Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cheese and Beer [Book Review]

There are endless discussions about food and wine pairings, including the best wines to go with various cheeses. Now, there is a growing movement, tied to the craft beer renaissance I believe, to discuss beer and food pairings, including cheese. I have to admit, that I never really ponder beer with food - if it tastes good, I'm happy. Same for cheese and beer. That's definitely changing now.

Cheese and Beer book cover

When I got a copy of Janet Fletcher's Cheese and Beer (2013, Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing), I was intrigued. Nay, inspired. With so many choices, both for beer and cheeses, it's hard to know where to start. Fletcher divides the beer world into categories and styles of beer, with the caveat that one brewer's IPA may not match anothers. Ditto for Cheddar cheese. Still, there are accepted notions of what each style of beer or cheese should taste like, so removing the outliers gives you something to work with.

Fletcher states that the most pleasant matches come from the contrast or complement between the beer and cheese. Things to take into account are the texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, alcohol level, and aroma. Making sure that the cheese and beer complement or contrast these elements should provide for the best matches. The book is largely a discussion of beers from around the world matched to cheeses from around the world - can't wait to track some of these pairings down. The real fun, in my opinion, is using the table "Which Beer With That Cheese?" Picking a random six pairings, it was time to shop.

Beer and cheese pairings

We invited some friends over, went shopping, and here's what we ended up with:
  • Saison paired with Brie - we all enjoyed the beer and the cheese separately, but not together. We'll try again with a different Saison.
  • IPA paired with aged goats cheese - one of the evening's favorites, the tanginess of both the beer and the cheese were enhanced by the pairing.
  • Amber Ale paired with Manchego - another favorite, but really, what would Manchego not pair with? :)
  • Porter paired with Smoked Cheddar - perhaps too much going on with the smoke aspect, but otherwise a good pairing - wanted this cheese because it was a local.
  • Stout paired with Gouda - another good one, deep flavors of both the beer and cheese enhanced each other.
  • Dubbel paired with blue cheese - sweetness of the Dubbel was a great contrast to the piquant spiciness of the blue cheese.
So much fun to do that, neat to see how the pairings worked (or didn't). My suggestion? Get a copy of Cheese and Beer, get some suggested craft beer and cheese pairings and get ready to be wowed.

About the Author: "I live, cook, garden and write on a quiet street in Napa Valley. My house is not large but my kitchen is…and my sunny garden is bigger yet. Here, I develop and test recipes for cookbooks and magazine features; evaluate cheeses for my classes and columns; and prepare dinner nightly with my winemaker husband. In my garden—a terraced landscape of roses, fruit trees and raised vegetable beds—I find inspiration for daily cooking and an antidote to deadline stress."

This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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