3 Reasons Why Pairing 🍺 with 🧀 is Easier than Wine

Beer and cheese pairing. Cheese already consumed.

Beer and Cheese Pairing = ❤️


After years of teaching wine and cheese pairing classes I’ve noticed one thing from some students when I talk of the glories of beer and cheese pairing: surprise.

See that look on my face above while I drink (tinted) beer in a German beer garden? Yes. I ate some cheese right before that. This is what beer and cheese taste like together! Glorious.

If you are someone that has always assumed that there’s no way anything can snuggle up to cheese quite like wine, maybe it is time for you to take a trip to the sudsy side.


Like Bettie White and comedy, beer and cheese are the perfect pairing.

If you’re in the bay area, join me at my March 14th Suds & Curds: Beer & Cheese Pairing 101class at 18 Reasons. If you’re further out or, just want to know why beer and cheese rock together before pairing it with me, check out my ode to beer and cheese, below.

An Ode to Beer & Cheese Pairing

3 Reasons why the lovers are meant to be:

  1. The suds. That’s right. The carbonation. If you’ve ever heard me talk about how glorious sparkling wine and cheese are together, this may sound familiar. Carbonation takes cheese to a happy place. The bubbles cut through the fat and both balance out and highlight a cheese’s richness. And beer, bless its heart, it always is carbonated.
  2. Sometiiiiiimes beer is more consistent than wine = easier to pair. Wine has vintages that taste different based on the weather and farming, right? Well, unless it’s a superstar beer unicorn, beer does not. Unlike winemakers who know they’re at the whims of the harvest that year, brewers pride themselves on a consistent product. This makes it easier to know that a nut brown amber beer from your favorite brewer will nearly always taste the same-therefore it will always go with your cheesemonger’s artisan manchego. Thank you, brewers.
  3. Grains + cheese already like each other. Take the grain that was to become bread, add more yeast, ferment it, add some bubbles, and you’ve just amped up one of the first pairings we fell in love with in childhood. We’re already fans!

3 Stellar Cheese & Cider Pairings with Oakland’s Redfield Cider

Cheese and cider pairings en route

My good friends Olivia Maki and Mike Reis just opened a cider bar and bottle shop this weekend in Rockridge Oakland! In honor of their cider love (and ordinary love, too, these guys are married!), I’m sharing this interview with the duo. In it you’ll not only discover what cool cider nerds they are, you’ll also learn about their top 3 cheese and cider pairing.

Redfield Cider, I can’t wait to visit!

Yours is a love story as much as it is a cider story. I was actually at one of the first nights you guys started hanging out- Olivia, you were managing a farmhouse beer and farmstead cheese class Nicole Erny and I were teaching, and Mike came to the class. I think he was late. Which, now that I think about it, was pretty smooth so he could offer to stay later to hang out and “help you clean up.” Niiiice, Mike. When did your love story become a cider story?

Olivia: It’s true! You were there at the very beginning of our love story – a story that started around a love of food and drink and continues in a similar thread to this day. Mike really introduced me to cider – I can’t remember ever drinking it in college or when I first moved the Bay Area. I liked cider immediately and we then began making our own cider at home and doing some urban gleaning around Oakland and Berkeley. It pretty quickly became an obsession.

Mike: I first began thinking about cider seriously when I was working at Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco and did a tasting with Scott and Ellen from Tilted Shed up in Sebastopol. Their ciders were truly an “aha” moment for me. I began to understand the depth and range that cider can offer when it’s made with care, time, and quality ingredients. It seemed like a natural extension of Liv and my (already food and drink filled) lives together to learn about, drink, and make cider together.

Why is now the perfect time to open a cider bottle shop and tasting bar?

Olivia: For starters, there is crazy growth in the cider industry right now between sales, new cideries opening, and general interest in the beverage.

Mike: And it is crazy to us that the Bay Area doesn’t have an established “cider scene.” Seattle, Chicago, New York and Portland all seem to be a bit more developed, cider-wise, and we live in a place that prides itself on its food and beverage scene. We’re opening the bar and shop that we’ve been wanting to go to for years.

Why do you think beer and wine are the first things that most people think of when they hear “cheese pairing?” History? Culture? Habit? Why should this be different?

