More known for how wonderful it pairs with wine, cheese, to our surprise, pairs incredibly well, if not better, with beer! Whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest, marking the return of the football season or just craving that creamy or hard texture with a nice crafty cold one, we have you covered from New York City to Portland, OR. Here are our top 10 picks for the best cheese and beer pairings in America.
Arrowine & Cheese Shop has an extensive beer and cheese selection, with beer tastings almost every Saturday. Ask to speak with its "cheesemonger," Perry Soulos, or beer manager, Nick Anderson; both recommend the Challerhocker paired with the locally brewed Oktoberfest by Port City Brewing Co. "Oktoberfest is nutty with sweet caramel notes," Anderson says. "Challerhocker ('sitting in the cellar') is washed with brine and spices and aged between 10 and 12 months. It's slightly sweeter and nuttier than more commonly found, semi-hard Swiss cheeses."
The Avenue Pub is arguably one of the best beer bars in the country, and it also carries cheese plates curated by one of the top cheese shops in the country, St. James Cheese Co. A must-try is the Chiriboga blue, a mild German blue that’s very creamy, "almost like if cream cheese were a blue," says Justin Trosclair, general manager of St. James Cheese Co. Other beauties include Adelegger, a 17-month-old cheese with concentrated flavor. "Think Gruyère style but from Germany rather than Switzerland," Trosclair says. The Avenue Pub’s cheese plate was designed to go with its unpasteurized, unfiltered Bavarian lagers.
Righteous Cheese is a great spot to grab a beer or glass of wine and watch the comings and goings of this small shop. Its rotating beer menu is curated by its cheesemongers, who pair their cheese selections perfectly with what’s on tap. Try the locally brewed Stillwater Stateside Saison, along with Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill. “Green Hill’s double-cream (cow’s milk) gives it a super-luscious and silky texture,” says Carolyn Stromberg, owner/founder of Righteous Cheese. "We also recommend the Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier, a black lager craft beer (from North Carolina), with Abbaye de Belloc, a French sheep’s-milk cheese. This is a slightly richer pairing, perfect for a crisp fall day," she says.
Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar
Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar has an extensive selection of local and international cheeses (cow, goat, sheep and raw/unpasteurized), with a great option for à la carte cheese and charcuterie ranging from $4 to $10. A selection of the house beer called Green Bird, made by 2nd Shift Brewing, is perfectly paired with a hard cheese such as Bridge’s Pecorino Romano or Spanish Idiazabal — or go French with the Comté. Bridge has more than 200 beers, with 55 on tap.
Bridge Tap House and wine Bar
Mission Cheese offers regional cheese flights and local draft beer. Owner Oliver Dameron suggests the can’t-miss, "off-the-hook deliciousness" of pairing the Devotion, a Belgian blonde ale from the Lost Abbey brewery, with Rupert, an aged, Alpine-style, cow's-milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT.
When you find yourself in San Francisco, stop by The Cheese School. It’s the perfect place for learning about different styles of beer and cheese while also gaining knowledge about pairing.
Astoria's Bier and Cheese
Besides its creative grilled-cheese sandwiches, such as the Trio with fresh mozzarella, "stinky" raclette and sharp cheddar (offered at the Broadway location), and its extensive list of cheese and charcuterie plates (there’s a bacon plate with 3 types at the Broadway location), Astoria Bier and Cheese retail shop and restaurant also has a beer to pair with every cheese. Managing partner Rick White highly recommends pairing ACE Pineapple Cider with Saint Agur blue cheese. The combination "was fantastic," he says. "Blue cheese pairs well with stouts (dark beers) and ciders. Cider and cheese pairings go back centuries." Astoria's regularly offers 4 beers and 4 cheeses on its menu. However, the pairings switch out every few days, so check often for one of your choosing.
Not only is Sweet Grass Dairy an award-winning farmstead cheese-maker, but it also has a lovely cheese shop and restaurant, with a rotating menu of craft beer and artisanal American cheeses, including its own. With so many great choices, we had to ask the expert. 'Our Bell’s Two Hearted IPA (craft beer) and Heat cheese (pepper jack) loaded with chilis, chipotle and paprika, all made from cow’s milk," are a must, says manager Morgan Murphy.
Formaggio Kitchen is a local cheese shop with a nationally renowned cheese program. It also has a fantastic beer selection. Ross Wrangham, Formaggio’s domestic cheese and beer buyer, recommends Syossett (sigh-aw-set) from Meadowood Farms in Cazenovia, NY, a luscious, washed-rind, cow’s-milk cheese that pairs beautifully with Berkshire Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest lager — a Märzen-style brew aged for several months before release.
Amazing pickle and cheese plates go with an extensive selection of Dogfish Head beers on tap at Pickle Shack. Try the Vulto Creamery Miranda, an absinthe-washed, raw cow’s-milk cheese from Walton, NY — a favorite of ours and manager Neal Harden!
Cheese Bar offers local beer and an extensive cheese selection. In fact, owner Steve Jones won the second annual Cheesemonger Invitational in 2011. What’s the cheesemonger recommend? "Widmer Brothers’ Okto with Willamette Valley Cheese Co.'s Boerenkaas is amazing," he says. "The combination of the rich, nutty cheese with the sweet caramel notes of the beer made me want to do the Chicken Dance!"
Emily Acosta, Contributor
Eataly New York's own Emily Acosta is the first woman and first New Yorker to win the title of Master Cheesemonger at the 2014 Cheesemonger Invitational in Long Island City. A graduate of NYU Stern School of Business, Emily also holds a Master's Degree in Food Studies from NYU.