We Tried Dogfish Head's New Perfect Pairing Pale Ale. Here's How It Went

Wine and cheese, it's time you hit the road. Well, actually just you, wine. We're going to need the cheese to stick around for this one. That's because the beer we're discussing here was made for cheese. And, in at least a small part, it was made from cheese. Don't worry, there's not a hint of blue cheese or gruyere in this fine new brew from the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. it just matches with cheese like it was meant to be. Because it was.

To find out the backstory behind this unique new beer, Perfect Pairing Pale Ale, we talked to Dogfish Head founder and brewer Sam Calagione. As he told Mashed, "I got to thinking, hey, this whole hazy beer trend... a lot of these hazes to get their hazes from oats, sometimes from lactose to sugar, milk sugars, I was like, well, what if we actually worked with Cabot [...] and actually used the whey from the cheesemaking process, introducing that into the beer to get that natural haze and give it some subtle sweetness and mouth-feel. And so that's how we designed the Perfect Pairing ale."

First, a quick note before we diver deeper into this pairing. Yes, you can certainly enjoy this beer without the cheddar and vice versa, but you really owe it to yourself to get both. The flavor combination is something you should experience yourself if at all possible, so be sure to read all the way through for some pairing recommendations.

What's in Dogfish Head's Perfect Pairing Pale Ale

As noted by Sam Calagione, whey from the cheesemaking process is incorporated into this beer, adding some haze, sweetness, and a slightly richer mouthfeel than you get with most pale ales. To our palate, it's not quite the feel of a cream ale, but it's certainly on the road to that sort of smoothness. The whey is courtesy of Vermont's own Cabot Creamery maker of seriously high-quality cheeses. "I'm from Western Massachusetts, 10 miles from the Vermont border," said Calagione, "so I've been a lifetime Cabot fan and we've been using Cabot products forever!" Also present are barley, hops, water, and yeast. And some, but not much, alcohol.

Perfect Pairing Pale Ale clocks in at a moderate 5.5% alcohol by volume, which is about in league with most mainstream beers nowadays. Budweiser, for comparison, comes in at 5% (via Beer Advocate). 

The hops definitely do their thing here, adding a nice aroma and flavor that balance out the rich, sweet maltiness. This is a profile that Dogfish Head and Cabot developed together, brewing up multiple batches before they settled on the right blend and hopping schedule. According to Calagione, "The leadership team from Cabot came down came down here... [and] I think it was the third batch we sent through... and just the sharpness of the cheese and the fattiness of the cheese, counterbalanced by the hops and the sort of sweetness, the bitter-sweetness of the beer, it was kismet."

How much does the new Perfect Pairing ale cost?

Okay, you may be intrigued, but you need to know: how much does this beer cost? That's actually not the easiest question to answer. That's because you can't currently buy this beer on its own. "Right now, you've got to find our Dogfish variety pack to get the Perfect Pairing beer," Calagione said. That means you'll get three cans of Perfect Pairing Ale, and you'll also get three 60 Minute IPAs, three 90 Minute IPAs (a delightful beer, but potent enough that you don't want to drink all three at once), and three Blue Hen Pilsners, a wildly refreshing lighter beer that you may well end up consuming in a single session.

How much does the beer cost? Well, it varies widely, as beer prices are so different from region to region. But to give you a ballpark, we've done some math that may prepare you for the final cost of the pack. At one Texas shop, we found a 12-pack of mixed Dogfish Head beers (properly called an Off-Centered Party Pack) for $23.99. At a store in Los Angeles, it was $17.99. As those were about the highest and lowest prices we could find, we averaged the two, then divided by 12 to arrive at an estimated per-can price if $1.75. That's a fine price indeed for a Perfect Pairing ale, so long as you're okay with buying it in a variety pack.

How long will Perfect Pairing Pale Ale be available?

If you want to try a Perfect Pairing Pale Ale, you've got some time, but don't dawdle, as that is not an endless amount of time. "It's being distributed coast to coast in [that] variety pack that we have," Sam Calagione said, but as of now, the plans are only to offer the beer "through the holidays at least." It's not certain that it will be available for much longer. So do go find an Off-Centered Party Pack in 2022 if you want to be sure you get a taste. 