Olivia: That’s a really good question. Cider and cheese can be such an incredible pairing but even for me that’s not necessarily what pops into my head first either. I think it could boil down to culture and habit – beer and wine are what usually get all the attention. Especially wine and cheese. I remember doing beer and cheese classes with you at 18 Reasons a few years ago and there was even some explanation around how unusual that might be–cider is even more obscure than that.

What have you learned about cheese and cider pairings over the years that you think we should know too? Any surprises?

Mike: Cider is so incredibly versatile and can hang with a wide range of cheeses. I think Perries [pear cider] in general pair well with cheese – they have a naturally occurring sugar in them called sorbitol that doesn’t fully ferment out and a little sweetness can be nice to play with.

Olivia: Beyond that – English cider is really fun to pair with cheese. Traditional English cider is typically made using a native-yeast fermentation, so you can get some earthy, barnyardy flavors that sing next to cheese.

Olivia, and Mike, answer the below question separately. No cheating! What are each of your top 3 cheese and cider pairings (and will any of your cider picks be on your shelves when you open?). Your faves can overlap, but only if on accident!

Olivia: Dragon’s Head Perry with Mt Tam blending together bright and fruity with creamy; Dunkerton’s Black Fox with Tarentaise or an English Cheddar; Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider with anything… but if I really had to choose something like Willoughby would be jamming.

Mike: Eden’s Ice Ciders are crazy good with a powerful blue cheese like Stilton. The sweetness plays off some of the caramelly aged character of the cheese and helps temper some of the blue cheese funk. You can also find some great pairings by looking at what cheeses they eat in the world’s great cider cultures. Camembert and Normandy Poiré (pear-based cider) is a layup, and Basque Idiazabal sheep’s milk cheese tastes great alongside a pour of funky sagardoa.

Olivia- you are a farmer at heart. You even volunteered on a Vermont farm next to Jasper Hill Creamery a few years ago (which Mike joined you on briefly). How does this affect your take on cider? And… what was it like working next to Jasper Hill?

Olivia: Total farmer at heart. One of these days I hope to get back to it! To me, cider is an agricultural product and I get so excited about cidermakers that focus on fruit characteristics and terroir. I also get inspired by cidermakers who are also farmers and are thinking about soil health, responsible water usage, minimizing inputs and spraying, and planning ahead for climate change. Working next to Jasper Hill when I was in Vermont was really just a treat. I got to know a few folks who worked there and immediately felt a friendship with their crew. I have so much respect for what they are doing and their cheeses are some of my absolute favorites.

What are 3 things you wish everyone knew about cider but didn’t? And could we have learned this on your cider podcast?

Olivia: For me, it is some basic things like the fact that cider is not a subset of beer and that you don’t “brew” it. Cider is pressed and fermented similar to wine.

Mike: For me, I think it would also be teaching cider drinkers how to find the best cider they can. That’s a question that we get asked A LOT and that we did answer in an episode of our podcast. It would take a while to explain so you might just have to go and give it a listen.

Where are you located?!

Olivia: We just opened last weekend! Come visit us at 5815 College Avenue in Rockridge!

Why My Gingerbread Cheeseball Makes Gingerbread Men Jealous

Gingerbread Cheeseballs are the Perfect Holiday Surprise

Do you remember when you realized you were no longer the cutest kid in the room? I do. The exact day. I was about 8 or 9, and climbing the walnut tree behind my grandmother’s church with the local kids. I had just nearly climbed to the top of the tree and was so excited about my summit that I shouted down to the adults, aching for their praise. Sure, it took me about a 30 minutes, but I climbed 7 feet! I waited at the top-ish for them to bestow me with oohs and awes like I was a firework.

But no one said anything. I’ll just wait a moment, I thought, leaning against a branch. When after a few minutes nothing happened, I looked around. Where had everyone gone?

The adults were still there, I quickly learned. It was just that instead of looking at me, they were laughing over a 4 year-old with bouncing curls who was giggling and spinning circles below me. On the ground (she didn’t even climb anything)! Spinning circles (the world’s easiest shape)! It was then I knew things had changed. Unless there was a teenager present, I would never be the cutest kid in the room again. My reign… was over.

