The no-cook guide to American craft beer and food pairing

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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 and in this article he explains how to create mouth-watering pairings without any cooking!

With eating-out options limited in the current climate we’re looking to expand our culinary experiences in other ways.  If cooking at home every night is losing appeal this handy guide to pairing American craft beer with no-cook food will have your tastebuds tingling and your senses salivating.  Cheese, charcuterie and chocolate make perfect partners for the multitude of flavours 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 flavours 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 flavours 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 for the style.
  • Match intensities. Delicate, lighter American craft beers often pair well with young or mild cheeses, while stronger flavoured beer tend to work better with full-flavoured, 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 such as 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 effects how they interact with beer
  • 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

Soft CheeseWheat beer, Lambic-style beerMascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella, goat’s cheese etc will match the delicate notes of the beer without overwhelming the palate
Semi-soft CheeseKölsch, Pilsner, Pale AleFontina, Provolone, Cambozola, Reblochon etc can be enhanced by a high level of carbonation.  Salty cheese like Feta or Quartirolo needs a thirst-quenching, refreshing style to combat its dryness
Hard CheeseBrown Ale, Imperial Stout, BockPecorino Toscano, Asiago, Parmigiano-reggiano etc echo the nutty, earthy notes of a brown ale or stout.
Blue CheeseIPA or Imperial IPA, Barley wineStrongly flavoured cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Danish Blue etc can be successfully balanced with bolder beer styles
Natural Rind CheesesGolden/Blonde ale,
Pale ale
Tommino, Brie, Camembert, etc have a rich creamy base that can be refreshed with a golden, blonde or pale ale.
Washed Rind CheesesBelgian-style alesVacherin, Taleggio, Port Salut etc. Beers bring out the cheeses’ delicate sweet note and can cut through the funk of the washed rind

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

Prosciutto di Parma


A classification of ham from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  Known for its umami flavourPilsner, Doppelbock or Saison
Bresaola (beef)Dark red cut of beef, thinly sliced.  One of the leanest cured meatsBrown Ale
Speck (pork)Smoked, cured meat, milder and firmer in texture than prosciuttoSmoked Beer, American Pale Ale
Saucisson Sec (pork)A French-style salami.  Typically dry-cured and rich in flavourRobust Porter
Chorizo (pork)A distinctive bright red colour due to 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 flavourBelgian-style Trappist ale
Salami Piccante (pork)Can be spicy to mild. Spiced with paprika and hot to mild red peppers known as peperoniImperial IPA
PâtéUsually made from ground pork, duck or chicken liver and spicesStout

Finally, if all you want to do is kick-back with a bar of chocolate and a beer remember to match intensity of flavour.  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% cacao solids but commonly above 70%.  Pair with:  Robust Porter, Imperial Stout, Dubbel, Lambic style beers

Look out for beers with speciality 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 Coop supermarkets, Ipercoops and independent beer shops in Italy.

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. The BA organizes events including the World Beer Cup®Great American Beer Festival®Craft Brewers Conference® & BrewExpo America®SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food ExperienceHomebrew ConTMNational Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer® magazine, and Brewers Publications® is the leading publisher of brewing literature in the U.S. Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at® and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association® and the free Brew Guru® mobile app. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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