Beer (like Radeberger or Guinness)
- – Bavarian Blue Cheese + Export dark, Bock Beer (Märzen), light wheat bock
- – Hard cheese + Export, Märzen
- – Allgäuer Bergkäse depending on ripeness + Export, dark or bock beer or Doppelbock
- – Weißlacker + dark Doppelbock or Weizenbock, Eisbock
Bavaria has over 400 cheese and 40 beer varieties and provides a wealth of options from which to choose, for example Barossa Washed Rind from Innstolz with Schneider Aventinus. More information can be found on this website,
Trust your taste buds
Taste is individual, so be bold and experiment. As mentioned above, the marriage of cheese and beer is very forgiving, so it’s time to have some fun!
Tips from famous brewmaster and author Garrett Oliver
Read here about Germany’s Purity Law for Beer (Reinheitsgebot)
by Kathryn Goetz