While I’m not saying that gingerbread people are passé or no longer adorable, I’m just wondering if they are feeling a little of the same thing when served next to my cheeseball.


Here are some reasons why my gingerbread cheeseball might make gingerbread people jealous.

  1. It is flipping cute.
  2. It is soft and creamy and gingerbread men are dry and crispy.
  3. Because of the fresh ginger in the recipe, the ball has a fresh and lively flavor.
  4. It’s exciting and new- this season’s It Girl.
  5. A gingerbread cheeseball is a conversation starter.
  6. It’s suuuuuuuper easy to make, can be stored in the fridge for a week, and never gets stale.
  7. You can cover it pomegranate seeds and then serve it on gingerbread men cookies (too meta?). It’s a dessert on a dessert!


Please don’t feel feel bad gingerbread people. Competition only makes us stronger.

Bring this ball to your next party and expect to be invited back the following year. Recipe follows. Serve with speculoos, Biscoff, gingerbread cookies, almond crisps, or shortbread.


Gingerbread Cheeseball

makes 2 cheeseballs

  • 4 ounces cultured butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

In a large mixing bowl or in a mixer with a paddle, cream the butter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add half the cream cheese, mix until blended, then scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the remaining cream cheese and sugar and blend until smooth. Add the fresh ginger, spices, and vanilla to the bowl, mix for five seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing until the mixture is all the same color.

Divide the cheeseball mix into two circular shapes and wrap in wax paper, then plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning the balls will be firm enough so that you can shape them into spheres. Create balls, and before serving, press the outside with the pomegranate seeds.


5 Questions with Artist Malachy Egan: Cheese Art with a Twist

Cheese Art: 5 Questions with artist & cheese lover Malachy Egan

We all know that good cheesemaking is an art form and that all great artists love cheese (there’s no way that this isn’t true, right?), but did you know that some of the coolest art out today is an ode to cheese? Cheese art. And Malachy Egan is one of my favorite creators of it.

Malachy and I met three years ago on a group cheese trip to Wisconsin and hit it off right away because we’re both a tad obsessed Irish cheese so we had tons to talk about. When over a massive pile of fried cheese curds, he told me he was an artist and showed me his latest artwork project with Essex Cheese, I immediately asked to see more of his work. Then, I hired him. See that “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” logo above? He designed it. And my business card. I love them. It was cheese and art kismet.

One of the reasons Malachy’s cheese art touches my heart so much is not because his illustrations are of beautiful cheese, but because they tell stories of the cheese word, and its makers and mongers. Malachy has visited many of the regions he illustrates and has spent time with the makers, so you really get a sense of what it’s all about. As in, you get a cheese of who the cheesemaker really is, or, get some behind-the-scenes peeks at secret (ish) cheesemonger cheese paper folds. His art is also damned cute and I love the colors.

Below is an interview with artist Malachy Egan. Because I know you’ll love his stuff too, here is a link to his online shop. You know, in case you’re looking for a gift for the favorite cheese lover in your life for the holidays and all that. 

5 Questions with artist Malachy Egan

1. How the heck did you get into cheese art?

I’ve been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. My love for cheese arrived late in my life – I was a veeerrrrry picky eater as a kid. I didn’t even like grated cheese on pasta (insert face palm emoji)! Things changed when I studied abroad in Italy and then after college when I cooked my way through my Mom’s Marcella Hazan cookbooks. After almost a decade of working in advertising/design I got laid off. I knew I wanted to learn about food and food production and I had a friend who was a cheese buyer for a local cheese counter here in Philadelphia. He just so happened to be looking for help, so I jumped in. I would hand draw some signs to pin in the cheese and designed some small chalkboards for promotionals. So I guess that was the start of my cheese art.


2. Your family is Irish and you travel back to the Isles A LOT! First of all, that’s awesome, and second, I think we should meet up there someday! Third, what Irish cheeses or cheese-inspired products should we be trying or eating tons more of here?

