Are cheese and beer better together? Definitely. Roger Hart tells us why.
It’s not unusual at the festival to hear a louder shout of disappointment for the closing of the cheese counter than the calling of last orders. There’s a reason for that – cheese and beer are brilliant together.
The simplest matching rule is: milder cheeses with lighter beers. Of course, that could leave you missing out on, say, offsetting the creamy sharp saltiness of a soft goat’s cheese with the rich, full body of something like the Anspach & Hobday Stout Porter.
Here are a few more beer and cheese pairing suggestions – I’ve not covered all the styles, but this should help you start.
Golden, gently hoppy ales
The simple clean creaminess of a Somerset brie (and similar soft, gooey, but mild cheeses) shouldn’t be overly messed with. So a golden ale with a little fruit (maybe Moonshine Heavenly Matter, or Baker’s Dozen Electric Landlady) would go beautifully. You also wouldn’t go far wrong with a white stilton.
All the hops: IPAs, light and dark
Goat time. To be honest, goat’s cheese will go with anything hefty and complex: a big dry stout or a black IPA. Try one from Cloudwater or Great Heck.
Hops will trample any subtle flavours, however, so this might be the place for cheeses with washed rinds. Stinking Bishop is the English classic. Or you could go to town on bitter flavours: Hereford Hop is a hard-ish cheese with hops packed into the rind.
Medium brown, about 4% abv
A solid bitter is what many think of when you say “ale”, and cheddar isn’t far off the same for cheese. They work together, too. With both, there is a little sharpness and there aren’t any overpowering flavours.
Alternatively, try a pint of Moor Revival or Milton Pegasus with wensleydale, or even a gentle, crumbly ewe’s cheese. Y Fenni is a classic Welsh cheese, made with beer and mustard, and it’s great with a robust bitter – perhaps the Old Cannon Gunner’s Daughter
Stronger bitters, bests, and old ales will complement the smoked versions of similar cheese. Try a Bexar County Scarecrow Army, or a beer that’s smoked itself.
Rich and dark: porters, stouts and the odd barley wine
A stout with a bit of sweetness just wants to cosy up to 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 stout that isn’t too dry. A really mature, crumbly stilton could overshoot here, but try something like a Portobello Market Porter with the creamy blues.
For more resinous beers like imperial stouts, maybe go sharp – Lincolnshire Poacher will cut right through it.
Milds are tricky, and much underrated. They’re dark but easy-drinking, often with a little nut and caramel. Alpine-style semi-hard cheeses have a softness and nuttiness that matches mild, and both are subtle. A good raclette or gruyere, maybe. The UK makes gruyere in Cheshire, or you really can’t beat a Cornish Yarg with a pint of mild.
Mix and match
Obviously that doesn’t cover everything. What about wheat beers, or cheeses with fruit in? We have around 200 beers from the UK alone, and well 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 lots of opportunities to discover an exciting new pairing.