A Hoppy Medium
It sounds like a match made in heaven—or at the very least, in France: a plate of double-cream cheese and a glass of full-bodied red wine. But when that Camembert makes your $50 Bordeaux taste like gasoline, the romance fizzles.
While the results can be glorious if you get the balance right, wine’s acidity sometimes locks horns with cheese’s tang, and tannins are disastrous for funky blues. Beer, on the other hand, is much less picky about its bedfellows. "It’s more forgiving," says Robert Aguilera of Providence’s Farmstead cheese shop, who teaches beer-and-cheese pairing classes at Brookline Adult & Community Education. "You can get it really, really right, and you’re never going to get it totally wrong."
These days, Boston has a bevy of sources for good cheeses and brews, and lots of pros willing to proffer pairing advice. Brookline’s new Publick House Provisions will host in-store tastings this fall; Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen offers occasional beer-versus-wine taste-offs with cheese. And Aguilera has launched a group for beer and cheese fans, the Bueno Queso Social Club, which meets monthly at Cambridge’s Middlesex Lounge.
As for what to pair up, some of the best options come from our own backyard. Owing to a wealth of microbreweries and independent creameries, New England is a center of the beer/cheese boom, says D. J. D’Amico of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, who adds that another advantage of beer as a mate for cheese is its carbonation: "The bubbles scrub your tongue, clearing your palate for the next sample."
That doesn’t mean novices should grab just any supermarket wedge and random six-pack, though. There are rules of thumb to follow: For example, you’ll want to match lighter cheeses, such as chèvre, with lighter beers, like hefeweizen. But even if a pairing fails, "a beer doesn’t cost much more than a cup of coffee," D’Amico notes, "so it’s not a huge loss."
Pairing classes, 10/20 and 11/17, Brookline Adult & Community Education, 617-730-2700, brooklineadulted.org; Bueno Queso Social Club, the second-to-last Sunday of each month, Middlesex Lounge, 315 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, buenoqueso.org.
This Bud’s for Bleu
Four foolproof local beer-and-cheese duos.
1. Fresh goat cheese like Kay’s Eclipse Chèvre from Carlisle Farmstead (Carlisle) with a light-bodied wheat beer like Allagash White (Portland, ME)
2. Sharp, English-style cheddar like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm (Greensboro, VT), with a hoppy ale like Harpoon IPA (Boston)
3. Washed-rind cheese like Cato Corner Farm’s Hooligan (Colchester, CT) with a hearty ale like Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale (Portsmouth, NH)
4. Strong blues like Berkshire Cheese Makers’ Berkshire Blue (Great Barrington) with a stout like Berkshire Brewing Company Imperial Stout (South Deerfield)
Beers available at Marty’s Liquors, 675 Washington St., Newton, 617-332-1230; cheeses available at Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4750, formaggiokitchen.com.