Everyone knows wine and cheese is a match made in heaven, but have you considered switching things up and hosting a beer and cheese party instead? As craft beer continues to make its grand entrance into society, the diversity of beer is growing fast; yet many people haven't explored styles beyond their safe canned favorites. Challenge your friends to try new beers and pull out the flavors inside with an equally diverse selection of cheese.
To make the most of a beer & cheese party, ask guests to each bring a 6-pack of beer and a cheese they haven't tried before. You'll want to have plenty of glasses on hand and a pitcher of water for rinsing. To cleanse the palate between pours and bites, provide guests with crackers. The recipe for homemade wheat crackers below is simple and adds a touch of gourmet to the menu.
Beer & Cheese Party Supplies
- At least three varieties of beer and cheese
- A pitcher of water
- Crackers for munching
- A small glass for each of your guests (something they can get their nose into!)
- A pen and paper for each guest
- A cutting board and knife for the cheeses
- Appetizer plates or napkins for crumbs
Choose beers that vary in style and flavor. These three represent a nice variety.
- Nutty amber ale, such as Yazoo Brewing Dos Perros
- Fruity IPA, such as Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA
- Smoky brown ale, such as Alaskan Smoked Porter
These Wisconsin cheeses represent the classic styles and recent introductions.
- Aged Cheddar, such as Eight Year Sharp Cheddar - Very tangy and salty. Almost crunchy and crystallized with a wonderful mouth feel. Background notes of fruit like a cranberry or raspberry without the sweetness.
- Blue Cheese, such as Tilston Point– Very nutty with flavors of walnuts and a buttery sweetness. Wonderful grainy texture that melts in your mouth.
- Cheddar Blue, such as Red Rock – Cheddar Blue blend with a gorgeous marbled rind. The cheese is smooth with a "mac-n-cheese" Cheddar taste but also a nutty, sweet and slightly spicy quality. Very complex.
Begin by having guests cleanse their palates and then taste the beers. Aim to keep the beers in order from lightest to strongest in alcohol and color. Encourage everyone to take notes in silence and then end each pour with a group recap of the color, aroma and flavor of each beer. Follow the same tasting process for the cheese. Once everyone has sampled each beer and cheese, begin tasting them together and make pairing notes. Ask everyone to share their favorite pairing.
Typically, pairings work in two ways – complement or contrast. Strong cheese tends to complement strong beers. But a strong, salty cheese can also contrast well with a milder beer with a lower alcohol content. The most successful pairings create a new, third flavor that brings out the best in both the beer and the cheese. There are no wrong answers – experiment and have fun!
Recipes, photos and tips by Kath Younger, RD, www.Katheats.com.