Writer Cornelius O’Donnell
Making it easier to choose your cheese.
If you are like me and hadn’t a clue that serving a compatible cheese could enhance the flavor of a drink, you’ll learn a lot from two new reference books: Cheese and Beer and Cheese and Wine, A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying. Author Janet Fletcher, who resides in Napa, California, has written or co-authored 25 books that mostly have to do with cheese: how to buy it, store it, and use it in cooking or in a formal or informal cheeseboard.
Cheese and Beer
The simple title doesn’t prepare you for the complexities of pairing the right cheese with the right beer. With the explosion of craft beers and the wide variety of flavors that are coming with these brews, choosing the right cheese has never more challenging. The forest of flavors like bitter, sour, sweet, yeasty and roasted from Finger Lakes brews could stump any foodie trying to put together a cheese plate for friends.
Which is where this book saves the day. Structured around the varieties of beer, Fletcher makes it easy to go to your favorite beer section and see what cheese pairs with what you like to drink.
I thought I’d give her ideas a try and turned to a style I particularly like, India Pale Ale (IPA). Fletcher’s advice: “Its bold personality stands up to moderately strong cheese including spiced cheese that might overwhelm lighter brews.” I’m leaning towards a nice aged, sharp cheddar from the Finger Lakes now. She also recommends pungent goat cheese with IPA. Thankfully we have quite a few local goat farm dairies to choose from.
So whether you prefer a Dopplebock, a Tripel or a Kolsch, Fletcher will guide you the cheese that suits your brew and educate you on why they work together.
Cheese and Wine, A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying
This book is divided into essays on various cheeses and each has a paragraph devoted to wines that work with them. Bully for us, in her book, Fletcher suggests pairing local wines with local cheeses. We are fortunate that our region offers high quality in both.
Take the chapter on Camembert/Brie, favorites of mine. I learned that it’s a love match with Merlot and Chardonnay. But best of all, these soft cheeses are perfect with a sparkling wine and there are plenty of those gems to be found around the Finger Lakes. I was struck by how many cheeses go well with Riesling, certainly the flagship wine of many Finger Lakes wineries.
So whether choosing wine or beer, both books will help the reader to say “cheese” with authority.
Cornelius O’Donnell is an award-winning chef and cookbook author. He lives in Horseheads with his cookbooks.