We've Got You On The Best Beer To Pair With Mac And Cheese

Mac and cheese isn't just an old-school comfort food — and it's not just a side. Whether your family favorite is a spicy three-cheese mac and cheese or a French-style mac and cheese that's different from all the rest (thanks to the addition of crème fraîche or béchamel sauce), there's just something irresistible about it. Want to see the kids' faces light up with delight? Tell them that mac and cheese is for dinner. Want to get the same reaction from the adults in the house? Tell them you're serving mac and cheese with a perfectly paired pint of beer on the side.

To get an expert opinion on what type of beer shines alongside this hearty classic, we reached out to Zingerman's Roadhouse bar manager and sommelier Felipe Diaz. He was happy to help and gave us a delicious recommendation.

"Mac and cheese is a rich dish, and if made with aged cheeses like the ones I enjoy the most, it brings a lot of deep, savory notes. For me, that means a beer with a touch of sweetness and a good, malty backbone," Diaz says. "I'd go with a German-style altbier, like Mothfire Brewing's Atlas." If you're wondering what the characteristics of an altbier are and why it works with cheese, we've got you covered.

Altbier is a German favorite that dates to the Middle Ages

"Altbier" translates to "old beer," and that's actually a reference to the brewing method. It was first developed in Dusseldorf and the surrounding areas, and during the Middle Ages, these strong, hop-heavy beers were the backbone of the area's economic livelihood. Fun fact: Both the bakers' and brewers' guilds in Dusseldorf were founded around the altbier industry. 

Altbiers are made in a rather non-traditional way, with a fermentation process that takes place at temperatures that are colder — between 55 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit — than most types of beer but warmer than the temperatures that lager ferments at. It's fitting, then, that German altbiers tend to be middle-of-the-road when it comes to bitterness, alcohol content, and color. They're mostly red beers that have a startling clarity, and their mild hoppiness means that they can be perfect for someone who's not a fan of IPAs. 

And they pair pretty ideally with cheese. Most German altbiers tend to have rich, malty caramel flavors that pair nicely with mac and cheese and charcuterie plates, too. If you're serving mac and cheese as a side, consider adding traditional German sausages like bratwurst or proteins like chicken or pork. Best of all, this is a great beer to serve either at a summertime barbecue or on a cold winter night.