This is part one of a two-part story on cheese expert Raymond Hook’s advice for choosing the best cheeses and accompanying beers for the summertime. Stay tuned next week for his second round of seasonal recommendations.
As far as pairings go, there’s nothing more classic than wine and cheese (except maybe peanut butter and jelly). When appropriately matched, a good wine can bring out the complex flavors of a high-quality cheese — and vice versa — in an indescribably delectable way. However, during the sweltering summer months I often turn to a less frequent but equally excellent match for cheese: beer.
For starters, who doesn’t prefer a frosty beer to a room-temperature glass of wine when lounging outside on the patio on a scorching day? And as far as cheese is concerned, there are lighter options that can suit any day or any weather.
But these days, there are so many brands of beer — pale ales, lagers, pilsners, you name it — so how do you know which to choose? And how do you know which will go well with your accompaniments? Of course, we all have our favorites, but when you’re in the beer aisle you’ve got to ask yourself what will fly at a picnic or by the pool. First off, summer beers should ideally have a low alcohol content, because in hot weather we tend to get thirsty and drink much faster than in the colder months. And then there’s the question of heaviness: We all love Guinness, but do you really want to be tossing back pints on a 90-degree day?
Here are three of my ultimate beer-and-cheese recommendations, with more to follow in my Hooked on Cheese column soon. They’re just the thing to tide over cheese lovers during the hot months ahead.
Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tomme
Both hand-crafted in Georgia, this pairing is a no-brainer. The tomme is a firm, dense cow’s milk cheese in the style of Pyrenees tomme-style cheeses, while the beer is a twist on an IPA, brewed with rye and five different varieties of hops. The hoppy beer contrasts the buttery cheese perfectly.
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and The Fine Cheese Co.’s Wyfe of Bath
This IPA has moderate hop flavor with hints of citrus, and this organic British cow’s milk cheese is packed with wonderful pasture flavors and a nice acidity. The light, grassy flavor of the cheese works to accentuate the citrus notes of the beer.
Lagunitas Pils and Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue
Lagunitas Pils is a Czech-style pilsner that is light, acidic, and has a clean finish. Oregon blue is a mild, cave-aged raw-milk blue that gives the Pils a real punch. This is a true West Coast love match.
Stay tuned for yet another round of summer pairings. You can look forward to some surprising ideas that may forever change the way you choose your beer!