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Hooked on Cheese: Summer Beer and Cheese Pairings

Hooked on Cheese: Summer Beer and Cheese Pairings


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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!

You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter and his website.​ Additional reporting by Madeleine James.


Classes

You’ll be a smarter cheese shopper after one of my popular Cheese O’Clock virtual classes. Join me there or inquire about a custom class. In normal times, I teach around the country, too, so please check my calendar.


Finding the Perfect Jerky for Your Pairings

With our wide variety of homestyle flavors to choose from, Crockett Creek Beef Jerky is here to help you elevate any night in with your friends. Hand crafted right here in Tennessee with real ingredients and gourmet spices and marinades, our organic, gluten-free beef, venison, buffalo, and elk jerky is guaranteed to add new levels of flavor and texture to any meal you make for your friends and family. Find your perfect jerky for all your wine, cheese, beer, or life pairings online today.


Beer Cheese

Last year Applebee’s came out with their Brew Pub Pretzels with Beer Cheese. I tried one bite and was immediately hooked. Honestly, my friends and I will order carside to go at midnight just so I can bring those delicious treats home with me. I knew I needed to figure out how to make my own before I drain my bank account (Ha! But seriously…) so, with Manda’s help, I finally did!

Inspired by Applebee's Brew Pub Pretzels with Beer Cheese, this creamy beer cheese is perfect for dipping soft pretzels, veggies or bread!

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup beer, Blue Moon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded*
  • 1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded*
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.

Add flour and whisk to combine, cooking about one minute until smooth.

Gradually add in beer and milk, whisking constantly.

Add garlic, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir frequently until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. The sauce should begin to coat the back of the spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Add cayenne pepper and salt & pepper to taste.

Serve immediately, while warm.

You can find the recipe for the soft pretzels here.

Please note that this recipe is inspired by Applebee's beer cheese and is not a copycat recipe - just something similar we love!

*Be sure to shred your own cheese and not buy the pre-shredded kind! The cheese sauce won't have the same consistency if you don't shred your own.

Be sure to follow along on Instagram (@themerrythought) & Facebook to keep up on the latest!


Hooked on Cheese: Summer Beer and Cheese Pairings - Recipes

Baked ricotta cheese dip with garlic and thyme is the perfect simple and quick appetizer recipe. It’s great served at a dinner party or a game day shindig!

Pairings for Baked Ricotta Cheese Dip with Garlic and Thyme

One thing I absolutely love about the beginning of fall, is the beginning of football season. I have definitely shared quite a few game day recipes on this blog, but this time I decided to keep it on the elegant side. This baked ricotta cheese dip is perfect for game day, but it’s all great served at a dinner party. However, I find that I enjoy it most for a quiet date night in. This baked ricotta cheese dip is a garlicky and creamy sensation. Below are just some of the amazing pairings I would pair with this dip: Beer

When it comes to cheese and beer pairings, you really can’t go wrong, but there are some rules to follow. Just as you would pair wine with cheese, you have to be careful. One can very easily overpower the other in a second. For lighter cheeses, I usually like to go with lighter brews. I love saisons and farmhouse ales with ricotta cheese. Saisons tend to get their flavor from the yeast used in the brewing process. This is much different than say a pale ale or an IPA, whose flavor comes from the hops. A saison has just enough oomph in flavor to pair well with this cheese dip, but not overpower it.

Sides and Dinner

Because I love this baked ricotta cheese dip most when it’s served for a quiet date night in, that’s how I’m going to pair it. I think this dip would be the perfect appetizer to serve with a dinner of elegant meat and potatoes, like this braised leg of lamb with chimichurri and these skillet potatoes with creamy pilsner mushroom sauce. Next time you are planning your date night in, add this dip to the menu!


Beer and Food Pairings

If someone ordered an Indian Pale Ale with their cheese, would that be so wrong? No. It’s all about personal preference after all. Wine always has its place beside any aged, dairy delicacy—or other less moldy edibles—but a perfect lager or ale can stand up to any red or white vino when pairing food and drink.

“Beer is a great match for food because of the complexity of its flavors, its ability to provide refreshment and to interact with many food flavors,” says Marc Stroobandt, master beer sommelier for the Food and Beer Consultancy, UK. “Even before the meal, beer already is doing its work for food pairing as the hops stimulate the appetite.”

