Grilled Cheese and Beer: The Pinnacle of Pairing

August 22, 2017

By Evan Malachosky, August 22, 2017

You don't have to be a serious beer drinker to claim cheese and beer pairings as the holy grail of matrimonies. A sweet and bitter beer (or sour, if that’s your thing) is balanced effortlessly by the salt and umami of cheese. So, what if I told you that you could combat the bitterness of an IPA and indulge in the sweet symphony of a cold one and cheese at the same time?

Not into your bitter beer? Pro tip: eat a salty snack. Salt is small enough to slip into the bitter-taste receptors on your tongue and combat the ill-received flavor. But, who wants to eat a jar full of peanuts or a cup of stale pretzels with their beer? It’s time to upgrade your snack to something more substantial.

Samuel Thornhill’s blog, Mas Appetit, is impressively put together. He'd long been a strong judge of quality in the music industry; as a talent manager and marketer for Loud Records and the Paradigm Agency, Thornhill worked with Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Funkmaster Flex, among others.

Now, as someone who runs a food blog and works occasionally as a private chef, he’s subject to be asked: “What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?”

Surprisingly, Thornhill explains, one of his most interesting and delicious culinary experiences was a beer and cheese pairing. He paired six different cheeses with six different beers: bleu cheese with a Stout, cheddar with an IPA, harbison with a Saison and so on. His pairings focus on not just flavor, but density, potency, and level of obscureness.

“Unlike wine and cheese pairings,” he says, “beer and cheese offers a much more fun and flavorful experience.” His opinion is sure to ruffle the feathers of wine-and-cheese diehards, but he, logistically speaking, has a point.

The saltiness of the bacon and butter and the tangy sweetness of the Cabot are a serious upgrade on lame pretzels.”

Beer and cheese go well together; beyond that seemingly general statement is a complex doctrine of pairing like cheeses with like beers. While you can go from a dry white to a bold and sweet red wine, the beer experience goes from a light barnyard brett, to a puckering Sour, to a Barleywine and beyond. Beer’s wider range of flavors allows for a more complex pairing.

Thornhill, who got his cooking knowledge from his Trinidadian lineage, shares a recipe for the ultimate salty/savory snack built for beer: a decadent grilled-cheese.

You’ll need a loaf of fresh sourdough bread, a half round of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, eight pieces of thick-cut bacon, a whole sweet onion and your favorite Double IPA. The saltiness of the bacon and butter and the tangy sweetness of the Cabot are a serious upgrade on salty peanuts and lame pretzels.

Thornhill suggests pairing the sandwich with a Six-Point Brewery Resin Double IPA; I suggest Lagunitas Hop Stoopid.

Four Servings Ingredients:

  • Eight slices of sourdough bread
  • Eight pieces of thick-cut smoked bacon
  • 12 ounces of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
  • One half sweet onion
  • Eight tablespoons salted, room temperature butter


Lay the majority of your cheese across the bottom halves of your four slices of bread. Set aside. Butter a medium-sized cast iron skillet at medium heat. Drop one half of your sweet onion, sliced, in. Let the onions loosen, then place your bacon in – two pieces at a time. Once they’re done and crispy – and still hot – place them atop the cheese, two per. Then, layer on the onions. Last, close the pile with the remaining cheese. Place the top sourdough on, pushing the layers together.

In that same medium-sized skillet, add slightly more butter. Allow the grease from the bacon to loosen. Before placing each sandwich on the skillet, butter both sides generously. Once buttered, place the sandwich on the skillet. Allow both sides to brown before calling it quits – a nice crispness is preferred.

Serve them cut into quarters for fair sharing. Keep your beer on ice until served.


Thanks to Sam Thornhill / Hop Culture Studios for the header image.

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