Great Beer and Cheese Pairings

What happens when stout meets cheddar? Check out these tasty pairings of artisanal cheeses and craft beers.

We all know that beer is a great accompaniment to classic North American foods like pizza and burgers, but it even does a fantastic job of pairing with cheese, usually thought of as wine-only territory.

Across Canada, restaurants and local cheese shops are doing their part to spur this new food trend—and why not? The craft beer and artisanal cheese industries bear a certain resemblance, with both brewers and cheesemakers using old-world techniques and high-quality, natural ingredients to create new and inspired, locally produced products for consumers to enjoy. Also, the bitter and sweet characteristics, along with the fizzy carbonation, that epitomize beer, all seem to harmonize beautifully with the salty, savoury and rich notes found in cheese.  

So the next time you reach for a piece of Canadian artisanal cheese, bypass that glass of vino and instead reach for a stout or lager from a local brewery. Here are a few delicious Canadian beer and cheese pairings that are well worth the try. Many were recommended by Sam Corbeil, brewmaster at Toronto’s Leslieville Cheese Market and Randy Dong from Finica Foods, an importer and distributor of specialty cheeses.

1. Blanche de Chambly and Mont St. Benoit

Blanche de Chambly is a Quebec beer created using a blend of unmalted Quebec wheat and pale barley malt. Spices and natural aromatic ingredients, along with a light hopping, are added to create a lightly fruity beer with a hint of citrus. Only partly filtered to retain the full benefits of its natural ingredients, it has a cloudy appearance reminiscent of many Old World beers.

Blanche de Chambly is a perfect companion for another product of la belle province, Mont St. Benoit. It’s a Swiss-style semi-soft cheese that’s rindless, smooth and made from pasteurized milk. Mild and supple, it has aromas of hazelnuts and butter, which pair well with Blanche de Chambly’s subtle light, crisp taste.

The Beer: Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue Brewery, Chambly, Que.

The Cheese: Mont St. Benoit, Fromagerie de l'Abbaye Saint-Benoît, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Que.

2. Mill Street Pilsner and Black River 4-Year Old Cheddar

Mill Street Pilsner is an Ontario-crafted beer, which is deep amber in colour and very clear. It has a gentle floral aroma and is slightly sweet, with a hint of malty, toasted grain flavour. It is characterized as a well-balanced and easy drinking beer.

Mill Street Pilsner pairs beautifully with Black River 4-Year Old Cheddar, also made in Ontario. It has a strong flavour and a dry crumbly texture, which matches wonderfully with the dry bitterness of the pilsner. The carbonation of the beer cleanses the palate by lifting the soft cheese off your tongue.

The Beer: Mill Street Pilsner, Mill Street Brew Pub, Toronto, Ont.

The Cheese: Black River 4-Year Old Cheddar, Black River Cheese Company, Milford, Ont.

3. Wellington Special Pale Ale and Thunder Oak Gouda

Wellington Special Pale Ale is a clear, copper-coloured ale brewed by Wellington Brewery in Guelph, Ont. Created to mimic classic English pale ale’s, it is characterized by a nutty malt aroma and a full malty flavour.

Wellington S.P.A. pairs wonderfully with Thunder Oak Gouda, a cheese from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm in Thunder Bay, Ont. Thunder Oak Gouda is an appealing and complex cheese, which has a very rich texture. Younger varieties can be fruity, tangy and smooth while older cheeses can be spicy with toasted caramel qualities. With its gentle nuttiness and light flavour, this cheese pairs beautifully with the full malt body of Wellington S.P.A.

The Beer: Wellington Special Pale Ale, Wellington Brewery, Guelph, Ont.

The Cheese: Thunder Oak Gouda, Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, Thunder Bay, Ont.

4. Phillips Slipstream Cream Ale and Bothwell Horseradish Cheddar

According to Bill Stuart from Phillips Brewing Company, Slipstream Cream Ale is a smooth, medium-bodied ale, with a slightly sweet maltiness and a clean finish. This smooth cream ale has scents of bread, toffee and walnut and a malty taste with a slight citrus undertone.

Slipstream Cream Ale is a perfect compliment to the biting pungency of horseradish found in Bothwell’s Horseradish Cheddar. The smoothness of the cream ale does not interact with the heat of the cheese so it nicely mellows out the spiciness that characterizes this strong cheddar.

The Beer: Slipstream Cream Ale, Phillips Brewing Company, Victoria, B.C.

The Cheese: Bothwell’s horseradish cheddar, Bothwell Cheese Inc., New Bothwell, Man.

5. Hockley Irish Stout and Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Hockley Irish Stout  is a Canadian take on a classic Irish stout. It is an inky beer with a thick tan head, and tastes of roasted malt, bitter chocolate, roasted coffee and licorice. It is deceptively light (thanks to hints of acidity) and there is a slight sweetness characteristic of this style of beer.

This stout is a perfect accompaniment to a unique cheddar made in Charlottetown, PEI. Award- winning Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has a grayish-brown natural rind, which surrounds a deep, yellow body. It has a crumbly texture and creamy tasting interior. This cheddar is aged wrapped in cloth, which is a traditional technique.

The Beer: Hockley Valley Irish Stout, Hockley Valley Brewing Company, Orangeville, Ont.

The Cheese: Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Charlottetown, PEI (no website).

For a list of truly green Canadian beers, read our "Green Beers" story here.