Matching cheese & beer

With interest reviving in food in the last twenty years, two particular industries in the UK have flourished: artisan cheese and craft ales.  And what better way to enjoy these two classic British foodstuffs, by sampling them together!

Cheese is often associated and matched to wine.  Yet beer’s naturally hoppiness and crispness can go extremely well with some cheeses, and who can doubt a classic Ploughman’s with a hunk of bread, chutney and a good pint of ale.

However a poor match can ruin both a good drink and a great cheese.  As with wine (and port), the difficulty with matching cheeses is that you get such a diverse flavour within cheese – from crumbly, fresh and lactic, to rich, spicy and heady.  One wine or beer simply won’t do for a diverse cheese board.  Mind you that is coming from a cheese purist!

To match cheese and beer, try and balance the type and strength of flavour. Fresh lemony cheeses are suited too crisp lighter ales or richer lager.  Richer washed rind (think Epoisses / St James) and Brie styles cheeses are suited to the more farmyardy beers.  Cheddar and your classic harder British varieties love most beers and can handle a bit more strength.  Strong Blue cheeses can stand up to a pint of Bitter or even a Porter or Stout.

Here are a few interesting matches to try: Alastair moorland tomme picture

  • Tunworth and Pale Ale. Spritzy and fresh goes great with Camembert.  Fruity, fresh pale beers.  Examples include Kirkstall Virtuous; Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin; Bowland Sky Dancer.  Also worth trying is a rich, hoppy lager: think Vedett or even Sam Smith’s Pure Brewed Larger.
  • Dale End Cheddar and IPA/Mild Bitters.  Cheddar takes most fuller-bodied beers, a nice citrusy IPA opens up the flavours of both.  Examples include Sam Smith’s IPA; Hetton Pale Ale and Copper Dragon’s Challenger IPA.
  • Stilton / Stichelton and Stout.  A surprising match: the salty blue and smooth with a sweet roasty Stout works extremely well! Try Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; Copper Dragon’s Black Gold and Bowland’s Headless Peg.
  • And for something different why not experiment with a fruit beer – raspberry, cherry, and strawberry – with a crumbly light Wensleydale or fresh, lactic Lancashire…  The flavour combinations are unusual – but exciting!

This article was written with thanks to advice from Leigh Lindley, Beer Writer at


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