When The Cheese Store of Asheville partnered with the Weinhaus in its newly renovated space that also includes the Cork & Keg wine bar and tap room, we were incredibly excited about the concept of cheese and wine in one location—retail as well as an in-house menu for the bar area. The other, more often overlooked part of the picture, is cheese and beer in one location. For some reason we often forget about how well cheese and beer complement one another.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is an abundance of literature that makes the connection between cheese and beer. We know that both are derived from grasses, the grasses are broken down in order to produce the end product, and both are aged. Historically, beer and cheese were commonly made on family farms. When I think about modern beer making, the ingredients and the ability to play with flavors, I see strong similarities with cheese making and creating new tastes and textures.
It makes sense that these two entities go hand in hand. I’ve learned that it isn’t so apparent to others. Back in the early 2000’s, I offered to help with the menu at a Super Bowl party. I made a fantastic meat and cheese platter with some traditional cheeses, some not-so-traditional cheeses, added a couple of meats and filled it out with nuts and fruit. I thought the host was going to faint when he saw what I brought to fill out the table. The beverage of choice at the party was beer, ranging from a keg of Budweiser to bottled craft beers. This was over ten years ago, so craft beers were relatively new to the scene. And certainly folks didn’t think about having a cheese platter on their super bowl table.
Guests arrived hungry, grabbed a beer and dug into the chili, chicken wings and sliders. Slowly folks began to experiment with the cheese and meats. Numerous guests made comments about their surprise at how well the cheese went with their beer. By the end of the game the chili and wings were still in abundance, but my cheese platter was long gone.
Pairing cheese and beer is not as complicated as pairing cheese and wine. Beer is more forgiving and has a wonderful astringency to it that is a perfect palate cleanser. The nutty fruity flavors in beer and cheese can be easily highlighted and bring out flavors that go unnoticed without the combination. The best way to pair is to have a selection and let people experiment. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful:
Wheat beers and fresh cheeses (Chevre, Mozzarella)
Porters and rich creamy cheeses (Delice de Bourgogne, Brillat—triple cream bries)
Ales and sharp cheeses (Black Diamond, an aged cheddar, or Asiago)
Lagers and washed rind cheeses (Taleggio or Grayson)
Stouts and tangy, nutty cheeses (Aged Gouda or Ossau Iraty, a sheep milk cheese from France)
So as you prepare for the Super Bowl or are thinking about party menus don’t forget about cheese.