When pairing beer and food, it all comes down to matching the food’s flavors to the flavors of the beers. We went directly to the experts to get their advice on mating the best brews with your favorite bites.

Beer and Sushi

What better way to wash down this tasty fare than with a bottle of Kirin Ichiban. Check out this video on how to make the perfect sushi to accompany this pure 100% malt beer.

Cheese, Sandwiches, Pizza
Wine and cheese is a universally-known pair, but what most people may not know is that beer is one of the best matches for cheese. “Wine may cover up some of the flavors in cheese while the carbonation in beer creates a lighter acidity and lifts the fats in the cheese off the palate,” says The Beer Sommelier, Matt Simpson. “Whether it’s a straight-up cheese platter, pizza, sandwich, goat cheese salad, almost any beer is a go when it comes to cheese.

Recommended: All beer (Note: for stronger cheeses like goat and blue, grab a darker lager or ale.) Try Hennepin Saison (Belgium)

Chicken, Seafood, Pasta
The one rule with dishes like chicken, fish, salads or pastas are that you don’t want to overpower them with a beer. Therefore, lighter is better. A light German lager or Belgian Saison with chicken or fish is perfect. (If creams or sauces are added you need a heavy, richer beer.) Pasta is slightly more versatile but still pairs well with similar brews like blonde ales and German or American wheat ales.

Recommended: Belgian Blonde ale German Hefeweizen American Hefeweizen or wheat beer (as long as it is not too hoppy). Try Duvel (Belgium), Widmer Hefeweizen (US), Blue Moon (US)

Frites and Fried Foods
Even if the Belgians make the best frites in the world and are the largest consumers per person, those salty potato sticks are still an American staple cuisine. In general, fries (or frites) are light in flavor profile, so opt for a brew that will help cleanse the palate. “In general ask for a beer to cleanse your palate without washing away all the salty flavors, cutting through and bringing out the taste of the food,” says Stroobandt, who prefers a nice Stella Artois with his frites. The same recommendation goes for most fried, salty dishes.

Recommended: Light German Lager, Marzen-style (more malt) Octoberfest brews Belgian Blonde ale or lager. Try Samuel Adams Octoberfest (US), Stella Artois (Belgium), Leffe Blond (Belgium)

Burgers/Steak/Roasted Meats
Steak and Cabernet are classic, but darker, heartier beers like brown ales or stouts can balance the bigger meats. It’s all about finding a beer that is equal to the meat. “The idea is to balance the sweet malt and bitter aromatic hops,” says Simpson. “Any big robust beef or meaty food should include a beer that is big and bold enough to stand up to roasted meat like a darker, fuller porter or stout.”

Recommended: Belgian-style lagers pale or amber ales with deeper, roasted flavors more toffee-like brown ales and stouts darker, spicier lagers like German Dunkels and Belgium Dubbels. Try Newcastle Brown Ale (UK), Guinness (Ireland), Maredsous 8 (Belgium)

Spicy
Buffalo wings, spicy Thai, Szechuan Chicken and Mexican dishes all go well with light lagers—basically anything with more hops, which help cut down the spices in the food. “Little goes better with spicier dishes than a light Mexican-style lager,” says Matt Simpson. “It’s almost like milk when it comes to spicy food. It doesn’t coat the tongue, but the spice in the hops cut through the spiciness in the chilies and peppers and allows the beer to shine through.”

Recommended: Lighter lagers Indian Pale Ales. Try Negro Modelo (Mexico), Corona (Mexico), Spaten-Fransikaner (Germany)

Dessert
The Chocolate notes in stouts always pair well with brownies or any rich dessert. Lighter, fruit-based lagers or ales can also provide a nice balance or contrast. Think raspberries and chocolate. “Beer and dessert is not the first choice for most, but a whole new world of flavors await you when you try fruitier beers with a wide variety of puddings, ice creams or sorbets,” says Stroobandt.

