Three-Cheese Board: Pairing French Varieties with Dubbel, Imperial Stout, and Wild Ale

Table Mates by | Jul 2017 | Issue #126
From left, Comté, Brillat-Savarin, and French Camembert. | Photo by Adam Lindsley

At Cheese Bar in Portland, Ore., owner and monger Steve Jones has been bringing together cheese and beer for 12 years. The six taps and 50 bottles at his flagship location in Southeast Portland have been intentionally curated to pair well with cheese. From over 250 varieties, Jones selected a trio of Comté, a semi-hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in France’s mountainous Franche-Comté; Brillat-Savarin, a soft and creamy French dessert cheese; and Camembert, a soft-ripened cheese with origins in Normandy. Matched with three distinct beer styles, these pairings are a study in complementing and contrasting flavors.

Comté and Rochefort 6
7.5% ABV
Brasserie de Rochefort
A favorite beer to pair with cheese, the sweet malty backbone and slightly spicy yeast notes of this Trappist Dubbel are an easy match with mountain cheeses. Comté, France’s most popular cheese, with its sweet, creamy hazelnut notes, provides the perfect stage for this ale to shine. The two together become a rich caramelly marriage of complexity, each heightening the other’s best qualities.

Brillat-Savarin and Big Bad Baptist
11.8% ABV
Epic Brewing Co.
The big, boozy, chocolate, and roasty notes in this Imperial Stout stand up to the rich and fatty Brillat-Savarin, a triple crème cheese that’s like butter with a rind. First the cheese coats your palate—then the beer cuts through to create a flavor akin to chocolate cake batter. A study in contrasts, follow a meal with this pairing to leave your guests in awe.

French Camembert and Supplication
7.0% ABV
Russian River Brewing Co.
The funky cabbage and cauliflower notes on this classic soft-ripened cheese meld beautifully with the funk and sweet-tart fruit notes of this Brown Ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. While the rinds of bloomy cheeses can clash with some beers, Supplication’s wild yeast character complements the Camembert, resulting in a classic funk-on-funk pairing.