Beer and cheese, for holiday menu magic

Michelle Tham is the head of education at Labatt Breweries of Canada and a certified cicerone. Afrim Pristine is the maître fromager of Toronto’s Cheese Boutique. Together they’ve created this tasting guide for pairing beer and cheese on your holiday menus!

Align intensity. Make sure that bold cheeses are paired with bold beers, and pair delicate cheeses with delicate beers.

Bridge flavours. Look for a flavour that is present in both the cheese and the beer … they need to have something in common. Look for flavour characteristics in beer that can also describe cheese.

Cut tastes and textures. For a dynamic pairing, add some contrast. The carbonation in beer naturally cuts through the richness and creaminess of a cheese’s texture. Beer also can have bitterness, sweetness or acidity, cutting through the salt and fat of cheese.

SEMI-FIRM CHEESES LIKE GRUYERE WITH BELGIAN-STYLE WITBIER

– Try Gunn’s Hill 5 Brothers with Shock Top or Hoegaarden

– Both align in delicate intensity. The citrus peel and coriander used in brewing Belgian Witbiers bridge with and accentuate the subtle fruity and spicy characteristics of the cheese.

BLOOMY RIND CHEESES LIKE A TRIPLE-CREME WITH SESSION IPA

– Try Glengarry Figaro with Mill Street Welterweight

– Session IPA’s approachable bitterness aligns with creamy richness of triple crème cheese. The youthful tangy fresh milk flavour bridges with the citrus and tropical fruit characteristics derived from American and New World hops. The bitterness in the beer cuts through the buttery, creamy texture.

CLOTHBOUND CHEDDAR WITH ENGLISH PALE ALE

– Try PEI Clothbound Cheddar with Boddington’s or Goose Island Honkers Ale

– A classic British pairing — ale and cheddar. Both robust in intensity, the caramel flavour found in an English ale is complementary to the nutty, caramel flavours found in a nicely aged cheddar. Align a cheese with more age with a more robust ale.

SOFT GOAT CHEESE WITH DRY CIDER

– Try Bouq Emissaire with Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch: 1904 Dry Cider

– A tart, dry cider aligns in intensity with an equally tangy cheese, like young goat cheese. By pairing similar tastes like acidity in both the beer and cheese, it can mitigate the perception of tartness — allowing more subtle flavours to shine like the gentle earthiness of the goat cheese.

SEMI-SOFT BLUE CHEESE WITH AMERICAN IPA

– Try Blue l’Etoile with Goose IPA or Mill Street West Coast IPA, or for the more adventurous, pair with Mill Street Vanilla Porter

– This is where you can pair BIG flavours with one another, aligning bold intensities. For an unexpected surprise, try a Porter with a hint of chocolate or vanilla — the roasty intensity paired against pungent tartness accentuates flavours that are otherwise masked.

Also read: Building your beer program according to Mirella Amato