The Land of Beer: Beer and cheese, the perfect combination

Summary

Flanders is home to the best beer in the world, and our new guide is here to prove it. This week we learn about how best to savour your favourite brews

Match made in heaven

Think of a cheese platter, and you automatically pair it in your head with a glass of wine. That may be the traditional pairing, thanks to the influence of French cuisine and table habits, but in fact you’d be much better off with a glass of beer.

Here’s why: carbonation. Cheese is made from fat, and eating fat leaves a deposit on the inside of your mouth, particularly the tongue where the taste-buds reside. That film then forms a barrier between your taste-buds and what you’re eating and drinking.

Wine is acidic, which makes it pair nicely with cheese, but beer has something better: bubbles. And just as fizzy water seems to quench the thirst more than flat water, so does beer a better job of clearing the fatty film from the tongue between each bite of cheese.

The variety of beers on offer makes it easy to pair any kind of cheese. It’s no surprise, then, that master cheesemongers, like Schockaert in Mechelen or Van Tricht in Antwerp, have now turned cheese-and-beer into another aspect of their expertise. They not only offer advice to customers on what to pair with what, they also offer pairing workshops.

Beer and cheese: Pairing how-to

First, build your tasting up from light to strong, so that the previous cheese doesn’t overwhelm the next one. Similarly, match the intensity of beer and cheese, so that neither of the two cloaks the flavour of the other.

 A perfect match will offer new flavour profiles, with the combination being more than the sum of its parts. Be careful to limit the number of cheese-beer combinations so that your tasters’ palates don’t become exhausted. 

Kaasterkaas & Vedett IPA
Kaasterkaas, an unpasteurised, semi-hard cheese made in Roeselare, West Flanders, pairs well with a Vedett IPA from Duvel-Moortgat, floral and fruity to balance the saltiness of the cheese. 

Achel & Christmas beer
Achel cheese from the Catharinadal farm in Limburg, a soft and subtle blue cheese, with a quiet intensity, goes well with something deep and strong, like a Christmas beer. Try the one brewed by ’t Gaverhopke. 

Charmois & Westmalle
Sophie Schockaert, who runs a famous cheese shop of the same name in Mechelen, sources several of her cheeses from the village of Méan in Namur province, including the Charmois, a semi-soft cheese with an acid kick and buttermilk after-taste. It goes well, she says, with a Belgian tripel, like Westmalle. 

Abbey cheese & abbey beers
Many abbey and Trappist beers have their own dedicated cheeses – names like Affligem, Averbode, Maredsous and Westmalle. While not always made by monks, they’re designed to go well with the corresponding abbey beers.

Free e-book

Everyone knows you get the best beer in the world right here in Flanders, but it takes an expert to know which glass to serve it in, how to pair it with cheese and which brewer makes which brew. Download our new guide on beer for free!

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