September 5, 2022

The No-Cook Guide to Beer and Food Pairing 

By-lined to Adam Dulye, Executive Chef for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers. Dulye is one of the world’s leading experts on beer and food pairing. In this article, he explains how to create mouth-watering pairings without any cooking!

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This handy guide will help you understand how to pair American craft beer with no-cook food and have your taste buds tingling and your senses salivating. Cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate make perfect partners for the multitude of flavors 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 flavors 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 flavors for each

Here are a few 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 determined by the style of the beer.

Match intensities.

Delicate, lighter American craft beers often pair well with young or mild cheeses, while stronger flavored beer tends to work better with full-flavored, 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. 

For example, 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 affects how they interact with beer.

Consider 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 Style


Beer Pairing
Soft CheeseMascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella, goat’s cheese etc. will match the delicate notes of the beer without overwhelming the palate.Wheat beer, Lambic-style beer
Semi-soft CheeseFontina, Provolone, Cambozola, Reblochon etc. can be enhanced by a high level of carbonation. Salty cheese, like Feta, needs a thirst-quenching, refreshing style to combat its dryness.Kolsch, Pilsner, Pale Ale
Hard CheesePecorino Toscano, Asiago, Parmigiano-reggiano etc. echo the nutty, earthy notes of a brown ale or stout. These beers add creaminess on the palate to a hard cheese.Brown Ale, Imperial Stout, Bock
Blue CheeseStrongly flavored cheeses, such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Danish Blue, etc., can be successfully balanced with bolder beer styles.IPA or Imperial IPA, Barley wine
Natural Rind CheesesTommino, Brie, Camembert, etc. have a rich creamy base that can be refreshed with a golden, blonde or pale ale.  Golden/Blonde ale,
Pale ale
Washed Rind CheesesVacherin, Taleggio, Port Salut etc. Beers bring out the cheeses’ delicate sweet note and can cut through the funk of the washed rind.Belgian-style ales

And if you’re a fan of cold-cuts, smoked meats and charcuterie this guide is for you:

Type of CutDescriptionBeer Pairing
Prosciutto di Parma(pork)A classification of ham from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy,  known for its umami flavor.Pilsner, Doppelbock or Saison
Bresaola (beef) Dark red cut of beef, thinly sliced.  One of the leanest cured meats.Brown Ale
Speck (pork)Smoked, cured meat, milder and firmer in texture than prosciutto.Smoked Beer, American Pale Ale
Saucisson Sec (pork)A French-style salami.  Typically dry-cured and rich in flavor.Robust Porter
Chorizo (pork)A distinctive bright red color due to the addition of smoked paprika. Smoked Beer, Pilsner
Mortadella (pork)Cooked sausage made from ground pork meat, garnished with pistachios and small cubes of fat for extra flavor.Belgian-style Trappist ale
Salami Piccante (pork)Can be spicy to mild. Spiced with paprika and hot to mild red peppers known as pepperoni.Imperial IPA
PâtéUsually made from ground pork, duck or chicken liver and spices.Stout

Finally, if all you want to do is kick-back with a bar of chocolate and a beer, remember to match intensity of flavor. 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 Wheatbeer.

Milk Chocolate  

Usually around 35-45 cacao solids. Pair with: American pale ale, Brown ale, Amber ale

Dark chocolate 

At least 35% cocoa solids, but commonly above 70%. Pair with: Robust Porter, Imperial Stout, Dubbel, Lambic style beers

Look out for beers with specialty 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 selected Co-op supermarkets and independent beer shops.

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 5,500-plus U.S. breweries. The BA’s independent craft brewer seal is a widely adopted symbol that differentiates beers by small and independent craft brewers.