paired with alcohol, whether beer, whiskey, or wine,
is a match made in heaven.
alcohol and cheese meet, feel a chemistry and fall in love,
it is a marriage made in heaven. And that’s what you want
at your holiday party when you pair cheese with beer,
whiskey or wine.
main thing is that you want a cohesive flavor from the
cheese and the beer," says Alix Wiggins of Wheel &
Wedge, a premier source of American-made cheeses in
Pittsburgh. "You don’t want one to overpower the
Shank of Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh’s Strip District
echoes a similar thought and says whiskey and cheese should
be complementary and not screaming at each other.
"Think of whiskey as a rye or corn bread. If cheese
goes well with a rye bread, it means that the cheese would
be perfect with a rye whiskey," he says.
Mortillaro of Dreadnought Wines in Lawrenceville doesn’t
favor following rules when pairing cheese and wine, but does
advise to match the intensity. "The more intense the
cheese is, the more intense the wine should be," she
says. "Also, start with a light and finish with a
it comes to tasting the cheese and the booze, do what the
pros do. Smell the beer, whiskey or wine and get a nose for
it. Then take a sip of the drink and get a sense of it. Take
a bite of the cheese and then take a sip of the drink again.
If the flavors linger and meld wonderfully, it’s a winning
the drink nor cheese should be served ice cold. Cheese
should be taken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before
serving. Whiskey needs to be served at room temperature, and
beer needs to be poured and allowed to sit for some time to
bring out its flavors. Often white wines are served too cold
and reds too warm, says Rob McCaughey of Palate Partners in
Lawrenceville. So whites need to be taken out of the
refrigerator 20 minutes before serving, while reds need to
be put into the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.
could be daunting to choose from a wide variety of cheeses.
Jen Lawton, a cheese coordinator at East End Food Co-op and
a certified cheese professional by the American Cheese
Society, says de-stress by first setting a theme. It could
be done by picking cheeses from a certain region or going
with a particular style such as those with interesting
rinds. "From there you can play with mixing milks
(goat, sheep, cow) or textures (hard, soft, spreadable) or
appearances," Lawton says.
don’t overcrowd the cheese plate. Stick to three or five
cheeses rolled in edible ash, which acts as a preservative
and adds a mineral note, and blue cheeses covered with
leaves such as grape, oak and chestnut will add oomph to a
cheese plate. A saison or light rye whiskey will pair well
with the ash-ripened cheese, while there’s nothing like a
white port for the blue.
could add a cheese that looks pretty like a young goat Gouda
with a colorful yellow or red wax rind. Pair it with a beer
with that has a little maltiness such as a bock, Wiggins
says, to complement the tang of the goat’s milk. A mature
Gouda with a black-wax covering will go well with a
full-bodied, lightly oaked white like a California
chardonnay, McCaughey says.
harmonious pairings like them, you can be assured of
merriment at your holiday party.
a natural marriage between cheese and a beverage made from
fermented barley, hops, water and yeast. Cows live on
grains, and so it’s only logical that the two flavors are
The manchego-style Roth Kase Gran Queso, which dons a
cinnamon-rubbed rind, would go well with pumpkin beers and
Christmas ales that have cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, says
Alix Wiggins of Wheel & Wedge.
Pit funk against funk by serving the semi-soft, beer-washed
Bamboozle, which is aged for 70 days, with a farmhouse ale,
light Belgian or saison.
Porters and stouts pair nicely with blue cheese as the sweet
molasses from the beer complements the saltiness of the
Jasper Hills Landaff, a semi-firm tomme (made from skimmed
milk) that has cheddar characteristics and buttermilk notes
balances the dry bitterness of hoppy beers, mainly IPAs.
The roastiness of a stout or porter can cut through the
buttery texture of a double cream Fromager D’ Affinois.
The plain cheese also can be paired with a lambic or another
Beer’s carbonation also helps to keep the cheese flavors
distinct and cuts through their fat. So the high carbonation
level of a hefeweizen or a wheat beer would do exactly that
to a fresh chevre.
natural partner for a hunk of cheese is whiskey, which also
comes from grains, says Wes Shank of Wigle Whiskey. They are
aged in a similar way and cured in caves. So even though
whiskey has a high alcohol content and is in-your-face bold,
it has the characteristics to create a foil for cheese.
also shares nuances with wine and beer. Sniff and swirl
whiskey in a glass, much like wine, and watch the
"legs" drip down. If the legs are thick, the
whiskey has a heavier mouthfeel; when the drip is thin and
fast-moving, it is more delicate. Whiskey has beer notes as
well, whether it’s dark and complex or fruity with a hint
With its earthiness, Wigle’s flagship Monongahela Rye
Whiskey complements the funky power of the Fat Cat, which
has a grassy finish. Also, the distinctive black pepper
spice in the drink melds well with the washed-rind creamy
aged sheep feta that is not salty but very smooth does
wonders with Wigle’s Maple Wood Wheat Whiskey. It
highlights the soft maple notes that the whiskey has
acquired after being aged in maple wood for several months.
Apple and blue cheese go on a roller-coaster ride when Wigle
Walkabout Apple Whiskey is paired with Birchrun Blue. Sweet
apple notes shine through the spicy characteristics of the
whiskey and the slightly peppery creaminess of the blue.
Wigle’s Pennsylvania Bourbon and Old Gold Gouda are loud
when paired, but the caramel and vanilla characters of the
whiskey made with an earthy corn give a wonderful background
to the firm, tangy and aged cheese.
is the quintessential match with a universal appeal.
is the name of the game, and so arrange a plate with aged
and younger; soft and hard; and rind and rindless cheeses.
Uncork wines with higher acid and lower acid; high alcohol
and low alcohol; and full-bodied and light. But don’t pull
out everything at the same time at the party, says Deb
Mortillaro of Dreadnought Wines. "Staggering them is
says there is no need to fear the great whites when it comes
to cheese. "Whites are not only OK with cheese, but
they are better than their red counterparts," she says
because sometimes the tannins in the reds clash with the
Pair regionally by opening a Pares Balta Cava, a sparkling
wine from Spain, and complement it with a light and
relatively neutral Spanish Pata Cabra.
long aging process gives the Park Provolone Sharp an extra
kick to uncork the creaminess in the De Wetshof Limestone
Chardonnay, a unwooded white.
Aged Calabreso Pecorino has a meanness to it. But it meets
its match in the intense Pares Balta Mas Elena, which is
meaty and has nuances of licorice and spices. The red is
elegant, but it knows how to stand up to the sheep cheese.
Bold and blue with a dense veining, the chestnut
leaf-wrapped Valdeon draws out the nuances of flowers and
fruit in the Ferreira White Lagrima Porto.