Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher Andrews McNeel Publishers 128 pages $24.99 hardcover
Could there be a more perfect cheese book for summer? Just as we're busily contemplating which craft beer(s) to bring to our next outdoor party, along comes cheese expert Janet Fletcher with a new book, Cheese & Beer, that plants the seed of an intriguing idea: you might consider bringing some cheese along with your beer.
Some will ask -- cheese and beer? Really? People often wonder why we bother with pairing cheese. Yes, cheese is fantastic just on its own, let's just get that out there. But something happens when you pair cheese with other things, particularly beverages like beer or wine. All three are products of the fermentation process and that affinity makes them particularly good partners. Here's how Fletcher describes what you'll get out of the pairing process:
When you serve a toasty Marzen that echoes the toffee aroma in aged Gouda, or find a triple-cream cheese that mellows the bitter, roasted notes of a stout, you treat yourselves and your guests to the experience. You also give the craft brewer and the artisanal cheesemaker their due by putting their wares in the best possible light.
Pairings take both cheese and beer to the next level, showing off subtleties and highlighting flavors that may not have been noticeable before. It's a bit of an art but not that hard, and ultimately the journey is the reward. And this book is a superb way to get yourself started.
In Cheese & Beer, Fletcher guides readers through the complex worlds of, you guessed it, both cheese and beer, outlining the finer points of ales vs. lagers and providing all sorts of information and suggestions for storing and serving beer and cheese. Fletcher's wealth of knowledge and experience shines throughout. A former chef and author or co-author of more than twenty cookbooks, she is perhaps best known in the cheese world as the force behind the San Francisco Chronicle's Cheese Course column. Her deep knowledge of food and flavor informs this book and the pairings; readers are in good hands here.
As you might expect, the heart of this book is in the pairing descriptions. Fletcher has put together a wide ranging guide to beer styles from pilsner to amber ales to stouts and everything inbetween. Each section offers a discussion of the beer style, some favorite brands made in that style, along with a list of cheeses she's selected as having a particular affinity for that beer. So for example ESBs, Fletcher says, pair best with fairly easygoing cheeses such as Cowgirl Creamery's Wagon Wheel or Montgomery's Cheddar from England. On the other hand, stronger and heartier stouts with malty flavors do well with nutty cheeses that complement the malt like Comté. With 23 beer categories covered (and various styles within categories), this book will keep you busy pairing beer and cheese for a very long time.
One more thing: if you find yourself really getting into the idea of pairing beer & cheese, think about expanding your repetoire to include cheeses made with beer - kind of the ultimate pairing, really. In the Pacific Northwest, that includes Pondhopper from Tumalo Farms washed in Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale and Chocolate Stout Cheddar from Rogue Creamery, a cheddar cheese made with Chocolate Stout from Rogue Ales. Then there's cheeses washed in beer -- Briar Rose Creamery's Lorelei comes to mind, a goat's milk cheese washed in Laurelwood IPA, as does Naughty Nellie, a cow's milk cheese from River Valley Ranch near Seattle and washed in Pike Brewing's ale of the same name. Really, there's no end to this whole beer and cheese thing once you get started. Is that bad?