Yes! We definitely should meet up! My Family is originally from Co. Mayo, in the west of Ireland. We try to go back every few years. One of my favorite Irish cheeses is Crozier Blue – made by the Grubb family in Co. Tipperary, the same folks who make the popular Cashel Blue. Crozier is a pasteurized sheeps milk blue. Since its sheeps milk (sheep have a shorter lactation cycle than cows) it is a very seasonal product. I noticed recently that it’s being imported to the US which is amazing! If you see it at your local shop definitely grab a wedge. It’s fudgy, rich and sweet and has a nice smoky, spicy finish to it. Great paired with a little honey and maybe a dram of whiskey.

There’s also a fantastic sheep’s milk tomme called Rockfield that I tried for the first time this past summer. It’s made in Co. Mayo (so I may be a bit biased) with pasteurized sheeps milk. It’s creamy and nutty with a little bit of a citrus-y tang to it. Although it’s a relative new comer to the market it took home a silver the World Cheese Awards this year. Hup Mayo! I don’t think it’s being exported as its a small production but if you’re over in Ireland head to any of the Sheridan’s Cheesemongers counters to give it a try [side note from Kirstin, love these guys!].


2. If you could draw 3 cheeses for the rest of your life, what would they be? Why?

Oooohhh, that is a tough one! I love softer cheeses and washed rinds because their shapes and textures can change so much throughout their life – it keeps it interesting. I also love clothbound cheddars. The wild flora that grow on the muslin are a fun challenge to illustrate. Large alpines are fun too because the wheels are often adorned with amazingly elaborate and colorful label designs.


3. What are the hardest things about drawing cheese? What should burgeoning cheese illustrators keep in mind if they want to sketch the wheel, too?

There are so many different cheeses – styles/shapes/sizes – that you could spend years drawing them! I think it’s best to focus on an aspect of the cheese that’s relevant or interesting to you – whether its the history, the science, the geometry, etc. I like to focus not just on the object itself but the people, the animals, and the process behind the product.


5. What do you have available if say…. anyone wanted to get a cheese lover something from you for the holidays? Can you tell us the stories behind the art? I heard it might be gift-giving season soon….

I am currently working on getting some prints made of some sketches I did when I was interning in Holland. While there I worked at Fromagerie L’Amuse and helped out at a couple dairies. During my stay I kept a little illustrated journal and these prints represent a few (of the many) things I learned.

Thank you, Malachy! 

The Dreamiest, Blingiest Holiday Cheese Gifts Ever

Cheese gifts that travel- Cheese Journey’s trip to Bra, Italy

Holiday Cheese Gifts with Bling

While lounging by the fireplace, sipping on sherry, and considering what cheese gifts I’d put on the It’s Not You, It’s Brie guide this year (I was also wearing puffy slippers and just finished a cup of black tea, so yes, I am an English grandmother), I thought, why not do something different? Why not go big?

Why not go dreamy?

This year I’m sharing my what-if-I-could-do anything-holiday-cheese-gift-guide. It’s big, it’s grand, travel is involved, cost is not a consideration, and it includes lots of shiny things- kind of like Vogue’s Gift Guide but for cheese and less fashionable. None of the picks are cheap, some are more affordable, some you can save up for, and some are just to dream about.


My Dream Holiday Cheese Gifts

Cheese Journey’s Cheese Slow Food Festival, Bra

See top photo. You have to be a professional to attend this tour, but if I wasn’t, I’d get a cheesemonger job, quick, to qualify. There are so many great options on Cheese Journeys, but the Slow Food’s Cheese Festival in Bra is something else. Every 2 years, packed with the best cheeses of the world and their makers. If you can get there via holiday gifting, go!


Food 52’s Adopt a Cow Aged Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese

“From our friends at Especially Puglia comes a new straight-from-the-farm gift that we couldn’t be happier about—after all, it’s cheese! And not just any cheese: Caciocavallo cheese is a traditional Pugliese pulled-curd cheese made by pouring the milk of the rare-breed Podolica cow into a gourd-shaped round. It ages for a day in the heat of olive wood fires and hangs from wooden poles for the remaining maturation. The result? A wonderfully sharp, earthy cheese with a semi-firm texture that hardens as it ages.” Bonus? You can get an adoption certificate for the cow that supplies the milk for this cheese.


