Raise a pint to St. Patrick's
The words "wine" and "cheese" are quite frequently used together, but St. Patrick's Day celebrations tend to see a little less wine and a lot more beer, so consider the latter when you break out the drinks today.
"Craft beers right now have really taken off," West End Liquor owner Kip Earney said.
Regardless of the special occasion, beer is considered a better match for cheese than wine because of its carbonation.
"The bubbles from beer act like little scrub brushes on your palate," explained Cathy, Earney's wife and co-owner of the Red Wing liquor store.
That means your mouth is rinsed clean of one cheesy flavor before diving into another. Additionally, beer and cheese are made similarly in that they both undergo fermentation.
"So that's why they go well together," Cathy added.
Living a stone's throw from the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin -- also known as Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery -- gives area residents extremely easy access to a variety of locally produced cheese curds. But with five diverse flavors, how is someone to know which brews will pair best with which curds?
Luckily, the Earneys are well-versed in the endless selections of craft beers and are happy to offer up ideas. Here's what they suggest:
Sometimes simplest is best and biting into an original cheddar cheese curd can be just as satisfying as enjoying those with unique flavors mixed in.
In order to savor as much of the natural cheddar as you can, select your corresponding beverage carefully.
"The easiest way to pair is choose beer and cheese with similar strengths so one doesn't overpower," Cathy said. "Cheddar is mild. Pilsner is light."
For that reason, the Earneys recommend finding beers that are light in style and color.
"Amber ales have too much going on," Kip said.
Instead, consider something like the Rush River Golden Axe Ale or the Summit Pilsner.
If amber ales are what you prefer, here's the cheese curd for you.
Cajun curds will spice up your taste buds, so it's a good idea to have something that can calm them back down again. Whether displaying a flavor of rich malt or smooth caramel, Amber ales are the answer.
"Wherever there's heat, you should have sweet," Kip said.
He suggests pairing Cajun curds with Fat Tire Amber Ale or Alaskan Amber Ale.
When adding a south-of-the-border flavor to cheese, it's no wonder what kind of drink will make a good fit.
Kip recommends throwing back a Dos Equis Amber or Negra Modelo with taco cheese curds.
"Those kind of went together, being they're from Mexico," he said.
Other types came to mind as well.
"With taco being very spicy, most everything suggests the Oktoberfest or Vienna-style beers," Kip said.
But since Oktoberfest isn't available this time of year, keep it in mind when you pick up some taco cheese curds several months down the road.
As summer draws near, wheat beers become more and more popular.
"The idea is wheat is a real approachable beer," Kip said.
As a result, enjoying a cold glass with some garlic cheese curds is a wise choice.
"It tends to have a little bit of sweetness to it that pairs well with garlic," he added.
Among a wide variety of wheat beers, the Earneys recommend Boulevard Wheat and Widmer Brothers Wheat.
In pairing with ranch-flavored curds, you should be sure to go with a brew that can stand up to the strength of the cheese.
While amber ales tend to be softer, pale ales pack the right punch.
"These have a little more bite to them," Kip explained.
That's why he suggests Summit Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as a complementary drink to mild ranch cheese curds.