Craft Beer: Cheesy does it this Christmas – our tips on getting your pairings right

A good cheese board offers opportunities to pair up all kinds of beer
Paul McConville

EVERYONE has their own thing which they look forward to about Christmas. For me, I really love getting stuck into a festive cheeseboard at some point over the holiday season. A good cheese board will have a wide selection of cheeses and with that comes ample opportunities to pair up all kinds of beer.

As a general rule, the more subtle the flavour of cheese, the lighter the beer so a pilsner or kolsch will pair nicely with some goats cheese or a mild cheddar. However, if you like your cheddar a bit more mature than Donald Trump, then a particularly hoppy IPA is the way to go. Something like Francis' Big Bangin' IPA by McGargles or OTT IPA from Mourne Mountains would go well with a big chunk of crumbly extra-mature cheddar.

If soft cheeses are your thing, then you'll love getting stuck into a bit of brie or camembert. You might even like to bake a wheel of camembert and dip bits of bread into the gooey, stinky, warm cheese.

Cheeses like these are great with a farmhouse ale, perhaps a saison like Saison Dupont or a biere de garde such as Biere de Greengraves which was a welcome departure from the norm this year from Bullhouse Brewing.

For some people, when it comes to cheese, it's a case of the stinkier the better and when we're talking about blue cheeses, the beer shifts over to the dark side. The roasty notes of a good porter or imperial stout marry well with the dry and slightly spicy feel of a blue cheese.

Switchback by Mourne Mountains was a great beer from the Co Down brewers and would be great to wash down a bit of Cashel Blue. Mike's Fancy Cheeses is a regular feature of beer festivals locally and their Young Buck blue cheese is another which will pair well with a robust stout, such as the recently released Blowhard from Eight Degrees or the perennially released 200 Fathoms from Galway Bay.

For blue cheeses which tend to be that bit sweeter, then a milk stout is the order of the day. One of my favourites is the Gingerbread Imperial Stout from Heaney Farmhouse Brewing.

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