Category Archives: Beer Styles Primer


The best known and original wheat beer is hefeweizen, the wheat beer which was first produced in Germany since at least 700 B.C. . Using wheat as an ingredient in beer was the first exception made to the famous beer purity law,  the Rheinheitsgebot, in 1602 and that exception was made specifically so the nobility could continue to enjoy this style. This Bavarian style of wheat beer is pale and cloudy. It is bottled and served unfiltered so the yeast used during fermentation is still present. This special strain of yeast contributes banana and clove notes to the aroma and flavor of the beer. While many people insist on serving this style with a slice of lemon, the refreshingly sour acidity should be more than enough to quench ones thirst.

A world class Hefeweizen to try: Schneider Weisse

Introduction to Pairing Magic


Beer and cheese pairings can be truly magical, especially since it still seems to be uncharted territory for many people.  I have read many articles about why beer and cheese go well together, but the mention of beer and cheese together in a serious pairing still elicits raised eyebrows so I felt it was necessary to put in my two bits.

I find the combination of the right beer with the right cheese a magical pairing because there are so few classic combinations of beer and cheese.  Its relatively easy to find an amazing wine and cheese pairing if one sticks to geographically familiar partners, such as a good Sancerre with a well cared for Selles sur Cher (delicious!).

However because good beer can be produced with ingredients from vastly disparate parts of the world it can be a pleasant surprise when choosing a beer and a cheese each produced thousands of miles apart and finding them a great match together.

Another argument for pairing beer and cheese comes down to economics.  Lets face it, even beer produced in tinsy-tiny small amounts will inevitably be less expensive than a wine of equivalent quality.   An obscenely expensive bottle of beer in New York City will cost you $40 (for a 750 ml bottle of Deus for example) while $40 in a wine store could net you something good, or just average.

Throughout the long history of wine and beer production, wine has always been more costly to produce than beer.  There is no question that we can find a phenomenal beer to match with cheese for less than $10 per bottle which is less than most merely pedestrian bottles of vino.

Still don’t believe me?  Well, here are some real time pairings I have tried while hosting beer and cheese pairings classes at Murray’s Cheese and other venues, that will get you started on the right path.  I have listed the styles of beer and cheese before each actually pairing to provide a jumping off point for your own pairing exploration.  While the actual beer and cheese I chose to match together might not always be available, pairing beer and cheese styles that tend to go together is usually a safe, delicious bet. This section will continue to grow as we discover more amazing pairings!

German Hefeweizen and Aged Goat Cheese….Like…

Schneider-Weisse and Chevre Noir

Czech Style Pilsner and Bloomy Rinded Cheese….Like….

Lagunitas Pils and Constant Bliss– I was honestly shocked that this pairing worked as well as it did.  Think of this as an alternative to a traditional pairing of Normandy and Cider and Camembert and it will make more sense.  Good cider and good pilsner share many attributes, both are low in alcohol, balanced between sweetness and bitterness and great with bloomy rinded cheeses.  The Lagunitas Pils work especially well, since, as a Czech style Pilsner, it had a slightly maltier body than a German style pilsner which contrasts with the bitterness of bloomy rinds very nicely.

Baltic Porter and Goat Cheese…..Like…..

Sincychbroff Porter and VBC Coupole– This pairing is like pairing milk and cookies..both are great on their own and the combination is outstanding.  Baltic porters are typically fermented with lager yeasts which gives them a round, full deep flavor without the wild fruity esters that an ale yeast may produce.  This malty focused base makes for an amazing combination with a broad range of creamy, fresh cheeses.  If you don’t have a Baltic Porter on hand, a doppelbock will do admiraly as well.  Coupole, which, if you have not tried you are really missing out.  Easily one of the most amazingly consistently perfect goat cheeses being made in the USA by the talented team at Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery.

Flanders Sour Red Ale and Hard Sheeps Milk CheeseLike….

