It’s traditional wisdom to pair red wine and cheese but the fact is you’ll find beer and cheese a far better partnership. Especially when it’s Džiugas cheese.

mcith_24-%26-36-cheeseboard.jpgThe best cheese with beer is debatable, but I find a hard cheese works well – cheddar of course, a nice chunk of Parmesan or a smooth Conte – they all hit the spot.So I was intrigued to try a new cheese to me, Džiugas from Lithuania. It’s a household name there, or so my friend’s Lithuanian wife tells me, and it will appear on most tables all year round.

A hard cheese in the Parmesan style, it doesn’t take the roof of your mouth off even at 36 months aged.

Carefully matured all that time, it has deep dense flavour as well as tiny crystals that give a pleasant crunch and are almost always found in cheeses of this kind.

There are in fact four grades of Džiugas named after their months of maturation, Mild 12, Delicate 18, Piquant 24 and Gourmet 36.

The first two like being around a lager, not necessarily the scarily strong stuff that is classic Eastern European though. I found that even what I’d call a cooking lager, like Carlsberg, worked well, but a classic Pils was even better.

mcith_dziuga2.jpegThere is something about the yeast in beer that combines perfectly with a hard cheese. If you don’t mind looking a bit disgusting, then a lump of Džiugas in the mouth followed by a good chug of beer, makes for a mix that gradually softens and releases all kinds of more-ish umami flavours.

The latter two cheeses I tried with Guinness, and it was good, and then because I was using some tins to make Xmas cake, a spare can of Barley Wine.

This used to be the preferred tipple of tramps, being over 7%, but now the superlagers regularly match that and it’s gone a little out of fashion out on the street. Not easy to buy anymore, I found

It is though a rather good drink and paired up with the Džiugas, it was delightful.

I sat watching the telly, nibbling cheese, sipping barley wine and gradually drifting into a kind of benign coma. You really can’t ask for much more on a Saturday night, not when you get to my age.

A packet of grated Džiugas is also available to top off things like Mac n Cheese, a cauliflower cheese or a quick cheese on toast. Delicious when you wake up with the TV buzzing and the rest of the house gone to bed.

Grated Džiugas can be found in Sainsbury’s while the widest selection of maturities can be found at Selfridges Food Halls or in specialist independent food retailers.

Get some in for Xmas, get some beers in too,  and have yourself a very merry cheese and beer pairing session.