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Three beer and cheese pairings that rock

wp_image_1_29_15Rules were made to be broken, right? There’s no hard and fast logic that says wine has a lock on pairings with cheese. In fact the malty-sweet, fruity, bitter, spicy, and sometimes sour flavors in craft beers from cheese-loving regions like France, Germany, Belgium and Holland, the U.K., and the U.S., pair beautifully with a variety of cheeses. Weekly Pint recently teamed up a delicious evening with maître fromager Max McCalman, Belgian beer importation pioneers Vanberg & Dewulf, and craft brewing powerhouse Firestone Walker of Paso Robles, California. We found McCalman, the easygoing and author of three excellent books on the subject, including Mastering Cheese, which has a full 16-pp chapter on pairing cheese with beer—an invaluable resource.

Where to start? “You’re looking for balance,” says McCalman. “In a beer-and-cheese lineup, as with a tasting of wine pairings,” he writes, “you’ll want to proceed from the lighter, milder lager, pilsner and pale ale styles to the deeper, richer, heavier, darker, more complex-flavored styles of brew.” As you progress up the intensity range in your beers (find our picks at Whole Foods), you’ll need to step it up in your cheese, too.

For three mind-expanding cheese-and-beer pairings, keep reading.

1. Fondue & Firestone Walker Double Jack IPA
Delicious cheese and conversation requires a big beer. Artisanal Premium Cheese’s Fondue du Jour is a mouth-watering mix of six alpine cheeses that you can mix at home in any saucepan with the white wine of your choice, serving two for dinner or six as an app. Firestone Walker’s Double Jack IPA makes a great pairing for fondue sessions, with buckets of grapefruity, resinous hop character and an ample, boozy kick (9.5%ABV).

2. Scharfe Maxx & Scaldis Prestige
Master cheesemakers in northern Switzerland add a touch of cream and then age this cow’s milk cheese in an herbal brine for six months, giving it a tangy, assertive, almost meaty flavor. Pair it with Brasserie Dubuisson’s Scaldis Prestige, a remarkable Belgian ale (13%ABV) with vanilla notes that’s also aged for 6 months — in oak barrels, giving it a touch of pleasant acidity that stands up to strong flavors. Our friends at RateBeer.com give this brew a perfect 100.

3. Berkshire Blue & Lambicx
Cheesemaker Ira Gramble of Great Barrington, MA crafts this American blue cheese inspired by Britain’s famous Stilton. Its strong, balanced earthy flavors are well matched by Lambicx, a 5.75% ABV blend of lambic beers from Belgium, which get its sourness from spontaneous wild yeasts and wood barrel aging of up to three years. Made of a secret blend of lambics hand-selected by Belgo-American beer pioneer Don Feinberg from three authentic Belgian Geuzestekkerij (blenders), it’s got mellow carbonation, pleasant barnyardy notes, and a lemony tartness that cleanses the palate well—making way for another memorable bite.

Know of another not-to-be-missed cheese and beer combo? Share it with us below.

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