Summer is fast approaching Switzerland, with inevitable heat waves to follow. Soon there will be a need for refreshing, thirst-quenching beverages to serve with light dishes, cheese, and aperitif. Selecting beer is undoubtedly the natural choice. But which beer to choose for which cheese?
Gruyere, Emmental, Appenzeller, Tête de Moine are excellent examples of cheeses that pair well with beer. Happily, Switzerland has an abundance of specialty shops selling a wide variety of fine Swiss, Italian, and French cheeses.
There is a reason Benedictine monks have enjoyed their handmade cheeses with their craft beer for centuries. Beer and cheese both use fermentation, making them a logical complementary pairing. The natural acidity and alcohol of beer will mildly clean the palate and works well to enhance the cheese’s flavor. The effervescence brings a freshness that extends the taste of cheese.
Weizen Beer: Ideal for the summertime because they are low in alcohol and have high intensity. These beers pair well with burrata, an Italian cheese with a creamy heart, eaten alone or with olive oil, often surrounded by fresh-cut tomatoes. Summer salads with feta cheese are also perfect with Weizen beers.
Pilsner/Blonde Beer: Easy to drink and ideal for summer. Craft Pilsner is a superior choice compared to the many commercial brands available, which tend to have a very neutral taste. Craft Pilsner is pleasantly refreshing and characterized by malt and hops, inspired by the Czech tradition. These beers pair well with soft and fresh cheese, such as mozzarella di bufala, or lightly ripened cheeses like the French chèvres.
Amber Ale: Characterized by a malty heart, it pairs well with the sweet and nutty notes of young Gruyere <8 months, young Gouda, and mild cheddars. However, the tangier version of a Cheddar could magnify the Amber Ales sweetness; therefore, it is better to choose an Ale that is not too sweet.
Belgian Trappist Beer: Brewed by Benedictine monks and having very high alcohol content, sometimes reaching 10%, match well with aged Gruyere of 12-18 months. Mature Gruyere’s sweet finish, hazelnut, and brown butter aromas complement the Trappist beer’s complexity. Trappist beers also harmonize well with mature Dutch Gouda which has intense butterscotch, toffee, and whisky aroma.
Stout Beer: These same cheeses pair well with Stout beers because the malt character complements the nutty and brown butter aroma of the aged Gruyere, Gouda, or mature Cheddar. Stout beers are a vast category. Some can have a very high alcohol content (imperial stout) or be somewhat sweet. Although these beers might not be ideal for hot summer days, they can still be enjoyed with more robust, intense cheeses on cool evenings.
Sour Beer: Cheese and Sour beers are a unique topic. Belgian Lambics and Gueuze beers are very acidic and highly carbonated, making them perfect for triple cream cheeses or soft, creamy Italian Crescenza. These beers are extreme, making them difficult to be appreciated alone.
Fermento Beer: Fermento Amber ale, thanks to the extraordinary hop aroma, mild sweetness, and well-balanced malty taste, pairs perfectly with Swiss hard cheese, e.g., Gruyere and Bergkäse. Fermento Golden Breeze, a crafted and aromatic Pilsner beer, pairs with goat cheese and Buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) in its classic Caprese preparation with tomato, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Wherever your summer adventure may take you, be sure to enjoy culinary specialties and experience pairing options with local craft-made beers.
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