Dutchess de Borgorgone and Ossau Iraty AOC – Some pairings make me just sigh with pleasure and this is one of those pairings.  As satisfying as a Lopez del Heredia Rioja and a chunk of aged Manchego, one would assume upon tasting that Sour Flanders Red Ale and Sheep milk cheese have always been paired together.  The sweet-sour soy sauce fruitiness of this beer is the perfect contrast for this aged sheep’s milk cheese from the very south of South-East France.

Imperial IPA and Camembert.…like…

Evil Twin Before, During and After Christmas and Camembert Tremblaye

Russian Imperial Stout with Blue Cheese…..Like…

North Coast Brewing Company Old Rasputin and Colston Basset Stilton – This is one of those insanely delicious pairings that matches extreme contrasts together to create the most decadent harmony imaginable.  North Coast’s Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout is a full throttle flavor bomb of malty hoppy intensiveness befitting the the association with one of the most intense figures of recent history.  Colston Basset Stilton is considered the best example of Stilton available.  A blue cheese with class and dignity, not to mention an extremely butter, rich yielding flavor which could win over the most determined blue cheese hater.  The combination explodes in your mouth with the intensity of a Wagnerian opera: saltiness, maltiness, hoppiness, creaminess all combine for the perfect flavor combination.  Outstanding.

Leipziger Gose

Leipziger Gose actually originated in the smallish German town of Goslar in the state of Lower Saxony. Leipziger Gose was already first mentioned around 1000 AD under Emperor Otto III. Like many other beers styles (such as English Pale Ale and German Bock biers) the Goslar breweries of Leipziger Gose had to look elsewhere for a bigger market. They found those in the trade towns of Halle and Leipzig, about 100 miles East, where Leipziger Gose appeared around 1738 for the first time. By 1900 Leipzig boasted over 80 Gose houses. The spread of the bottom-fermenting pilsner style as well as economic decline of East Germany under communist regime contributed to the demise of the Leipziger Gose which was last brewed in the mid 1960s. The Gose style has seen a resurgance today, thanks to the interest of American craft brewers and the American beer import B. United, which has encouraged German breweries to produce the style once again.

A world class Leipziger Gose to try: Bayericher Bahnhof Leipziger Gose


A Düsseldorf specialty, an Altbier is a German style brown ale, the “alt” literally translates to “old” in German, and traditionally Altbiers are conditioned for a longer than normal periods of time. Other sources note that “alt” is derived from the Latin word “altus,” which means “high” and refers to the rising yeast. Take your pick, but the extended conditioning mellows out the ale’s fruitiness and produces an exceptionally smooth and delicate brew. The color ranges from amber to dark brown, medium in carbonation with a great balance between malt and hops.  “Sticke” is a stronger version of an Altbier, thus a bit more malty and hoppy to boot.

A world class Altbier to try: Uerige Alt

Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse is a light, sour style of German wheat beer originating in Berlin.  Huguenots may have originated the style as they traveled through France to Flanders, having first mentioned it in the 1600s. During their time, there were said to be seven hundred weissbier breweries in Berlin. Later, in 1809, Napoleon and his troops identified Berliner Weisse as the Champagne of the North. He requested the beer be served with syrup to cut its extreme level of acidity. Berliner Weisse has a barely perceptible hop content and in Germany is still usually laced with the woodruff syrup Napolean enjoyed. Fermented with ale yeast and Lactobacillus delbruckii  the bacterium contributes a dominant mouth-puckering sourness which makes it an excellent food pairing beer.  Try it with fried chicken or fried green tomatoes for an amazing pairing.

A world class Berliner Weisse to try: Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse

Flanders Sour Red Ale

Flanders Sour Red Ales are traditional reddish brown colored beer of West Flanders, Belgium. While still popular as a table beer in Flanders today, they are a style of beer that many have never heard of.  Flanders red ale are infamous for their distinct sharp, fruity, sour and tart flavors which are created by special yeast strains. Very complex beers, they are produced under the age old tradition of long-term cask aging in oak, and the blending of young and old beers. Beginning with a selection of medium-dark malts, and just enough hops to add some aromatic complexity, the brew is first fermented using traditional, top-fermenting ale yeast. After brewing, the ale is aged for long periods in huge, old, oak casks, more reminiscent of those used in the wineries of old-world countries than of any other beer style. After an aging period of at least 18 months, the main portion of the beer is considered ripe, and it is then blended with a beer of the same recipe, but that has been aged for much less time. This process will add to the liveliness of the finished product, while allowing the amazing sweet and sour flavors that can only develop with extended aging to still shine through.


