I have spent many glorious years working in the beer industry and for over half of it I have extolled the virtues of pairing beer to food. I have also been witness to one of the greatest drinks revolutions of all time.

Craft breweries have popped up on street corners, farmhouse ciders are everywhere, artisan distillers are creating incredible gins and whiskies, mixologists have turned cocktail making into an art form and yet…. wine continues to be the default term, the catchall, when it comes to referencing these incredible alcoholic beverages as a collective or when discussing food pairings.

Think about it. Restaurants still proudly offer up their ‘wine’ list even though we know that it’s also where they’ve listed cocktails, spirits and beers. The plethora of ‘food and wine’ festivals that focus just as much on other booze, (this completely baffles me that they’re not called ‘food and drink’ festivals). And then, there is the common belief that wine is the best partner to cheese, taken as gospel by the majority. Think about how many wine and cheese events you have sat through, and how many other cheese pairing events there are by comparison.

Now, I am in no way anti-wine, but can we please move on from wine being held up as the pinnacle for all great food pairings? Especially cheese. Yes, I realise that it’s seen to be more romantic to share a bottle of wine over a cheese platter, but is it actually the best partnership? The internet is a great thing and if you start to dig a little, you will find that for every positive wine and cheese article, there are two that throw shade onto the supposed greatness of this pairing.

Let’s look at beer and why beer is such a great pairing to cheese. We are pretty spoilt in Australia with the quality of our local cheese producers who either have arrangements with dairy farmers or farm their own animals, producing various milk types from cow and goat to sheep and buffalo. It’s this milk that provides the backbone of cheese and is responsible for the rich, palate-coating gooeyness, the ooze or age or textural sensations that we all adore in cheese. These sought-after properties require a pairing that can cut through this gratifying luxuriance while also highlighting and enhancing the nuances of the cheese’s character. This is where beer is in its element. Its lively carbonation works perfectly as a palate cleanser, cutting through those tongue-coating properties we relish in cheese.

Beer has also evolved in Australia over the years and we now have the most diverse spectrum of styles we have ever seen, creating the perfect backdrop to the perfect pairing.  Beer’s flavour profile is complex and it is actually easier to find characteristics in a beer that will complement or contrast the many flavours found in cheese. When the grass our lovely milk-producing animals feeds on influences the flavour of their milk, and in turn influences the flavour of the cheese, coupled with grain (malt) being a key ingredient in beer, it’s no surprise that the two can echo each other beautifully and most of all, surprisingly. Having hosted over 200 beer and cheese events, the greatest thrill I get is that look of astonishment that the two can work so harmoniously together. So please, consider beer when you next plate up your cheese platter, buy a few different styles and then just experiment with the various combinations. Guaranteed, it will be worth it! It’s really easy to get it wrong and pretty difficult to go too wrong at the same time.

Here are some of my favourite pairings from over the years:

Fresh goat’s cheese with a Belgian-style witbier
a very elegant pairing where the citric nature of the goat’s cheese meets the citrus spicing of the witbier

Washed rind with a barrel-aged farmhouse ale
funk on funk, flavour on flavour, intensity on intensity

Comté with an IPA
The earthy and nutty characters of the cheese are juxtaposed to caramel malt and punchy hops whilst merging together seamlessly

Roquefort with a stout
A classic pairing! The stout behaves like the prune and walnut log, softening the intensity of the blue with the creaminess of both the beer and cheese complementing each other perfectly.

Brie with a Kolsch
The spritzy carbonation cuts through the creamy pate of the Brie and both have a similar intensity of flavour.