Beer: Dark and Roasty
e.g. Stouts, Porters
Groupings: Dark and Malty, Dark and Dry
Dark beers like stouts and porters can vary in intensity, so it’s important to match your cheese to the appropriate alcohol content of your beer. If you have a flavorful stout, like Belching Beaver Brewing Peanut Butter Milk Stout Nitro, you’ll need a cheese with enough richness to hold up, so try a blue cheese like Point Reyes Bay Blue. For milder dark beers, like a simple porter or brown ale, consider the El Trigal 6-month Manchego.
Beer: Fruity and Spicy
e.g. Belgian-Styles Dubbel, Golden, and Tripel Ales
Groupings: Bright Yeast, Dark
Belgian beers are some of the most fun to pair with cheese as they can be incredibly nuanced flavors. For a malty Belgian dark ale, try a well-aged gouda like Robusto. For a golden ale or even a Tripel, consider something with a pronounced nuttiness, like Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyere.
Beer: Hoppy and Bitter
e.g. IPAs, Pale Ales
Groupings: Earthy and Bitter; Hop-bitter, Malt-forward; Strong Hop, Herbal, Earthy or Citrus
IPAs can vary immensely these days. For a classic Double IPA, like Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder, we suggest an aged cheddar, like Jasper Hill Cabot Clothbound Cheddar to hold up to the bitterness. For a Hazy IPA like Firestone Walker Brewing Mind Haze IPA, try a cheese that will still let the tropical hops shine, like Mimolette.
Whole Foods Market CCP and Beer Program
CCP, which stands for Certified Cheese Professional, is a certification launched in 2012 by the American Cheese Society (ACS). The exam is the only one of its kind in the industry, covering eleven domains of knowledge, including Regulations and Food Safety, Cheese History, Cheesemaking, Inventory Management and more. It’s a test similar to a sommelier certification. It tests a cheesemonger’s ability to run a cheese shop — demonstrating their skills regarding history, pairings, service, storage and cutting.
Since it was launched 9 years ago, more than 53% of people passing the American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals Exam have been Team Members at Whole Foods Market. Currently, there are more than 300 CCPs in Whole Foods Market stores across the country, including 45 in stores throughout California.
Whole Foods Market is also proud to employ over 500 Certified Beer Servers across the country. And did you know, we support more than 200 local craft breweries across the state of California.
The CCPs and Certified Beer Servers at Whole Foods Market love to talk all things cheese and beer – so say hello next time you’re in a store – and maybe you’ll find a new favorite pairing.
Meet Stephanie F., Certified Cheese Professional at the Coddingtown Store in Santa Rosa.
How long have you been a Team Member at Whole Foods?
I’ve been a team member since 2004 (17 years).
When did you become a Certified Cheese Professional (CCP)?
I became a CCP in 2017 (4 years).
What was the hardest thing you had to learn to pass the CCP exam?
The hardest thing I had to learn in becoming a CCP was simplifying the scientific process and terminology of cheese making so I could have “real” conversations with customers, so they left feeling comfortable and hopefully learn something new. It is easy to feel intimated at the cheese counter and it’s our job to make you feel at home.
What's your current favorite cheese and beer pairing?
My favorite pairing is a French-style ash ripened goat cheese with crisp Pilsners. It’s my favorite style of cheese so I enjoy seeking a Pilsner to match. Both complement the other’s bright and grassy tones. Staying local, I love Laughing Monk Brewery’s Holy Ghost Pilsner (San Francisco) with Andante’s Acapella (Petaluma). Cannonball from Capriole Farmstead (Indiana) is also an amazing and accessible ash ripened goat cheese. Finding the cheese aged closer to 30 days leaves a tart flavor for a crisp Pilsner to finish.
The Whole Foods Market Difference
At Whole Foods Market we’ve been stubborn about our standards from day one. And we’ve gotten even pickier with age. We take pride in what we do sell and even more in what we don’t. Most important of all, we’re pushing to make those standards higher and higher every day. Because that’s what makes us whole.
These are some of our standards for the Specialty Cheese department:
- We only sell specialty cheeses from animals not given added hormones
- We provide a wide array of organic, grass-fed and non-GMO cheeses
- We focus our selection on cheeses made from milk sourced locally
- We offer third-party audits and traceability to farm for all our specialty cheeses
- We prohibit 100+ preservatives, flavors, colors and other food ingredients.
For more on our Quality Standards, visit wfm.com/quality-standards