Jacob May’s cheese board disguised as a cutting board

Jacob May Cooper Wesley Butcher Blocks (For Cheese)

Made in Oakland, these boards are a work of art. Each is composed for beauty as much as function. Though they’re not actually made for cheese, cheese displayed on these boards may be the only thing that could make them more beautiful.


Berti Italian Cheese Knife Set -Boxwood

These are the kind of cheese knives that will last lifetimes. As in, your great, great, great, great granddaughter’s daughter could probably use these to slice her first Parmigiano-Reggiano. Admittedly, though I have no idea what exactly to do with each of these knives, I feel in my heart I could make something up.


A Quarter-Wheel of Rogue River Blue + Bling

Made only with rich fall and winter milk and covered in syrah leaves drenched in local pear eau de vie, Rogue River Blue is the blingiest blue cheese in the world. But if you order this quarter-wheel you get even more bling. Honey, cheese board, artisan knives, and then the actual cheese. Let me know if you need my address.


Pomme Gold-Plated Cheese Knife, Quitokeeto

Because, whoa…. “Brushed with 99.9% pure 24k gold, this is a beautiful serrated cheese knife appropriate for soft to medium hard cheeses. Each knife is unique, hand-crafted, and slightly different from the one that came before it, and the one that was made after. The finish is subtly matte, brushed – not shiny and sharp. The knife will patina and change wonderfully with use, leaving an impression of each meal or gathering.”


Seasonal Subscription to June Taylor Jams

One of my favorite moments of writing this blog was when I got to visit June Taylor’s workshop. Read more here. The conserves are vibrant, the labels are handmade, the Christmas cakes are aged for a year, and nearly everything here tastes amazing with cheese.


Full Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, Williams and Sonoma

Enough said.


Thanks for dreaming with me!

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

This Pumpkin Cheesecake Cheeseball is a Friendsgiving Miracle

Thanksgiving Cheeseball TV1 Glows

Pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball

Let the pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball roll! This pumpkin cheeseball is the only dessert you’ll need for Friendsgiving.

I don’t know about your house, but Thanksgiving is a strictly traditional affair in my family. If I decide to go rouge and say make, roast beef instead of turkey, or a cranberry tart instead of sauce, my dad insists they re-make the entire meal for themselves at home so they can have the proper meal. This is about having leftovers to make turkey-cranberry sandwiches, right?

Anyhow. Friendsgiving? That’s a different story.


Friendsgiving isn’t about tradition- it is about breaking bread with the family you chose, and filling the table with dishes that makes those dear to your heart happy.

So it makes sense that the meal, like your Friendsgiving family, is flexible. Open to try new things and modern twists on classic dishes.

This is where the pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball fits in.


I first created this cheeseball in honor of my friend Stephanie, who when I was telling her I was striving to create the perfect ball for Thanksgiving, said “pumpkin.” I said “cheesecake” and the rest was history. Since then I’ve served it at harvest parties, Thanksgiving, and in cheese classes.  Besides burrata, it may arouse the most sighs in my classes, ever. Which, quite simply when you think about burrata, is a miracle.

Serve the ball at the end of the night for dessert, with gingersnaps or almond crisps, and a strong old fashioned in an etched high ball glass. When making this ball, note that you will need to chill the ball overnight. If you wait to roll the ball in toasted nuts, you can make this ball ahead, freeze it, then defrost and roll in pecans before serving.


I hope this cheeseball brings as much joy to your friends and family as it has mine!


Thanksgiving Cheeseball Cutting (1 of 1)

Friendsgiving balls, go!

Spices ingred (1 of 1) Cheeseball recipe ingredientsPumpkin Cheesecake Cheeseball

makes 2 cheeseballs.


4 ounces cultured butter, room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 2/3 cup toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl or in a mixer with a paddle, cream the butter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Add half the cream cheese, mix until blended, and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Then add the remaining cream cheese and sugar and blend again. Add the pumpkin and spices to the bowl, mix for five seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue mixing until smooth.

Divide the cheeseball mix into two roughly spherical shapes, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning the balls will be firm enough so that you can shape them into spheres. Create balls, and before serving, press the outside with the pecans.


Happy Thanksgiving!

This was first posted in 2015 but stands as one of my favorite holiday recipes, ever. Prepare yourself for a gingerbread cheeseball recipe in a couple weeks!