Recommended: Light, fruitier dessert beers stouts Indian Pale Ales. Try Lindeman’s Framboise Raspberry Lambic Beer (Belgium), Brooklyn Chocolate Stout (US), Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Rasputin (US)

When in Doubt . . . Go Regional
If chicken chimichanga or fajitas are on the menu, then opt for a Mexican brew. Leave it to the country of origin when pairing if the options are too overwhelming. “German foods like pretzels, brats, knockwurst, I like to pair with German beer,” says Simpson, who believes Americans and beer drinkers still need to educate themselves on the possibilities of pairing beer and food.

“It’s all about trial and error and finding that unique combination of food and beer,” says Stroobandt. “The wine industry is years ahead with informing and educating the consumer, so brewers have to step it up a gear and provide some info on how their beers can work with food.”

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Top pairings

We all know a beer goes down well with a ploughmans and that it&rsquos a great drink to wash down a barbecue but here are 10 more unusual pairings which should liven up your summer drinking.

Crab and witbier
My own favourite, I confess. Doesn&rsquot matter if the crab is simply dressed or gussied up Thai-style, it works brilliantly though I prefer the Belgian style to the more banana-y Bavarian one with seafood.

Ham and parsley paté with English bitter
Cold ham and English bitter is a classic but this gives the pairing a bit of a twist (and is a great way to use up some leftover ham into the bargain). You simply cut up about 140g of cooked ham (smoked is nice) and whizz it in a food processor until finely chopped. Add an equal amount of unsalted butter and a couple of tablespoons of water, whizz until smooth then season with 1 - 2 tsp of English or Dijon mustard and fold through some finely chopped parsley and chives.

Kebabs and lager
What else do you drink with a kebab? Make your own straight off the barbecue, stuffed into warm pitta bread with lettuce, onion, houmus and a good squeeze of lemon juice and accompany with a good pils or Kolsch.

Prawn, fennel and leek risotto with wheat beer
A summery seafod and herb (dill) risotto which we found went really well with Colomba, a light, aromatic Corsican wheat beer. Would also pair well with a witbier or bière blanche

Joloffe rice and IPA
Joloffe rice is a spicy West-African rice dish that&rsquos a bit like a paella and makes great outdoor eating. I&rsquove successfully drunk a light English bitter with it but would usually go for an IPA or an amber ale.

Beer-can chicken and amber lager
Yes, you may cook the chicken on a bog standard can of lager but the finished dish deserves something better! With its spicy dry rub and accompanying BBQ sauce or salsa you&rsquoll find it goes really well with a Viennese-style lager or amber ale.

Chicken Caesar salad with a blonde or golden ale
The creamy, tangy sauce makes this much-loved salad a great match with a golden ale or lager such as Duvel or Schiehallion.

Cheesecake and cherry (or raspberry) beer
A fantastic match so long as you top the cheesecake with similar berries to the ones in the beer. (The great thing about matching beer and food is that you can mirror the flavours in the dish. That doesn&rsquot work with wine where the food tends to strip similar flavours out of the wine)

Bakewell tart and raspberry beer
Similar thinking. You pick the fruit flavour - in this case raspberries - out with the beer. If you live in the states there&rsquos a wonderful one called Raspberry Tart from the New Glarus Brewing Co in Wisconsin but Lindemans Framboise will do nicely

Blueberry and peach beer jellies
A bit of a cheat as the beer is actually in the dish rather than paired with it but fruit beers make absolutely knock-out jellies that are perfect for summer desserts (find the recipe here.) Try two or three different kinds such as blueberry and peach beer, raspberry and cherry beer and mango and passionfruit beer - a real showstopper.

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RICH & BOLD PAIRINGS

BLOCKS MACARONI & CHEESE SLICES CRACKER CUTS CUBES PAIRING BOARDS Bars and Sticks Shredded Cheese

Bold Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar paired with sweet apricot preserves, tart dried cranberries, and bittersweet dark chocolate provides the perfect flavor balance of sweet, salty, tangy, and rich. These bold accompaniments are matched exquisitely with Cabernet Sauvignon.

The complexity of Cracker Barrel’s Aged Reserve Cheddar pairs perfectly with rich cured salami and whole grain mustard, while the sweetness of roasted red peppers puts everything in harmony. A glass of Riesling rounds out this combination.

The complexity of Cracker Barrel’s Aged Reserve Cheddar pairs perfectly with rich cured salami and whole grain mustard, while the sweetness of roasted red peppers puts everything in harmony. A glass of Riesling rounds out this combination.

