For Tampa Bay Beer Week, here are some beer and cheese pairings

We talked to a Tampa Bay beer expert.
Beer cheese pairings
Beer cheese pairings [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]
Published March 5, 2020

When it comes to ordering a charcuterie board, most people’s first instinct is to ask for the accompanying wine list. But for many types of meat or cheese, there’s also a perfect beer to go with it. That’s where Ami Parrino comes in.

Parrino is one of 136 advanced cicerones (beer connoisseurs) in the world, and only one of four in Florida. Lucky for us, she’s a Tampa native, using her expertise to help create the signature flavors at Brew Bus in Seminole Heights.

She said the key to a perfect beer pairing lies in one of the three C’s: complement (matching similar flavors), contrast (butting heads in a favorable way, like sweet and salty) and cut (washing away textures, like how high alcohol cuts through high fat).

Tampa Bay Beer Week, the annual local celebration of all things craft beer, kicks off this week. Why not celebrate with a beer and charcuterie night? Parrino shares some of her favorite pints from Tampa Bay breweries, along with the cheese or meat that would complement them best.

If you want to learn more about the topic, Parrino is hosting a beer and charcuterie pairing event during Tampa Bay Beer Week, her first venture into pairing with deli meats outside of her home.

“I’m doing regional pairings in the sense that the cheese and charcuterie for each of the three beers will both be from the same country,” Parrino said.

The Beer Bus Brewing Cheese and Charcuterie Beer Pairing will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. March 12. 4101 N Florida Ave., Tampa. Tickets start at $40. Check for details.

Florida Ave. Brown Ale and Manchego

The nuttiness of the Florida Ave. Brown Ale is what makes this combination so complementary. “Manchego is typically a very nutty cheese, so their intensities are the same level, and you get a little bit of that slickness in your mouth from the sheep’s milk,” Parrino said.

Cigar City Florida Cracker and Brie

Cigar City Florida Cracker
Cigar City Florida Cracker [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

Florida Cracker is high in carbonation and has a lemon zest that zips up your palate, cutting through the creaminess of Brie cheese. It also has a light cracker flavor, which gives you the feeling of “eating cheese and crackers, but instead you’re drinking it.”

Florida Ave. Raspberry and chevre

Florida Ave Raspberry
Florida Ave Raspberry [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]
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The acidity in each of these items goes well together. But it’s the high carbonation in the beer that gives that cutting effect, washing the fattiness from the cheese off your tongue. “The fruited Berliner specifically is like having the accoutrements on your cheese board, like a fruit coulis,” Parrino said.

Six Ten Blouser and Emmental

Six Ten Blouser
Six Ten Blouser [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

This semihard Swiss cheese is very fatty and has a mildly pungent aroma, while the Belgian Tripel is very sweet and high in alcohol, cutting through the slightly funky smell and flavor. “Typically a Tripel will also have a grassy note that pairs really well with this slightly grassy cheese."

Cycle Brewing Crank IPA and cheddar

Cycle Crank IPA
Cycle Crank IPA [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

“You always want your hops to balance your level of sharpness, so the higher your hop level, the higher your sharpness should be,” Parrino said. This IPA is definitely hoppy, so you’ll want a sharp cheddar to match with it. After coating your mouth with the cheese, take a sip of the beer and the two will melt together perfectly.

Tampa Bay Brewing Co. Moose Killer and blue cheese

Tampa Bay Brewing Co.
Tampa Bay Brewing Co. [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

“Matching intensities can be key when creating a pairing,” Parrino said. This high-malt, high-sugar and high-alcohol Barleywine makes the perfect partner for this bold cheese, which melts in your mouth before every sip.

Coppertail Night Swim and Jamón Serrano

Coppertail Night Swim
Coppertail Night Swim [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

Parrino said the dark roast in this beer pulls out the smokiness in the meat. With this pairing, you’re getting a slight barbecue flavor, while the fatty richness is washed away by the carbonation from the beer.

Brew Bus Rollin’ Dirty and peppered salami

Brew Bus Rollin Dirty
Brew Bus Rollin Dirty [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

“The nice, sweet malt profile balances out the pepper on the edges of the salami.” While Parrino favors the contrast here, she said if you want to bring out and emphasize the spice, switch this amber out for an IPA.

BarrieHaus Dunkel and chorizo

BarrieHaus Dunkel
BarrieHaus Dunkel [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

This is a rich beer, and rich beer is the perfect complement to a rich, fatty sausage. “The sweetness in a beer like this also helps to tone down the spiciness as it coats your mouth,” she said.

Rapp Brewing Gose and prosciutto

Rapp Brewing Gose
Rapp Brewing Gose [ Courtesy of Alysia Cruz ]

“I like to accentuate the saltiness of the prosciutto," Parrino said, "and gose is a salty beer with coriander, and has a tiny bit of sourness.” The lingering saltiness in your mouth definitely enhances the flavor of the prosciutto instead of washing it away.