A world class Flanders Sour Red Ale to try: Rodenbach Grand Cru


The applejack of the beer world, supposedly developed by a mistake on a frosty evening in 1890 at the Reichelbräu brewery in Kulmbach, Germany. A barrel of beer was left out in the cold and froze solid.  The brewmaster discovered that the freezing process had concentrated the beer and when thawed proved surprisingly tasty.  Eisbock is produced today by only a handful of breweries and can reach an alcohol content of 11%.  The perfect pairing for this beer would be something equally concentrated, rich and decadent: a flourless chocolate cake or chocolate truffle.

A world class Eisbock to try: Aventinus Eisbock


Literally translated as smoked beer, Rauchbier is the modern context is a specialty dark lager of the Franconian city of Bamberg.  Before more controlled methods of roasting malt were invented, we imagine that the vast majority of beer might have had a smokey flavor, due to the malt being kilned by use of a direct smoke-producing heat source: fire.  As smoke was definitely not a flavor most brewers wanted, as smokey beers disappeared as fast as the malt roasting devise devised by Anton Wheeler (cira 1840) could be distributed.  The only place in the world where smoked beer was continually brewed into modernity is Germany, specifically Bamberg, where several breweries have dutifully continued the tradition of using beechwood logs in a direct fire kiln to impart a bacony, smokey accent that might be described as an acquired taste.  A quintessential food beer, Rauchbier marries beautifully with parallel flavors such as smoked meats, and intensely flavored cheeses like aged Gruyere or Limburger.

A world class Rauchbier to tryAecht Schlenkerla Märzen

Ungespundet Lager

While we are lucky in America to have access to a wide range of amazing beers, Ungespundet Lager is difficult to find.  Simply translated,  ungespundet means “not plugged”, which refers to the unique method imployed in condtioning this style of beer.  Typically the cask in which the new beer is racked into to condition is stoppered with a bung or spund in german which allows carbon dioxide to build inside the cask.  By keeping the cask unplugged, this special lager remains only lightly carbonated (think English Real Cask Ale) and develops an amazing complexity of flavor.  A few shades darker than a Pilsner and around 5% abv, a good Ungespundet will fool you into thinking your drinking an ale with its round full flavor, slight sweetness and delicate effervescence.  This is one of the session beers of Franconia, a delightful easy drinking beverage that harkens back to the pre-pilsner time when beer was served in ceramic steins. This is the kind of beer that will go with pretty much everything but its best with food that is not overly spicy or intense.  If possible, search it out on draft at a good bar or go directly to the source: Bamberg, Germany.


A world class Ungespundet Lager to try:  Mahr’s Ungespundet




True Pilsner is soft, fragrant and complex and is often described as “naked” by brewers meaning that the primary ingredients malt, hops, yeast and water are on display in this lighter refreshing style of beer. When the very first clear, golden lager was brewed in the Bohemian town of Pilsen in 1842, beer drinkers the world over were immediately enchanted. The Germans quickly proved to be the most passionate devotees of the new style. Towns across the land began brewing their own “Pilsner” beers, and the name of the style was soon shortened to the friendlier “Pils.” The German touch was to make the beer a bit lighter in body – better for everyday drinking – and to add an extra dose of hops for a refreshingly bitter zing. In Germany today, Pils is by far the most popular beer style, and every region has at least one brand to call its own. Pils brewed in southern Germany generally has a sweeter, maltier taste, while Pils brewed in the north tends toward a hoppier bitterness.

A world class German-Style Pilsner to try: Stoudt’s Pils

A world class Czech-Style Pilsner to try: Moonlight Brewing Company Reality Czeck