Mixed olives, garlic toast and prosciutto provide an exquisite savory match with the bold, sharp flavors of Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve Cheddar, while cranberry preserves lend a touch of sweet and sour. Chardonnay offers another delicious layer of complexity.

Perfect for the holidays, this mix of fruit and nuts pairs perfectly with the robust flavor of Aged Reserve Cheddar. A drizzle of maple syrup and honey add a touch of sweetness, while chopped dates and cranberries round out the cheese board.

Perfect for the holidays, this mix of fruit and nuts pairs perfectly with the robust flavor of Aged Reserve Cheddar. A drizzle of maple syrup and honey add a touch of sweetness, while chopped dates and cranberries round out the cheese board.

The classic flavor combination of strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and basil is heightened by Cracker Barrel Vermont White Cheddar. White chocolate adds a touch of sweetness to complement the berries while black pepper crackers bring a hint of spice to perfect this flavor combination. Pinot Noir is an ideal complement.

Take the traditional pairing of cheddar cheese and apples to another level with the addition of walnuts and cinnamon sugar. Dark red fruit flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon provide another classic match.

Take the traditional pairing of cheddar cheese and apples to another level with the addition of walnuts and cinnamon sugar. Dark red fruit flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon provide another classic match.

Crunchy and sweet on the outside, smooth and delicious on the inside. Mix cream cheese and cheddar until blended, stir in cherries, and roll into a ball. Refrigerate at least two hours before rolling in nuts. Serve this crowd favorite with crackers.

Honey and pistachio highlight the buttery nuttiness of Cracker Barrel’s Sharp Cheddar, while pineapple provides a lively contrast that adds brightness to this unexpected combination. Chardonnay pairs perfectly with this mix of flavors.

Honey and pistachio highlight the buttery nuttiness of Cracker Barrel’s Sharp Cheddar, while pineapple provides a lively contrast that adds brightness to this unexpected combination. Chardonnay pairs perfectly with this mix of flavors.

Sweet and fragrant raisin bread heightens the complexity of Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar while strawberries add a burst of freshness. The crisp finish and floral notes of Pinot Grigio heighten this exquisite pairing.

Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar cuts through the luxurious sweet flavors of marcona almonds, roasted figs, fresh-cut apples, and golden honey with delicious results. Pinot Noir provides a perfect contrast to this pairing with its bright berry notes.

Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar cuts through the luxurious sweet flavors of marcona almonds, roasted figs, fresh-cut apples, and golden honey with delicious results. Pinot Noir provides a perfect contrast to this pairing with its bright berry notes.


Another Monday, another Sloppy Joe Recipe! If you want to see all the previous sloppy joes we’ve shared on the blog you can find them all here. We’ve been having such a good time with them (and I think I’m singlehandedly keeping my local baker busy baking brioche buns for me).

We were at Trader Joe’s a few months ago and saw they’d paired up their pub cheese with bacon in the cheese/meat aisle. I was holding a pound of ground beef in my hands when I saw it. This dish was such a natural fit I had a full on lightbulb moment. One quick text later inquiring if we had beer, I was ready to make these sloppy joes.

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In most of my sloppy joes recipes I try to hide vegetables in the recipe so I feel like a better parent (my working mom guilt is real). But these are geared to a more adult crowd so I skipped the veggies.

If you would like to add vegetables into the recipe I’d recommend:

  • green bell pepper, chopped finely
  • mushrooms, chopped finely
  • celery, chopped finely
  • carrot, chopped finely
  • canned diced tomatoes, water drained

Basically any vegetable that won’t add any additional sweetness that you can soften and brown in the bacon fat. I have used this recipe with mushrooms before and even carrots, both times were delicious.


Wine and Cheese Party Must-Haves

Aside of the wine, which I’ll get to in a minute, you will want to serve a few different types of cheese (even vegan cheeses) and some easy appetizers that pair well with wine.

Does it matter the season? Fall, Winter, Spring? Mmmm, if you’re a true foodie ( snob ) maybe, but for impromptu, ALL FOOD is welcome!

What foods go with wine?

