In Food + Drink

Beer And Cheese: Pairing Tips To Create A Balanced Taste

Beer and cheese. They both boast distinctive tastes that can stick around on your taste buds long after they’ve left. And it’s exactly for that reason that understanding how the two can be blended together is so important.

“Everyone knows wine pairs well with cheese, but how many Australians would know beer goes just as well?” says Dionisio Randazzo, Head Chef of Sydney restaurant Altum. “This is most likely due to a lack of knowledge and our preference for a lightly flavoured, thirst-quenching lager – rather than a more flavourful ale.”

Ahead, Randazzo along with Paddy O’Rourke of Sydney’s Hartsyard share their best tips for pairing beer with cheese to create one blended, balanced test.

Why beer and cheese work so well together

One type of beer can pair with many types of cheese. Image: Altum / supplied

“Beer has a nice range of flavours from clean and refreshing to big and bold,” says O’Rourke. “This means there are a lot of in-betweens where cheese can really slide in.

“Beer is also just such a good palate cleanser.”

It’s like pairing wine with cheese – only easier

“The scope of potential pairing of wine and cheese is huge,” says Randazzo. “That’s mainly due to the enormous range of wine’s flavour and aroma profiles, and textural differences.

“Beer has much tighter parameters in terms of flavour and texture on the palate so one type of beer can pair with more types of cheese.”

Pair a pilsner or lager with sharp cheese

“With a sharper cheese like an aged parmesan or aged gouda, I generally like to go for a pilsner or lager – something dry with a hint of acidity and good carbonation,” says O’Rourke.

“This really helps to balance out the bite of the cheese. Yulli’s Brews do a really lovely Mediterranean-style lager, and Grifter do a really banging pilsner that is just such a workhorse.”

Pair tropical IPAs or hoppy ales with soft cheese

Tropical IPAs and hoppy ales work well with soft creamy cheeses. Image: Anita Peeples / Unsplash

“With soft, creamy cheese like goats cheese, I find tropical IPAs and hoppy ales work really well as the hops work to balance out the creaminess,” says O’Rourke.

‘Wayward IPA and Sauca Pale Ale are two options for this category that don’t disappoint.”

Pair red or amber ales with nutty cheese

“With a nice nutty gruyere cheese, you can’t really go past a red ale, something nice and malty. Amber ales work too – it really comes down to personal preference though,” says O’Rourke.

“Philter Red Ale is a really versatile option as while it’s got lots of fruity notes, it has an underlying crystal malt character and some mild bitterness, which really stands up to nutty characteristics.

“And as it a session red ale, you can literally sit on it and gruyere all night.”

Pair cider with smelly cheese

Typically, cider goes well with blue cheese. Image: Pixabay

“You can have a lot of fun with smelly cheese pairings,” says O’Rourke.

“Though technically not beer, cider – in particular Young Henry’s Cloudy Apple Cider – goes well with really funky blue cheese as its sweetness and acidity really come together to mellow out the funk.

“When you enter the realm of washed rind, pay attention to what the cheese has been washed in to pick your pairing. Something washed in a rich liqueur really gets complemented by a rich porter or stout even. Something really salty – I even like to go for a sour beer. The choices are unlimited.”

The one beer and cheese pairing rule to remember

The stronger the flavour of cheese, the more intensely flavoured your beer should be, says Randazzo. “The softer or creamier your cheese is, the most mouthfeel you’ll need from your beer – ales and not lagers.

If you forget all of the above, though, the one thing to remember? “Experiment,” says O’Rourke.

“There are no official rules. Everyone has a different palate so it’s always best to just try a new combination because you never know what you might come up with.”

(Lead image: Formaggi Ocello / Facebook

Published 12 April, 2019