Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich: 3 Pairings

Table Mates by | Oct 2016 | Issue #117
Photo by Timothy A. Barker

Though concise, the food menu at Memphis, Tenn., bar Hammer & Ale was designed to complement its ever-changing, 24-tap beer selection. Beloved by patrons, Hammer & Ale’s grilled pimento cheese sandwich with kettle cooked chips and spicy aioli is a twist on the classic Southern sandwich that swaps goat cheese for mayonnaise, making it both rich and light. Sharp cheddar and goat cheese are accentuated by earthy fire-roasted peppers, a yeasty artisanal sourdough bread, and an herbaceous finish from lots of fresh-chopped thyme. Owner David P. Smith pairs it with three Southern beers.

1887 IPA | 5.7% ABV
Ghost River Brewing Co.
Loads of Columbus hops make this IPA a perfect pairing for spicy foods and strong cheeses. At 87 IBU, it holds its own alongside the sandwich’s sharp cheddar and tangy goat cheese, while subtly amplifying the fiery chipotle peppers and garlic in the aioli.

ESB | 6.0% ABV
High Cotton Brewing Co.
This ESB has a light body and mouthfeel that cuts through the richness of the sandwich’s molten cheese. Small amounts of Crystal and caramel malts lend sweetness and color, and the slight fruity esters from the English yeast strain accentuate the sourdough bread’s flavor and texture. Challenger hops provide balance, earthiness, and light spice without overwhelming any one component.

Suzy B | 5.0% ABV
Southern Prohibition Brewing Co.
An unfiltered, full-flavored Blonde Ale, Suzy B’s honey malt background and very light hop profile draw out the sweetness of the dish’s fire-roasted red peppers and the herbaceousness of the fresh-picked thyme leaves. It also serves as a crisp counterpoint to the salty kettle chips and yeasty artisanal sourdough.