Reviewed by Angela Paull
I don’t like wine. Yep it’s a real shame because every time you eat out there is an expectation that wine is the perfect accompaniment for your meal – to the extent that you are almost expected to have a different wine with every course.
So, when the opportunity to review this book came along I was really interested in taking a look. My knowledge of beer is limited – the popular lagers and a lost weekend in Brussels which involved some rather potent Belgian brews – so this book should have been able to give me a read education. I am pleased to report that it did.
Firstly I was taken aback by how big the book was – at 224 pages there was a lot more content than I had expected. The range of content also surprised me. I guess I had expected a fairly factual “Beer A goes with Food B” kind of affair but this book offered so much more.
First up we have a brief history of beer – did you know that beer is at least 10,000 years old? – and a theory as to why most of the population actually tend to pair food with wine. This is followed by a little lesson in how beer is produced and its ingredients
The book then moves on to tackle different styles of beer. This is when the breadth of the subject starts to take your breath away – it’s time to ditch the Fosters and consider Pale Ales, Wheat Beers or perhaps a Smoked Malt Beer to name but a few. This section of the book is richly illustrated with pictures of several world beers – including a couple I recognised from the shelf of my local Tesco (phew at least I’ll be able to put some of this new found knowledge to the taste test!).
All of this takes us about a quarter of the way through the book before the real nitty gritty of food pairing is tackled. We start off with a whistle stop tour of the world – English Pubs, Bavarian Beer Halls, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Japan and the US to consider how different cultures eat and drink. This is followed by personal accounts and recommendations from beer connoisseurs around the world – honestly this beer/food matching is a serious business! For those that want to go out into the world and hunt down the best places to put all this knowledge into practice there is a list at the back of the book of 100 Great Beer & Food Destinations (17 are in the UK – though none too close to me which is probably good news for my purse!).
For those of us who prefer to quaff at home there are a wealth of recipes involving beer – ranging from starters to desserts – each of which comes with its own recommended beer. I can see my fiancé badgering me to make Beer Braised Pork Belly with Creole Seasoning as that matches with one of his favourites, Fullers London Pride! There are not just typically British recipes though, we have fare from Japan, Brazil, Italy and New Zealand, to name but a few. There is also something for every level of chef – ideas range from a slightly tipsy Cheese & Tomato sandwich to Japanese Beer Fried Chicken (Kara-Age).
Once you have finished salivating over the recipes (all beautifully photographed I should add) you then finish off with a handy set of reference charts which give suggested pairings for common foods together with a list of beers that “fit” certain styles. By the way, there are 42 styles of beer listed so perhaps one should only commit to trying a new style every week!
In summary, this book is absolutely chock full of inspiration and information. There is something here for everyone from a CAMRA member to an occasional lager & lime drinker. I feel like I’m starting on a real journey of discovery and I can’t wait to see where I end up. A great book for foodies – and perhaps even for wine buffs, if you want to introduce them to a whole new world of food/partnership.
I give this book 5/5 – a super addition to our book shelf and one that I can reference for many years to come!
RRP: £25 (hardback)
Available to buy from Quarto Knows here.