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How to Pair Vermont Beer and Cheese

Cheese and beer are a match made in Vermont. Just one look at the agricultural landscape of the state and the synergy of beer and cheese together makes perfect sense: both are products sprung from the fields, beginning with grasses like barley and wheat that are transformed by fermentation. The natural breakdown of grasses by our state's dairy cows is not unlike the malting process in beer production. The end products - Vermont's artisanal cheese and craft beers - have a natural affinity for each other, and when thoughtfully paired together, magic ensues.
 

DigInVT asked cheese monger Mary Tuthill of Mad River Taste Place and craft brewer and industry expert Steve Parkes of Drop-In Brewing Company to help decode the secret to skilled cheese and beer pairing. Where to start? With just a few guidelines to keep in mind, you're on your way to picking winning combinations from Vermont's vast array of locally produced cheese and beer options.

Pairing Ground Rules

Match Intensity. Pair a light-bodied beer with a delicate cheese; a more complex and hoppy beer with an aged cheese that can match the sharpness; a hearty stout with a full-on ripened cheese that can stand up to the roasted undertones of dark brew. Think of it like a flavor prize fight - would you put a lightweight in the same ring as a heavyweight? Cheese and beer that equal each other in intensity and heft work nicely in a match up. When their powers align, you've got a winning combo.

Find the Common Ground. Bitter, sour, and sweet are the touchstones of taste to consider when pairing beer and cheese. Seek the commonality in flavor: couple a hoppy brew with a sharp hard cheese that has a lingering kick; a sour with a ripened and ashed soft cheese; a malty ale with the caramel or butterscotch undertones of gouda. In a good match, one hints of the other and picks up where its partner left off.

Start light and build from there. When planning a tasting of several beer and cheese selections, begin with the light-bodied beers and increase intensity and flavor. Pick your pleasure from the list below that begins with the lofty, light Helles and ends with the moody Porter with hints of our other obsessions: chocolate and coffee.  

Beer Style: Helles

Golden Helles  - von Trapp Brewing, Stowe
This is a bright, pale, and crisp golden lager with a floral hop aroma and a bread malt balance.

Pair with: 

Orb Weaver Creamery Farmhouse – semi-firm texture with fresh milk flavors and a horseradish tang on the back end (cow milk)
Neighborly Farms Colby Jack - Traditional Jack cheddar - soft, creamy, and slightly tangy (cow milk)

Cheese curds

Photo credit - Sweet Rowen Farm

Beer Style: Heifweizen

Hazy Hefe, Hired Hand Brewery, Vergennes
Heifweizen is a golden ale made from wheat that can feature iconic banana, clove, bubblegum, and even black pepper aromas. This local pick is made with wet hops.

Pair with:
Maplebook Buratta - a mozzarella shell filled with cream and stracciatella, delicate, creamy & fresh  (cow milk)
Sweet Rowen Farm Cheese Curds -  the squeakiest, most fun way to eat cheese! Mild and super snackable! (cow milk) 

Beer Style: English IPA

Landlady ESB, Queen City Brewery, Burlington
This amber beauty available for pick up in growlers has an aromatic fruitiness and a flowery, hoppy elegance in the finish.

Pair with: 
Shelburne Farms 3 year cheddar - Complex flavors with bright acidity and tropical fruit tones, especially pineapple. There are these herbaceous flavors in the cheese itself that have a piney, rosemary thing going on! (cow milk)
Jasper Hill Farm Cabot Clothbound - English style cheddar with hints of butterscotch and toffee in a very special Japer Hill/Cabot Creamery collaboration (cow milk)

Beer Style: Sour

Gin Barrel Saison, Hermit Thrush Brewery, Brattleboro
Look no further than Hermit Thrush for this sour golden saison aged in Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin barrels. The fruitiness of yeast compliments the floral honey nuances and vanilla character from toasted new oak to create an utterly complex and unique beer. Made with Brattleboro wild mixed culture. 6.5% ABV.

Enjoy with:
von Trapp Farmstead Mt. Alice - Flavor notes are creme fraiche, lightly grassy, nicely salted (cow milk)
Vermont Farmstead Lille - Rich & creamy with hints of a lemony tang (cow milk)

Springbrook Farm
Photo Credit Spring Brook Farm

Beer Style: Brown Ale

Heart of Lothian, Drop-in Brewing Company, Middlebury
This traditional Scottish 90-shilling brown ale has caramel and chocolate malt flavors, finishing dry.

Perfect with:
Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise - Based off Gruyere with French onion soup and roasted nut flavors. It has a natural washed rind, is semi-firm in texture, and aged for a minimum of nine months. Depending on the season, the flavor profile on Tarentaise can range from bright red berries and floral undertones to deeply brown butter and nutty to wonderfully savory and brothy (fresh Jersey cow milk)
Cobb Hill Dairy Ascutney Mountain - Green onion and garlicky nuts with hints of roasted nuts (cow milk)

Beer Style: Double IPA

Tribute, 14th Star Brewing Company, St. Albans
This is a celebration of hops! With a smooth malt backbone allows five different hop varieties to steal the show with bright flavors and aromas of pine, fresh citrus, and pineapple.

Pair with:
Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue - Fudgy, well salted but an approachable blue. Well balanced w/blue flavor and butter (cow milk)
Parish Hill Creamery West West Blue - Hints of buttermilk and blue cheese dressing with the creamiest texture (cow milk)

Beer Style: Belgian Triple

Hazard, Drop-In Brewing Company, Middlebury
Triples are strong, golden ales that prominently feature the fruity and spicy characteristics of Belgian yeast. This somewhat sweet beer with a dry finish is eminently drinkable, especially in combination with these rich cheese pairings. The carbonation of the beer will lift the fattiness of the cheese right off your palate for a remarkable experience.

Pair with:
Champlain Valley Triple Cream - ooey, gooey, rich and buttery (cow milk)
Champlain Valley Truffle Triple Cream - ooey, gooey, rich and buttery with truffle oil & shavings- absolute heaven! (cow milk)

Beer Style: Porter

Owl at Night, Four Quarters Brewing, Winooski 
End your Vermont Cheese and Beer Pairings with this deep, dark brown porter with garnet highlights, dark chocolate and coffee aromas mixed with toffee and toast, and a medium body with a semi-dry roasty finish. 

Pair with:
Karim Creamery Hispanico - deep, well balanced flavors that are lightly tangy rounded out with roasted nuts (cow milk)
Vermont Shepherd, 2 Year Invierno - complex, crystalized and basically an Umami bomb (cow and sheep milk blend)

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