Blog contributed by Stephanie Grant
If you love entertaining as much as I do, building a charcuterie board is one of those skills you must have in your repertoire. A good charcuterie board is welcoming, encourages experimentation, and keeps your guest busy while you put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal.
While wine gets all the love when it comes to cheese, beer is the superior pairing. Before I fell in love with beer, I made the mistake of pairing red wine and cheese, and it was a bit of a disaster. It wasn’t until I read the Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver that I finally understood why the pairing didn’t work for me.
Red wine doesn’t work with cheese—even sommeliers avoid putting the two together—and white wine can be tricky to get right too. But beer and cheese are like two peas in the farmhouse-style-mixed-fermentation-barrel-aged pod. Because they’re so similar in the way they’re made, pairing the two together is like meeting someone new and instantly becoming friends. If you haven’t tried cheese and beer together before, keep reading for three pairing suggestions.
Emmental with Tripel
With notes of passion fruit and honey in the aroma, Tripel is a great beer to pair with cheese. I decided on Emmental, a semi-hard Swiss cheese (note: all Emmentals are Swiss, but not all Swiss cheeses are Emmental). Emmental is nutty, buttery, and a safe bet for anyone who’s leery of stinky cheeses. Together, Tripel and Emmental frolic on the palate like two seasoned dancers. I recommend trying this combo with a bit of honey to sweeten the deal.
Camembert with Allagash White
Allagash White is filled with nuanced flavor and, on a warm day, it refreshes the driest palate. After drinking it for more than 10 years, I’m still delighted by the notes of coriander and Curaçao orange peel. I paired Allagash White with Camembert, a soft-ripened and creamy cheese that will transport you to a paddock on a spring day. It’s nutty, barnyard-y, grassy—basically packed with all those farmhouse notes us beer aficionados love. When paired with Allagash White, you get a touch of sweetness and an explosion of earthy, mushroomy flavors from the cheese.
The author enjoying the research behind this beer-and-cheese pairing blog.
Roquefort with North Sky
North Sky is one of those stouts you don’t have to wait until fall to enjoy. I paired North Sky with Roquefort, a slightly pungent, barnyard-y, blue cheese made with sheep’s milk. If you hate blue cheese and love stouts, then I urge you to try this pairing. I like to coat my mouth with the blue cheese—it’s SO creamy, and then take a sip of North Sky. The pungent notes fall away and you’re left with this creamy, roasted chocolate combo that will excite your taste buds.
GUIDELINES FOR BUILDING YOUR CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Before I send you off to dive into the world of beer and cheese, I’ll leave you with a few guidelines I use to build my charcuterie board:
- Three to four cheeses—pick any combo you like but make sure to mix it up
- One to two sliced meats—ham, prosciutto, soppressata, etc.
- Nuts and olives—either whole and pitted olives or a briny tapenade
- Honey and/or jam—two words: onion jam—trust me, it’s a game changer
- Neutral crackers—a no-brainer pairing for cheese and also a great palate cleanser
- Fruit or vegetables—a fresh contrast to brighten your palate
Once I select my cheeses, I decide what beers to pair with them or you can pick your beers first—it’s your board, do what works for you. After everything’s on the board, I’ll try out my carefully selected pairings, and then I go straight into experimentation mode. What does Camembert taste like with North Sky? How would a dollop of onion jam taste with Tripel and Emmental? It’s all about having fun, and trust me, this is an experience you’ll want to have over and over and over again.
Stephanie Grant is a beer journalist, content writer, storyteller, and content creator based in Atlanta (NEVER call it Hotlanta, please). You can find her writing in Good Beer Hunting, Atlanta Magazine, Craftbeer.com, The New Brewer, and across the interwebs. She was one of four recipients of the North American Guild of Beer Writers 2020 Diversity in Beer Writing Grant and recognized in Imbibe Magazine’s 75 People to Watch in 2021. You can also hear her interview people on Good Beer Hunting’s podcast.