Hard Cheeses (Firm or Crumbly) & Pilsner, Bock, Brown Ale, Imperial Stout
This broad category of cheeses ranges from very mild to sharp and pungent. Hard cheeses generally have a texture profile that ranges from elastic at room temperature, to hard cheeses that can be grated. These are cheeses which have been pressed to remove as much of the whey and moisture from the curds as possible to ensure a long keeping product. Cheeses may be matured from anything between 12 weeks in the case of mild Cheddar, up to 2 years or more in the case of vintage Cheddar, Parmesan or Manchego. Other British examples of firm hard cheese will include Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, Derby, Malvern, Worcester, Hereford. Continental varieties include Emmental and Gouda.
Crumbly cheeses are well known in the UK as young variants of Cheshire, Caerphilly, Lancashire and Wensleydale these cheeses are pressed to remove much of the moisture but because they are sold at a relatively young age – typically between 4 and 8 weeks of age – they retain a crumbly texture and a fresh flavour. Older more mature versions of these cheeses will tend to become firmer and may lose their crumbly texture and hence fall into the firm hard cheese category. They will also have a stronger flavour.
Because of their variety, hard cheeses are easily matched to an equally broad range of beer styles.
Blue Cheeses & IPA, Imperial IPA
The term “blue” is used to describe cheeses that have a distinctive blue/green veining, created when the penicillium roqueforti mould is added during the cheese making process and is exposed to the air. This mould provides a distinct flavour to the cheese, which ranges from fairly mild to assertive and pungent.
Blue cheeses are available in many styles. Blue Stilton is perhaps the best known blue cheese produced in the UK but there are now more than 70 different blue cheeses being produced within the UK. Other notable British examples are Shropshire Blue, Blue Cheshire, Blue Wensleydale, Dovedale, Buxton Blue, Blacksticks Blue and even Blue Leicester.
Imported examples include Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cambozola and Danish Blue., the most common being French (roquefort), Italian (gorgonzola) and Danish blue styles.
These stronger-flavoured cheeses are most successfully balanced with strong flavoured bolder beers like IPAs or imperial IPAs.
Blended Cheese & All Beers
Also known as fruit cheese, herb cheese, cheese with bits or “More Than Just Cheese” these are known as ‘modern’ varieties aren’t, however, it’s well known that the Romans routinely blended their cheese with fruit and herbs. High quality hard cheeses are chopped into small pieces and herbs or fruit added and the whole mixed together before being shaped into cylinders or blocks. Most popular examples in the UK are Wensleydale with Cranberry, White Stilton with Apricots, Cheddar with Caramelised Onion, Double Gloucester with Chives and Onion and Lancashire with Garlic.
Again with such a variety of styles and flavour fusions match strong with strong flavoured beers, balanced with the relative sweetness of the cheese in question.
Natural Rind Cheeses & Golden or Blonde Ales
Unlike soft-ripened cheeses which are sprayed with a solution to encourage mould growth to produce a rind, natural rind cheeses develop rinds naturally during aging.
This category of cheeses include Tomme de Savoie styles which pair well with golden ales or blondes. Traditional British-style ales work well with English-style natural rind cheeses, such as Lancashire and Stilton.
Washed-Rind Cheeses & Belgian-Style Ales
These cheeses are bathed in brine, wine, spirits or even beer which helps it to retain moisture and aids the growth of bacteria.
The cheese itself, while potentially pungent, is often creamy. Try Belgian-styles ales, like triples and golden strong ales with these varieties.