Beer and Food ~ by Mark Dredge, published by Dog 'n' Bone Books, is designed to incease the the variety and imagination we use in matching beer and food, and thereby increase the pleasure to be derived from them. The main focus on the beers is bottled “craft” beers, thus beers from all over the world you can source to drink at home with the preferred food matches and recipes, but the principles encapsulated will be equally useful in selecting from a pub menu to match the food with a really fine cask conditioned ale and in bars with good selections of bottled beers.
After the introductory chapter of the book on how beer is made, how to serve beer, and some detailed analysis on how to match flavours (the Three Bs: “Bridge, Balance and Boost”), the three remaining chapters focus first on beer styles (and the foods they go best with), then a food led chapter (sections on different types of food with beer recommendations), and lastly a chapter with many and varied recipes on cooking with beer (including a recipe for a chicken roasted stood up on a beer can inserted into its body cavity).
The chapter on beer styles has sections on no fewer than thirty-five beer types, typically with descriptions of five favoured exemplars along with pictures of bottles, and (of course) a preferred food match for each. It’s the fashionable and burgeoning Pale Ales segment that gets the most thorough treatment (with sections on four separate types) and this seems to me wholly appropriate as this is where a lot of the most exciting innovation is to be found currently in the brewing world. The beer recommendations throughout this chapter are commendable in avoiding the obvious and trite. Thus, readers who are already knowledgeable beer enthusiasts will find plenty to discover.
The style of writing is informal and laid back, resolutely unpretentious, undogmatic and democratic. The author is not ashamed to admit to liking Budweiser (US variety, much derided in some quarters) as “super-clean, ultra-refreshing, quenching, simple…”, nor to include beer matches for some fast foods which some foodies (myself included…) might turn their noses up at (viz., a McDonald’s Big Mac). Nonetheless, this should not be allowed to detract from the rigour and thoroughness of the analysis of beer and food flavours and how to match them, and a wholly commendable effort to encourage imagination and variety in beer choices and food matches.
The illustations by Nicholas John Frith are quirky and enjoyable: I particularly like the drawing of a crab in the Fish and Shellfish section, dancing crazily with a bottle of beer in one claw and a bottle opener in the other (spicy crab cakes are recommended with pale ale or new world lager). The food photography, by William Lingwood, is equally attractive.
In the end, this book will not convert me from a fundamental preference for wine over beer as a food partner, nor from the view that whilst much seriously good wine actually needs to partner food to be showcased at its best, an enormous advantage of beer over wine is that most great beers can be fully appreciated without food. But food and beer of course also go wonderfully well together and this pleasing book will do much to increase the enjoyment of those who wish to explore possibilities and expand horizons.
Mark Dredge at Pencil and Spoon