Guide to pairing cheese with wine, beer and cider

A tasteful assortment of various types of cheese, eagerly awaiting to be paired with the perfect wine, beer or cider. Photo credit: Grace Kerfoot

While drinking in college is somewhat of a right of passage, alcohol doesn’t have to be all about the body shots, cheap beer and hot mess hangovers. One way to ease yourself into a more sophisticated drinking lifestyle is by hosting a cheese and wine, or cheese and beer, party.

While there are technically no rules as to what you can and should pair together— some simple recommendations can help get you started off on the right foot.

Step 1: Choose your cheeses.

If you are new to cheese, try building a cheese board with one soft and creamy cheese, like brie, which everyone will probably enjoy, and a crumbly, salty cheese, like an aged cheddar and a wild, spicy blue cheese. Choose at least three cheeses to build your cheese board.

Trader Joe’s has a wide variety of affordable cheeses, but even Safeway has above and beyond your everyday Kraft singles. If you’re willing to splurge for some fancier cheeses, Zucchini & Vine downtown and the Galley have some great imported cheeses.

Step 2: Choose your Alcohol.


White wines pair well with most cheeses due to their light flavor.

  • Pinot
    : Crisp
    and refreshing, this wine pairs well with creamy cheeses, like brie, and
    herbed cheeses.
  • Riesling: This sweeter wine can
    balance the bold flavors in blue cheeses and smoked goudas.

Red wines are trickier to pair with cheese due to their more robust flavors.


  • Lagers: The summery lightness of these
    beers pair excellently with soft cheeses like brie, grassy alpine cheeses
    like gruyere, or even a pasty goat cheese.
  • IPA: The bold flavor of an IPA
    needs an equally bold cheese like an extra sharp cheddar or aged gouda.
  • Stout & Porter: Like red
    wine, darker beers are richer and can hold their own against a stronger
    cheese. Explore pairing with a spicy blue cheese or a mushroom-flavored brie.


  • Hard ciders: With its crisp apple sweetness and yeasty tang, compliment cheeses that have a
    little more funk and smell to them. Look for a cheese made with sheep
    milk or pub cheese.

Step 3: Add Extras.

  • Bread and crackers: Use
    crusty baguettes to mop up drippy cheeses, like brie, and crackers for
    harder cheeses like cheddar and gouda.
  • Fruit: Grapes, apples and pears
    compliment most cheeses, as do dried fruits like apricots, dates and
  • Nuts: Anything and everything
    goes from raw almonds to chipotle-spiced pistachios.
  • Other: Honey, chocolates,
    salamis, olives and pickled vegetables— explore whatever condiments you have in your

Step 4: Assemble and taste.

Technically, cheeses should be tasted in progression from least to most flavorful. But you’ll probably have more fun if you mix and match to uncover the mysterious world of cheese and booze.

So, when you’re ready to transition from college wild child to a more tasteful and mature drinker, better booze and a plethora of cheesy goodness are waiting for you on the other side.

Grace Kerfoot can be reached at [email protected] or @gracekerf on Twitter.