Fromage and Foamage

For many, wine and cheese are the golden couple of culinary pairings. But consider the old adage,"beer is liquid bread." Ales and lagers, like their loaved cousins, are also quite versatile when it comes to complementing creamy, palate-coating cheese. Some beer connoisseurs even maintain that the carbonation and lower acidity better complements the fattiness of cheese.

For cheese experts, pairing the two can yield some pleasant surprises. "I thought we'd just have to stick to cheddar textured and consistency things with relatively innocuous flavors," Matt Caputo of Caputo's Market and Deli in Salt Lake City recalled before a sold out beer and cheese workshop. "But I was totally wrong." One memorable combination from the workshop research was a crisp Urquell Pilsner with a runny L'Edel de Cleron from the Franche-Comte. "It had the same affect as Champagne with Chaource cheese."

If you're thinking of jumping on the fromage and foamage bandwagon, start with a line up of favorite cheeses and beer. Knowing the flavor profile of each before trying to pair flavors makes libation matching easier.

Decide if you want a match that will contrast or harmonize. Most beer and cheese pairings will be pleasant. What you consider the most delightful is a matter of what you want to experience.

For instant gratification, try these pairings:

· Creamy, butter soft cheese like L'Edel de Cleron with a crisp, effervescent Urquell Pilsner
· Sweeter beer like barley wine mimics dessert wines like Port; perfect for Stilton or pungent blue cheese
· Sharp, English cheddars like Quicke's with a hoppy Squatters IPA
· The smoke and suds of a summer barbecue come alive in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale matched with a smoky San Simon
· Belgian saison like Surley Brewing's CynicAle matches well with young goat cheese like Humboldt Fog
· Go dark and rich with a malty Black Butte XX Porter for a sultry Gruyère
· Nutty Manchego with a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (Ale)
· Pungent Époisses with a Biere de Garde style like Garde Dog from Flying Dog Brewery

RECIPE: Welsh Rarebit
Savory comfort food dishes of the fondue variety nicely marry the flavors of beer and cheese. The below recipe was adapted from Fergus Henderson of St. John .

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 heaping tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
¾ cup dark beer like a porter or stout
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 pound Quicke's English Cheddar, grated
4 to 8 pieces toast

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add flour. Stir and cook over heat until nutty in aroma and golden in color (about 5 minutes). Whisk in mustard powder, cayenne Worcestershire sauce and beer. When well combined, add the cheese. Turn the heat to low. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

Spread this mixture thickly over toast and put under the broiler until the rarebit bubbles and edges are crispy.

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