The remarkable relationship between beer and cheese is extolled by those in the know, but can often be overlooked in the shadow of wine. Thank goodness Janet Fletcher has arrived with her latest book Cheese & Beer to set things straight. Beautifully photographed and wonderfully written, the book takes you on a well-researched and mouthwatering tour of how the two interact on the palate, no matter the style of each.
Built like a guide, the book has chapters that are divided by beer styles and offer detailed tasting notes along with examples of beers commonly available in the marketplace. Then Fletcher notes the detailed nuances of cheese that pair well with said beers, and why. The author, a seasoned food journalist, deftly weaves in stories of the brewers and cheesemakers to illustrate her pairing points.
Although she is based in San Francisco, Fletcher doesn’t tend to favor the West Coast when it comes to beer suggestions or specific creameries. Seeing how both beer and cheese are universal, this is a global tour of gastronomical and sensory delights that will have you scouring both the local and import aisles.
All the major beer styles are covered, and even humble workhorses like brown ales and cheddar get their due. But it’s the way that Fletcher tackles complex beers like lambics and Flanders red and brown ales that really helps both educate and explain why they work with triple-cream cheeses, aged Gouda or even chèvre. Here she also acknowledges when pairings just don’t work.
“As for fizzy, highly sweetened fruit lambics, think of them as refreshment, perhaps, but not as good partners for cheese,” she writes.
A solid hardcover, this book deserves to be displayed on a coffee table rather than hidden on a shelf. Also best to keep it close at hand, since the beer and cheese pairing chart at the rear of the book will be getting quite the workout as you explore the world of pairings.
John is the editor of All About Beer Magazine and the author of three books, including The American Craft Beer Cookbook. Find him on Twitter @John_Holl.