As disappointed Patriots fans, we're definitely going to need some quality beer and snacks to get through the Super Bowl this year. While chicken wings, pizza, or chips and dip will be served at most houses come kickoff, I'm opting for what I consider to be the ultimate Super Bowl snack: beer and cheese.
Of course, many of us have been taught that it's wine and cheese that go together best. Don't believe it. Truth be told, wine and cheese is a very unnatural marriage. The characteristics of each are such that rather than complement, you are reduced to creating pairings that contrast flavors. This is especially true for dry and red wines.
If you ask a cheese expert, they will grant that beer is a better match for several simple reasons. Historically, both beer and cheese were made on the farm, and even today the two craft industries bear a striking resemblance. Grain is the core ingredient in beer (malted barley) and cheese (via the cow's diet). And the two share many of the same characteristics. Think about some of the words used to describe both beer and cheese: earthy, nutty, grassy, toasty, musty, floral, and rich.
Thanks to this common ground, you have the ability to seek either contrasting or complementing pairings for beer and cheese. There are so many different pairings that can work, it seems at times as if you can't go wrong (though particularly intense beers and cheeses can clash). These are the general rules that I use:
• Fresh cheeses (like Mozzarella) should be paired with lighter beers (Pilsner, for example).
• Nutty and buttery cheeses (Gouda, Brie) should be paired with malty beers (Amber).
• Sharp cheeses (Cheddar) should be paired with bitter beers (IPA).
• Blue, pungent cheeses (Stilton, Gorgonzola) should be paired with strong, sweet beers (Barleywine).
Again, these are meant as suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. Given that this snack is going to be enjoyed alongside the Super Bowl, we'll pair our cheese with more sessionable beers. (Warning: while these beers aren't sessionable by the strict definition of containing no more than 5% Alcohol By Volume [ABV], they're all very easy drinking.) Here are some ideas:
FULL SAIL PALE ALE and Extra Sharp Cheddar: The sharpness of the Cheddar allows it to stand up well to the assertive, even brash bitterness of this hoppy Pale Ale. Full Sail fits especially well here as a flavorful, yet drinkable new arrival from the state of Oregon. As the one type of cheese I always have in the house, I've found that Sharp Cheddar tastes great with almost any kind of beer.
SOUTHAMPTON PUBLICK HOUSE DOUBLE WHITE and Dill Havarti: This is one of my favorite semi-soft cheeses for its rich, buttery flavor. The dill herbs have a tendency to upstage most beers, which is why I chose to pair it with this well-spiced, lemony Witbier. This is one of those beers that drink so smoothly you have to be careful or the 6.7% ABV can sneak up on you.