To throw an impromptu party, you won’t want to spend time preparing food. Think simple foods (REAL FOODS) that don’t require any cooking or baking. I like to build a cheese board to serve everything from. You can even build on different cheese boards to go with different types of red wines, sparkling wines, and white wines!

Snacks and Apps that pair well with both a light RED WINE (like a fruity Pinot Noir) or a WHITE WINE like a caramel-y (that’s a word) Chardonnay!

  • sweet pickles such as cornichon
  • rice crackers and herbed gluten free crackers (these paleo crackers are my favorite).
  • walnuts, almonds,and candied nuts
  • fresh fruit like grapes, pomegranate, and apple slices
  • dried figs and apricots
  • marinated olives
  • dark chocolate and berries (all kinds)
  • honey sweetened jams and pepper jelly and other dipping sauces like mustards or red pepper
  • Artisan meats (I prefer the less processed uncured meats like Creminelli). Plus they have snack packs!
  • simple sweets – no bake cake bites,lemon macadamia nut cookies or any gluten free (healthier) store bought sweets. (My weakness –> these Enjoy Life Foods vanilla cookies)
  • Herbs and pretty flowers, just for kicks!

And, of course, a variety of cheeses that go with wine. I should also note, that light berry fragrant Rosé and Sparkling White wine are just about good with ALL THE THINGS. In my my humble opinion. Either way, they are ARE A MUST at wine and cheese parties. Why? Because these lightly sweet wines are the perfect “intro” wine to those who may not be frequent wine connoisseurs. Aka wine newbies. I say that with no snobby wine face. Mmm k?

Cheeses that go with wine:

Salty, hard cheeses pair well with wine, and so do soft cheeses. Again, an improptu wine and cheese party should be easy to prepare, so don’t feel like you need to serve all of these.

  • Gouda – the perfect pairing with Cabernet
  • Aged cheddar – lovely with Malbec
  • Manchego – try this one with a sparkly wine. Also, this is a sheep milk based cheese( great for those sensitive to cow’s milk cheeses).
  • Ricotta – goes well with Riesling
  • Parmesan – delicious with a bubbly Prosecco
  • Gruyere – a love fest with Chardonnay
  • Brie – goes well with many wines, but my favorite is Merlot
  • Bleu cheese – pairs well with a Pinot Noir or a sweet Port
  • Feta – a bright red or dry Rose, slightly sweet wine is perfect with salty feta

If you’re looking for beautiful round block cheeses to fancy it up, I highly recommend Emmi Cheese!

VEGAN or DAIRY FREE OPTIONS– Can we Say YAY for real food based vegan cheese?! Yes we can! These are my favorite vegan cheese to serve on cheese boards.

    – Cream cheese or ricotta
  • Or if you’re looking for a more cheddar like Vegan/Paleo cheese dip, try my vegan queso. You can definitely fancy it up to make it wine and cheese party worthy. (like replace the salsa with red pepper jelly).

Tip for BUILDING A CHARCUTERIE or CHEESE BOARD – Focus on colors and combos. Ex: Orange and red (meats and fruit and crackers). Greens and yellows (pickles, olives, dips, nuts.). Throw it all together now and garnish with a herbs and flowers.

Need to gave this all organized for you?! I gotcha covered. Printable FESTIVE CHEESE BOARD RECIPE and INGREDIENTS BELOW! Yeaaas!


Baked Président Brie Bread Bowl With Cranberries & Pecans

Few things are more comforting than gathering around a warm holiday spread during the cold winter months. If you’re looking for something more filling to indulge in—perhaps during a smaller, more intimate dinner party—you’ll want to dip into this Baked Président Brie Bread Bowl With Cranberries & Pecans…and then dip into it again. Since you can eat the rind on Brie , you won’t spend a ton of time prepping before it’s ready to serve.

If you make baked Brie over the holidays, take a photo of your creation and tag @presidentcheese.

Looking for more inspiration? Here are a few additional baked Brie and holiday-inspired recipes to enjoy this season.

About Charmer Kitchen:

Esra Mese is an Architect and mother to two beautiful kids. When she’s off the clock, she enjoys spending her time cooking and baking. Lately, she has discovered a passion for food photography and food styling which has led to the launch of Charmer Kitchen. She loves challenging herself by trying different recipes and learning new things.


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