That said, it would not be the first time a planned limited release beer became a permanent part of the Dogfish Head lineup. Calagione certainly teased the idea during his chat with Mashed, saying: "If people really love it, who knows, somebody could get its own release in a six pack or four pack."

Frankly, we're pulling for that to happen. This is one of those rare beers that goes as well with summer BBQ foods as it does with heavier autumn or winter eats. We think that a full-time, year-round release would be a welcome addition to the Dogfish Head roster. In case that doesn't happen, you can try using the "Fish Finder" feature on the Dogfish Head page to locate their beers near you right now.

How does Perfect Pairing Pale Ale compare to other Dogfish Head beers?

In case you didn't know this, Dogfish Head is a brewery known for some pretty wild beers. Consider its Ta Henket beer, one of the brewery's occasional Rarities line. Ta Henket is described as an "ambitious liquid time capsule" made with "ingredients and traditions plucked from Egyptian hieroglyphics [...] flavored with chamomile, doum-palm fruit, and Middle Eastern herbs." Or their Kvasir ale, another "ancient ale" that's derived from some very old beers studied by archaeologists and created in collaboration with the brewery. In this case, Kvasir was inspired by a 3,500-year-old drinking horn, the work of a biomolecular archaeologist, and "the Nordic climes of Scandinavia." It was made with "toasty red winter wheat and bog-grown berries [that] deliver a pungent tartness."

On the other hand, Dogfish Head also makes a couple of IPAs that are arguably the standard-bearers for this wildly popular beer style, namely its classic 90 Minute IPA and its slightly lower octane partner, the 60 Minute IPA. Those beers come along with plenty of perfectly crushable brews, like its SeqQuench Ale, its Slightly Mighty IPA, and its Hazy-O!, which we think is the closest comparison to Perfect Pairing. However, Hazy-O! leans a bit more toward the citrus-forward and juicy side of beers. Meanwhile, Perfect Pairing is more sweet and slightly (just slightly) more creamy on the palate.

What are the nutrition stats for Perfect Pairing Pale Ale?

As you may already know, products that contain alcohol are generally not regulated by the FDA (via Lehrman Beverage Law) . That's essentially why there are almost never nutrition facts printed on cans of beer, boxes of Franzia, or bottles of gin, for instance. That's nearly always the case, save when a given brand is trying to advertise a low-calorie or low-carb offering. 

So, getting the low-down on Perfect Pairing's nutrition is pretty tough. But we here at Mashed like to give you a look under the hood nutrition-wise when we can. Thus, instead of talking about beer nutrition facts, let's take a look at the cheese you'll be eating with this beer — provided you do it right.

Cabot's cheddar cheeses are not to be missed, especially when you're drinking a beer that was created with such a pairing in mind. Again we're going to go with averages here between the three types of cheese we tried with this beer (there's a fourth Cabot cheddar, the excellent Habanero Cheddar Cheese, but it will blow out your taste buds for a while and is hardly a "pairing" cheese). The three we selected were Cabot's Seriously Sharp, Alpine, and Pepper Jack cheeses. On the average, a one-ounce serving of these cheeses will have 110 calories, 9 grams of fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, and 6 grams of protein. A two or three-ounce portion of cheese is perfect per beer, by the way.

Did we like the new Perfect Pairing Pale Ale?

Oh goodness yes, we like this beer! We knew that from the first scent, which is always the first part of a proper tasting experience with any fine beer (or fine wine — we were just kidding earlier, wine, you don't actually have to leave!). With just a whiff, you can tell this is going to be a full-flavored yet balanced brew. The fullness of flavor comes thanks to the maltiness and the potent, juicy hops, though neither is too assertive. And that rich, creamy mouthfeel thanks to the whey is more than welcome.

Now, how to perfectly enjoy this fine beer? The simple answer is, of course, with cheese. But we wanted to do deeper than just that, so we asked Sam Calagione for advice. How is it best to pair beer and cheese? Is it bite then sip, or sip then bite?

Sam had a ready answer, saying: "I would say start with a sip because then your mouth's not coated with fattiness. First, take the sip, so you appreciate what the beer tastes like on its own. Then, take a big old bite of the cheese, and then kind of take a smaller sip, let it be in your mouth with the cheese and the carbonation, and the alcohol, which acts as a solvent, will just gently melt the fattiness off your tongue and kind of give you that holistic experience. So I would go sip, cheese, sip."