Craft Beer + Cheddar Pairing Tips
I’m seeing lots of photos out there that involve cold and snow. I’ll be honest: it is bright and sunny with lots of melting happening here in my corner of Colorado, but I wouldn’t mind if more snow decided to dump on us. There is something about this time of year that makes me want the snow rather than the dull brown grass and leafless treas. I know. Weirdo. If you are buried in snow, I have the PERFECT way to make things feel a little less dreary and it involves CHEESE and BEER.
Today is the first ever National Cheddar Day. AND Tillamook is celebrating their 110th birthday! If you’ve been following me here or on social media for any length of time, you know how much I love Tillamook as a brand and their always-delicious products. Cheese lovers, unite! These are my people and I’m grateful (see what I did there) for every opportunity I get to partner with them and spread the word about their thoughtfully made and high quality dairy products. To celebrate Tillamook and National Cheddar Day, I wanted to share some tips about how to pair Beer + Cheddar!
A few notes on what I’m about to share: I wanted to keep this as simple and fuss-free as possible. I know pairing foods with beverages can be overwhelming and there is a lot to consider, but it doesn’t have to be complicated! Honestly, the most important thing to remember is that if you like it, it is a good pairing! Obviously, having some direction to get you closer to a great combo is helpful, so that’s what I’m going to do for you today. OK, lets do this!
Beer + Cheddar Pairing Tips
Types of cheddar
It is always important to be well-versed in the food you are working with. Cheddar seems very straight forward, but different types of cheddar offer vastly different flavors and therefore different pairings are necessary. In other words, not ALL cheddar pairs well with a Belgian Ale.
Mild/Medium Cheddar (aged 60 days), as the name suggests, has a very “chill” flavor. It is creamy and subtle and works magic in a grilled cheese. On its own, this cheddar’s flavor pairs well alongside apple slices for a classically delicious texture and flavor combo.
Sharp Cheddar has been aged longer (9 months) than mild/medium cheddar and therefore has a more intense flavor. It has a sweet, nutty taste that works well with (obviously) nuts. My favorites are toasted walnuts, pecans, or pistachios. The intensity of the sharp cheddar stands up to the nuts themselves, and the nuts bring out the natural flavors in the cheese. Win win!
Beers to consider
Now that we have covered the basics of cheddar, lets move on to beer selections. Pairing a beer with cheese, or any food for that matter, requires some research. “Research” being tasting the beer alongside the cheese. My favorite way to do this is to taste the cheese, write down tasting notes, and then search for beers with similar or complimentary tasting notes. Then, I like to narrow down my selection to 3 or 4 beers. If I’m having guests over, this allows for some personal preferences to come into play for your friends.
My favorite beers to have on hand for a beer + cheddar pairing are a Saison, a Belgian Wheat, and a Stout. With SO MANY local craft breweries around the country, there is no reason why you can’t look to your local brewers here. If you are a little trigger shy, reach out to the master brewer and ask some questions about the beers and what they think will work best with the cheddar. Sometimes just talking about it with someone knowledgable can help you make you choices more confidently!
Here are the local Colorado beers I like with Tillamook’s Cheddar: Denver Beer Co Japanese Off (Saison) with mild/medium cheddar, Great Divide’s Orabelle is another favorite with sharp or white cheddar, and (ok, stick with me here) I really love Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout as an all around good pair for cheddar. It seems counterintuitive, but the chocolatey undertones work really well with the cheese. TRUST.
When building a perfect cheese board, especially with the intent of pairing the food with beer, you want to choose additions to the cheese that are both beautiful and complementary. For this board, I chose to add some briny green olives, crunchy pistachios, and crisp apples. I didn’t go overboard because I really wanted the cheese to be the star. To give the board some variety, I turned the cheese into some tasty treats like white cheddar frico and cheesy pancakes. (recipes for these at the end of this post)
Use and understand different types of cheddar
Narrow down your beer choices by tasting them yourself and/or chatting with local brewers
Don’t let the beer overpower the cheese! The cheese is the star and the beer should work with/enhance the cheddar
Mix up the way you present the cheese (frico, pancakes, crackers, etc)
Choose accompaniments that pair well with the cheese and beer. Keep it simple!
Relax! This isn’t a contest for best pairing. Instead, look at it as an experience to help you be more mindful when you enjoy your cheese. And beer. :)
White Cheddar Frico
2 cups Sharp Tillamook White Cheddar Farmstyle Thick Cut Shredded Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop about a tablespoon of the cheese shreds (this is difficult to actually measure, so eyeball it) and place each pile about 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. You should have around 6 piles on each baking sheet.
Bake the cheese for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cheese are golden and it is completely melted in the center. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then carefully remove with a large spatula. Transfer to a cooling rack until ready to use.
*Notes: These are best the day they are made. If you want to add a little variety, feel free to add other types of shredded cheese and stir them in! Or, add some dried or fresh herbs for some fun flavor combos.
These white cheddar pancakes are an excellent recipe to use here, but if you’d rather have something closer to a regular flour pancake, here’s the recipe you want:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Tillamook Medium Cheddar, shredded
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup milk
Whisk the dry ingredients together, except the cheese, in a medium bowl. Toss the cheese in with the flour mixture until coated.
Add the milk, egg, and butter to the bowl with stir until just combined.
Working with 1/4 cup scoops of batter, cook the pancakes over medium heat about 3-4 minutes per side. The key is watching for the edges to get slightly dry and small bubbles to rise to the surface before flipping.
Serve the pancakes room temp on your cheese board!