Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pairing beer and cheese

36 hours ago I knew nothing about how to pair beers with cheese. But, like a sponge bar towel sponge, I have soaked up the surprisingly vast amount of information available online about pairing beers with cheese.

Have you ever seen that documentary about bonobo monkeys in which it's apparent in the first 58 seconds that bonobo scientists and enthusiasts are in this one-sided competition with chimpanzees? The bonobos seem to the the only ones without a major inferiority complex, and everyone interviewed spends the bulk of their screen time talking about how much smarter, more loving, more complex, more peaceable, and just how all-around better bonobos are than chimpanzees.

That's a little bit the vibe I got from the beer pairing aficionados. They were so aware of the comparison to wine tasting that talking up beer and cheese pairing while talking down wine was a recurrent tic. Instead of "bonobos are smarter" it was "beer has more complexity than wine" or "beer isn't as sweet and doesn't mask cheese flavors" or one of a half a dozen other repeated beer-is-better mantras.

However, once I got past the stream of unsolicited justifications, I found a lot of good information out there about how to pair beer and cheese. Here are a few that I found particularly useful:

The only disappointment was that some of the sites I found downplayed cheese variety. My guess is that's because they're concerned with alienating beer drinkers by suggesting varieties more exotic than those you'd find in the specialty cheese case of local supermarkets. But seriously, if you're reading about beer pairings, you're probably aware that there are more than five types of cheese in the world, right? Pairing in itself is a fairly fussy endeavor, so making suggestions for what beer to pair with jack cheese seems either disingenuous or affectedly prosaic.

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