If you ask us, the best way to entertain with minimal effort and maximum deliciousness is a beer and cheese party.
For a few simple pairing tips, we consulted beer and cheese aficionado John David Ryan, of Murray’s Cheese.
One easy way to find a solid pairing is to combine like with like (sweet with sweet, savory with savory), but sometimes opposites can attract in very tasty ways, and products from similar regions also marry nicely.
Here are seven beer and cheese matches made in heaven.
1. Pilsner and brie
Pilsners are an easy beer for craft and non-craft beer drinkers alike. Ryan suggests pairing this tame beer with a creamy brie. “[Bries] are slightly earthy, maybe a little mushroomy, but rich and buttery,” he explains.
2. Saison and goat cheese
Ryan deems goat cheese the perfect fall weather cheese for its light and fluffy texture and creamy, tangy flavor. The saison’s light, slightly earthy taste and citrus notes play off the cheese’s flavor.
3. Harvest ale and cheddar
“Harvest ales may be a bit more amber in color and have a little more malt, but they’re very hop-forward,” says Ryan. Since hops impart acid to beer, Ryan suggests a sharp cheddar to complement the acidity. “It has a bold, tangy flavor [and] it’s very acidic,” he says of the cheese.
4. Brown ale and sheep’s milk
This is one of Ryan’s favorite pairings for fall. Brown ales are on the drier side with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The fatty, rich, and similarly nutty sheep’s milk marries beautifully with malty brown ales. “The cheese brings the creamy sweetness and the beer brings that nice toastiness and nuttiness to it,” Ryan notes.
5. Oktoberfest and Gruyère
According to Ryan, traditional German Oktoberfests have a sweetness to them, with clove and cinnamon playing in the background. And since they’re lagers, they have a lighter body. “The Germans say you should be able to drink five liters of Oktoberfest and still want to drink a sixth liter,” says Ryan.
The German cheese pairing for an Oktoberfest beer is Limburger cheese, which tastes faintly of toasted peanuts or burnt bread. But it’s strong flavor isn’t for everyone. A good Gruyère is a lovely pairing that appeals to a broader range of palates.
6. Pumpkin beer and aged Gouda
For Ryan, an aged Gouda is the only cheese sweet and buttery enough to stand up to a pumpkin beer. As the cheese ages, it develops butterscotch and toffee notes. “Aged Gouda is is almost like a drug,” he says of the tiny crystals that form in the cheese and trigger the brain to release the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine.
7. Stout and blue cheese
Going with an opposites attract approach, Ryan pairs “salty, creamy, funky blue cheese” with a “big, bold, sweet stout.” He recommends this pairing for cold winter nights, when you want something rich and a bit heavy.