Cheese makers in Germany have developed more than 150 different cheese varieties over the centuries. Yet despite their long-standing traditions and massive modern dairy industry German cheeses remain somewhat unknown to cheese lovers beyond the Deutschland borders.
Some say it’s because many German cheeses are mere imitations of speciality cheeses from neighbouring countries. And yes, there are German varieties that bear striking resemblances to famous cheeses like Dutch Edam, Swiss Emmental, and French Camembert. But with various landscapes, crafts, and traditions, Germany’s many cheese making regions also bring some very unique and exciting cheeses to the table. There are buttery soft fresh cheeses, cheeses named Bruder Basil (after the person, not the herb), and of course, cheeses made with beer. And guess what? They pair well with beer.
It’s time to be introduced to some of Germany’s best:
Also referred to as Bavarian Swiss, this traditional, hard, creamery cheese is one of Germany’s most famous. It’s made in the tradition of Swiss Emmantel, with a method first brought to the German Allgau region by Josef Aurel Stadler in 1821. The pure Bavarian cow’s milk cheese is made in wheel shapes with a smooth, natural waxed rind. It has a rich yellow colour, large eyes, and a firm, supple texture that’s ideal for melting. The flavor is a bit more refined and aromatic than the Swiss original, and just as sweet and fruity. A smaller version of this popular cheese is sold as Bavarian Bergkase.
Bierkaese / Beer Cheese
Also known as Weisslacker, this semi-hard German original is traditionally dipped and eaten with beer. The cheese is made from skimmed cow’s milk, matured in very humid conditions, and in the case of a variety called King Ludwig, ripened in a fine dark Bavarian beer to create its characteristic hearty taste. Bierkaese is great with dark German bread and it also melts well for cooking. The cheese is known worldwide and particularly enjoyed in the U.S. where a saltier, pungent version is made.
This semi-soft cow’s milk cheese was originally crafted by Trappist Monks in the Abbey of Rotthalmunster. Today the modern creamery cheese is manufactured by the Bergader Private Cheese dairy, which was founded by the cheese’s namesake, Basil Weixler, in 1902. Still produced in accordance to the monks’ old traditions, the cheese is smoked over beech wood embers to give it a rich, creamy texture and special, smokey flavour. The firm yellow cheese has small holes and a natural waxed rind of a dark mahogany colour. It’s ideal for snacking, sandwiches, grilling, gratins and raclette, and is best paired with a dry white wine or dark German beer.
Butterkase / Buttercheese
As the name suggests, this mild, supple cheese has the delicate taste of butter. It’s actually made with buttermilk, the liquid that remains after butter is churned. Traditionally called Damenkase (“ladies cheese”), the semi-soft cheese has a pale yellow pate with irregular holes and a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Butterkase is most wonderful paired with fresh fruit and sparkling wine. It can also be used as an alternative to butter and sour cream, making a delicious topping for baked potatoes, burgers and chicken.
This marriage between French Camembert and Italian Gorgonzola was first created in Germany in the 1970s. Very popular all over the world, the soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese has a bloomy white rind and a smooth, extra creamy interior that’s streaked with tangy blue veins. Because it’s made with added cream, Cambazola is milder than a true blue, but nevertheless slightly spicy and sweet-sour in flavour. The rich cheese makes the perfect after-dinner course when paired with French bread, fruit and nuts. It can also be melted over fettuccini or an upscale cheeseburger.
The original Tilsit was first made by 19th century Dutch immigrants who migrated to Holland from town of Tilsit in East Prussia. Now produced in many countries, including Poland and Denmark, the most authentic version comes from Germany. Made in wheels or bricks, the semi-firm cow’s milk cheese has an edible light tan washed rind and a smooth, supple interior dotted with tiny holes. It has a pungent aroma and warm, mellow flavour that’s buttery and fruity, with a hint of spice. Tilsit is often served with smoked or spiced meats and sliced raw onions. It’s delicious cold or grilled and pairs well with robust wines and beers.