Are cheese and beer better together? Definitely. Roger Hart tells us why.
We’ve been away for three years now, and almost as much as the two hundred odd beers and the fantastic atmosphere, I’ve missed the cheese counter. As ever it’s as carefully selected and interesting as the beer range, and just as much a festival highlight.
If you’re excited for it too, here’s a few suggestions for what to drink with your cheese. From offsetting the creamy sharp saltiness of a goat’s cheese with the rich, full body of a porter (try Thornbridge’s Market Porter) to a golden ale that’ll emphasise a Somerset brie, cheese and beer are brilliant together.
There isn’t space for every style, but here’s a few to get us going.
Summery golden ales
The simple creaminess of brie (and similar gooey but mild cheeses) should stand on its own. So a golden ale with a little fruit would go well. Consider Wylde Sky’s Cambridge Hazy Pale if you’d like to explore the KeyKeg Bar, or Rocket Ales’ Crafty Sauvignon for something light but more traditional. You also wouldn’t go far wrong pairing a white stilton with summer ales.
IPAs and hop monsters
Get your goat, you’ve pulled (a pint). To be honest, goat’s cheese will go with anything hefty and complex: a big dry stout or Rough Acre’s resiny hop-bomb Vulcan DIPA should be suitably massive. Perhaps Left-Handed Giant’s Dark Mild for something with the richness of a stout but a lighter body and more session strength. Baker’s Dozen have brought us their Pit Lane Project: Cryo IPA which should give you a great salt-sweet-sharp goat experience.
But hops can trample subtle flavours, so this might be the place for cheeses with washed rinds. Stinking Bishop is a classic. Or you could double down on bitter: Hereford Hop is a semi-hard cheese with hops packed into the rind.
Bitters, bests, and session ales
A well-made bitter is what many think of when you say ‘ale’, and cheddar is almost the same for cheese. They work together, too. With both, there aren’t any overpowering flavours, there is a little sharpness, and the craftsmanship is front and centre.
Brewboard’s Ermine Street Bitter or Kent’s classic Kent Golding Bitter would work with Wensleydale, or even a crumbly ewe’s cheese. Y Fenni is a classic Welsh cheese, made with beer and mustard, and it’s great with a robust bitter. Fyne Ales’ Highlander, at the sweeter and fuller end, maybe?
Stronger bitters, red ales and old ales can stand up to smoked cheeses and gentler blues. Try Boudicca’s Red Queen, or Iron Pier’s Old Ale for plenty of body without too much bitter or excessive sugar.
Rich and dark: porters, stouts and barley wine
A stout with a bit of sweetness just belongs with a nice salty blue. Something creamy like a Cambridge Blue, or a Dolcelatte will have the body to go with a big, hefty porter, or a sweeter stout. A really mature, crumbly stilton could overshoot here, but a milk stout will see you right. We have a couple this year, from Elephant School, Iron Pier, and Three Blind Mice. There’s also Queer Brewing’s Queer Joy! Queer Power! on KeyKeg, which will more than do the job.
For more vinous beers like imperial stouts (Nene Valley Bourbon Barrel Aged Blended Stout, you’re up), maybe go sharper – Lincolnshire Poacher will cut right through it.
Milds are dark but easy-drinking, often with a touch of nut and caramel, and we’ve got plenty. Alpine-style semi-hard cheeses have softness and nuttiness to match. Both are subtle. The UK makes gruyere in Cheshire, or you really can’t beat a Cornish Yarg. Try Elmtree’s Nightlight Mild this year.
Mix and match
We can’t cover everything. What about wheat beers (I’d go brie), or cheeses with fruit (red ale for me). We have around 190 beers from the UK alone, and over 50 cheeses. New cheeses will be available each day, and we do our best to keep as many of the beers on at once as possible, so there are plenty of chances to discover an exciting new pairing.