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Beer and Cheese Pairing 101: How to Choose the Perfect Cheese for Your Beer (and the Perfect Beer for your Cheese!)

Sep 30, 2021 02:15PM ● By Amy Todd

What’s better than a fresh Vermont craft beer?  

Enjoying said beer with a perfectly paired cheese. 

With over 100 different styles of beer to choose from (not to mention all the new styles brewers keep coming up with) and many more cheese varieties, the combinations are endless.  

But not all beer and cheese pairings work. How do you decide which cheese and beer to pair together? Read on to learn how to find the perfect pair.  

Why Beer and Cheese?  

Toasty, nutty, funky, fresh, herbal, floral—beer and cheese share many flavor descriptors, making them natural partners. The carbonation of the beer helps to cleanse your palate between each rich and creamy bite of cheese. Contrasting tastes, like salty and sweet, umami and sour, bring out complexity not experienced by beer or cheese alone. 


Pairing Rules 

First, we want to match intensity. A big, bold barleywine isn’t going to do anything for a mozzarella, and a blue cheese will overpower a Kölsch.  

We’re looking for combinations where flavors are enhanced, created, or made more enjoyable. 

Similar flavors that complement can enhance each other once combined or make an entirely new flavor experience. Try a nutty, aged Gouda with a malt-forward beer such as an Oktoberfest or a brown ale.  

Contrasting flavors may highlight or intensify a particular flavor. A porter or stout may taste sweeter when paired with a bright, creamy chèvre.  

Diminish an overpowering flavor with the right pair. While a blue cheese can easily overpower a Kölsch, a barleywine might help reduce the intensity of the blue, making it more palatable with the beer than on its own.  

Getting Started 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with possibilities, so start small and start with what you like.  

Start with your favorite cheese, then come up with one or two beer styles to pair with that cheese. Try a few different examples of each style since every brewer makes their own version of a style. An IPA from one brewery may pair perfectly with your favorite cheddar, but an IPA from a different brewery might miss the mark.  

For your next tasting, start with your favorite beer and pair it with complementary and contrasting cheese flavors. Experiment with different cheeses on that one beer. 

Take Notes!  

Make note of what works and what doesn’t work. Once you try a few combinations, you’ll start thinking about other cheeses to try with that beer or different styles of beer to test. You’ll get a feel for what types of pairings you like and don’t like. Before you know it, you’ll create pairings in your head as you walk through the beer and cheese aisles.  

Pick a theme. Oktoberfest season? What better excuse to try an assortment of Oktoberfest beers from various breweries. Grab some cheese, like Gouda, alpine, or cheddar, and mix and match.  

The bigger the group, the more pairing options you can try. Ask guests to bring a mix of beers and cheeses to experiment with. Provide a theme or a few style suggestions for best results. Shop at beer stores that sell cans or bottles as singles; then you can experiment with more variety. 

Everyone’s palate is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Experiment and try different options. And most importantly, have fun!  

716 Pine Street 
Burlington, VT 
(802) 735-2277


Suggested pairings: 

Lawson’s Triple Sunshine and Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue 

Queen City Brewery Yorkshire Porter and Vermont Creamery Goat Cheese 

Hogback Mountain Brewery Belgian White and Boston Post Dairy Vermont Country Brie 

Weird Window We’ve Been Dancing Brown Ale and Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar 

Lost Nation Petit Ardennes and Consider Bardwell Farm Rupert Reserve 

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