Photo: ibison4, Flickr
1. What's the best beer to pair with cheese?
Start with Belgian pale ales, saisons and triples, like Duvel, Saison Dupont and Allagash Tripel. Due to their lighter flavors, these beers can pretty much work with any cheese. But you can get more specific, too. "Choosing beers and cheeses with similar strengths is always an easy way out," says Brown. So, for example, take a fresh Tomme de Savoie or a slice of Brie and pair it with a blonde ale, like Terrapin Golden Ale. Or, pair a stinkier cheese, like French Munster, with a heavier darker malt beer. For more adventurous beer fans, Brown recommends sour beers, like Brooklyn Brewery's Berliner Weisse, which have an intense flavor that pairs nicely with goat cheeses, like Pouligny Saint Pierre, and washed rind cheeses such as Grayson.
2. Are there certain cheeses that work best with beer?
Almost every cheese can be paired with beer. That said, goat's milk cheeses, like Chabichou du Poitou, are especially exciting to pair with beer, because both light and heavy beers can highlight different aspects of the flavor – its citrus taste, or grassy floral notes, or nuttiness. The coffee and chocolate-like taste of a bottle of high powered stout, like Guinness Export (a heavy beer), brings out the meatier flavors in the cheese. A lighter beer will highlight the cheese's creamy texture and taste.
3. At a tasting, how many beers can be paired with a single cheese?
To get the most out of your pairing, flavor wise, always try at least two different beers. Unlike wine, beer offers more opportunities for an interplay of flavors. "Several different beers can easily pair well with various cheeses on a platter," says Riveau, "but often just one type of wine goes well with one specific cheese (like the classic port and stilton pairing)." This flavor interplay has a lot to do with the effects of live bacteria in both beer and cheese -- while beer involves the fermentation of grain water, cheese involves the fermentation of milk.
4. Are there specific condiments that work best with a cheese and beer pairing?
Beer does a better job than wine at dealing with hot and spicy food. "Hotter condiments, like mustard, work well in these sorts of pairings", says Brown. "The beer mitigates the spiciness from the mustard, allowing you to really taste the cheese." Apart from mustards, chutneys and mostardas, traditional pairings like fruit, jam and bread work well with beer, too.
5. Why pair cheese with beer instead of wine?
In short, it beats wine when it comes to creating flavor experiments at a lower price. And, it allows people to drink in a more casual setting while experimenting with different cheeses. Not only does it leave extra room in the wallet, but it also leaves room on the palate for tasting. "This may have to with palate fatigue," explains Brown. "It simply does not tire out your mouth, as wine does." And, unlike wine, beer's carbonation helps lift the fat of the cheese off your palate, and, as a result, produces a refreshing sensation, similar to champagne, but without the sugar.