Adam Dulye

Adam Dulye (pictured), executive chef for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, celebrates Independence Day with American craft beer and no-cook food pairings

Independence Day is one of the biggest occasions of the year, when friends and family gather together to celebrate America’s independence with fireworks, parades, barbecues, and, of course, American craft beer!

This year, with the threat of the pandemic still looming, we’re looking to expand our culinary experiences in other ways. If cooking at home every night is losing appeal, or the prospect of eating out when restaurants re-open is not for you, this handy guide to pairing American craft beer with no-cook food will have your tastebuds tingling and your senses salivating. Cheese,
charcuterie, and chocolate make perfect partners for the multitude of flavours found in American craft beer. Here’s why …

  • Acidity, carbonation and bitterness in beer cut through fat
  • Malt found in beer complements creamy, nutty, earthy, or caramel flavours, and contrasts with salt
  • Ingredients used in craft beer (especially carbonation and alcohol) can alter the texture of both the rind and the paste of cheese, and provide complementary and/or contrasting flavours for each

Guidelines for getting started

  • Cheese, like beer, should be served at the correct temperature. Take cheese out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature before pairing. Keep beer at the correct temperature for the style.
  • Match intensities. Delicate, lighter American craft beers often pair well with young or mild cheeses, while stronger flavoured beers tend to work better with full-flavoured, mature cheeses. The same applies to cold meats.
  • Look for common ground. For example, a malty craft beer pairs well with a nutty cheese, or a hoppy, bitter beer cuts through a cheese with a high fat content
  • Think about other sensations and interactions, such as acidic or salty cheese with a hop-forward beer
  • Charcuterie refers to smoked, cured, or cooked meats, and generally involves salting (preserving) and air-drying, and this effects how they interact with beer
  • Palate balancers — nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, honey and pickled items — all make great additions to craft beer and cheese
  • Aim for 25g of cheese per 100ml pairing of beer

Suggested American craft beer and cheese pairings

Cheese styleBeer styleDescription
Soft cheeseWheat beer, lambic-style beerCheeses like mascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella or goat’s cheese match the
delicate notes of the beer without overwhelming the palate
Semi-soft cheeseKolsch, Pilsner, pale aleCambozola, Reblochon etc can be enhanced by a high level of carbonation. Salty cheese, like Feta, Caerphilly, or Wensleydale, needs a thirst-quenching, refreshing style to combat its dryness
Hard cheeseBrown ale, imperial stout, bockCheddar, Gruyere, Emmental, Parmesan, Manchego etc echo the nutty, earthy notes
of a brown ale or stout. These beers add creaminess on the palate to a hard cheese
Blue cheeseIPA or imperial IPA, barley wineStrongly flavoured cheeses, such as Roquefort, Stilton, St Agur, Danish Blue etc, can be successfully balanced with bolder beer styles
Natural rind cheesesGolden/blonde ale, pale aleBrie, Camembert, Gorgonzola etc have a rich, creamy base that can be refreshed with a golden, blonde, or pale ale.
Washed rind cheesesBelgian-style alesVacherin, Taleggio, Port Salut, Stinking Bishop etc. Beers bring out the cheeses’
delicate sweet note and can cut through the funk of the washed rind
BA beer cheese meat
Photograph: Brewers Association

Cold cuts, smoked meats, and charcuterie

Type of cutDescriptionBeer pairing
Prosciutto di Parma (pork)A classification of ham from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Known for its umami flavourPilsner, doppelbock, or saison
Bresaola (beef)Dark red cut of beef, thinly sliced. One of the leanest cured meatsBrown ale
Speck (pork)Smoked, cured meat, milder and firmer in texture than prosciuttoSmoked beer, American pale ale
Saucisson Sec (pork)A French-style salami. Typically dry-cured and rich in flavourRobust porter
Chorizo (pork)A distinctive bright red colour due to the addition of smoked paprikaSmoked beer, Pilsner
Mortadella (pork)Cooked sausage made from ground pork meat, garnished with
pistachios and small cubes of fat for extra flavour
Belgian-style Trappist ale
Salami Piccante
Can be spicy to mild. Spiced with paprika and hot to mild red peppers
known as peperoni
Imperial IPA
PatéUsually made from ground pork, duck or chicken liver and spicesStout

Finally, if all you want to do is kick back with a bar of chocolate and a beer, remember to match intensity of flavour. Here’s a basic guide:

  • White chocolate — creamy texture, no cocoa solids, usually contains 20% cocoa butter, sugar and 14% milk solids. Pair with: witbier, brown ale, sweet stout, fruited wheat beer
  • Milk chocolate — usually around 35-45% cacao solids. Pair with: American pale ale, brown ale, amber ale
  • Dark chocolate — at least 35% cacao solids, but commonly above 70%. Pair with: robust porter, imperial stout, bubbel, lambic-style beers

Look out for beers with speciality ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, peanut butter, and many more that offer endless possibilities for pairing with chocolate. You can find American craft beer in supermarkets, independent bottle shops, on-line retailers, or via beer subscription services.

About the Brewers Association

The Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.

The BA represents 4,000-plus US breweries. The BA’s independent craft brewer seal is a widely adopted symbol that differentiates beers by small and independent craft brewers.

The BA organises events including the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America, SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, Homebrew Con, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week.

The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine, and Brewers Publications is the largest publisher of brewing literature in the US.

Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association and the free Brew Guru mobile app.

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