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Hop Valley Gets Cheesy

Everyone knows that wine and cheese go together, but the potential for an amazingly delicious interaction between beer and cheese is too often overlooked—at least outside of beer cheese soup, anyway. But thanks to the lack of restrictions and seemingly limitless list of possible ingredients available to brewers to produce their craft, cheese-pairing nirvana is only a beer selection away.

Beer truly is unique to any other beverage, and—much to the jealousy of winemakers around the world—the distinct characteristics of different beer varieties react in surprising and pleasing ways to the fat, proteins and salt in cheese. Malted barley can produce flavors such as bread, cracker, caramel, chocolate and coffee. Hops add to the mix with aromas and flavors ranging from citrus and stone fruit to spicy, floral earthiness. Even the yeast in beer plays a role in providing unique flavor when paired with cheese, producing esters and phenols that can showcase notes from orange marmalade to pepper and clove. Then there are the other available ingredients like fruit, lactose or herbs, which can play obviously favorable roles in food pairing as well.

Another aspect that makes pairing beer with cheese so natural is a point of physics and chemistry and has to do with carbonation, alcohol and fat. Since cheese is by nature very fatty, those particles can effectively “clog” your taste buds, leaving a lingering taste and potentially dulling your full flavor-perceiving abilities. But thanks to the solvent power of alcohol and the “scrubbing bubbles” effect of carbonation, chasing a taste of cheese with a swig of beer helps to cleanse the fat away, preparing your palate for the next bite.

With flavor variety like this and the cutting power of alcohol and carbonation inherent in beer, it’s easy to see the potential for cheese-pairing bliss. The only question is: Where do you start?

Read on for some great cheese-and-Hop-Valley-beers pairing suggestions. Perfect for making your next gathering or barbecue a bit more sophisticated, or for just enjoying some beers and getting cheesy.

Hoppy pairing!

Light & Fresh (feta, ricotta, mascarpone, chèvre)

Earthy & Aged (Gouda, sharp or aged cheddars)

Strong & Creamy (washed rind cheeses, Taleggio, Vacherin)

Blue Cheeses