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Beer and Food

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by Mark Dredge

The subject of beer and food pairing has been knocking around now for more than ten years – longer if you count very early coverage provided by Michael Jackson in the early 1990s.

Beer and FoodProbably the most significant published contribution to the debate has come through Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table, and there has been other notable input from Susan Nowak, Fiona Beckett, Richard Fox, Lucy Saunders and Paul Mercurio.

But there's been a lazy air of resignation hanging around the subject in recent times, with some people questioning if there was any real value (gastronomically to the consumer or financially to the industry) in pursuing the cause.

Now Mark Dredge has weighed into the debate and, if he's got anything to do with it, the idea of pairing beer with food has many miles still to run.

I like Mark's take on all things beer. It's youthful and fun, a confident counterpoint to the approach adopted by most of us who have been writing about beer for years.

This is again underscored by this new book in which he tips his hat to the solid groundwork already conducted by others but zips off in a new direction by suggesting some previously unconsidered culinary ideas and beer pairing combinations.

He also brings the subject bang up to date by choosing as his ideal food matches beers that are hot off the production line, the sort of envelope-pushing, break-all-the-rules types of beer that the so-called craft beer movement is all about.

The choice of beers is not quite as eclectic or exotic as in his early book, Craft Beer World, because, as he explains, there's no point suggesting a pairing that can't be tried when readers are unable to source the vital ingredient.

Nevertheless, the book is just as bright, breezy and bursting with beery enthusiasm as his earlier effort. If you know that book, you'll know what to expect this time around: a full-colour, matt-finish hardback packed with text, charts and jaunty graphics.

Explaining the Concept

You cannot produce a book on this subject without explaining how the concept works and Mark does this neatly in the preambles, pulling together the key points in simple tables such as the one that matches individual beer characteristics with foods to try.

The book then divides into sections that cover food pairing by beer styles and then the reverse, by types of food, with plenty of detail supplied to explain why his selections work.

All types of world cuisine are covered, with recommendations from breakfast to supper time, and even snack suggestions in between.

It's not all about the classic combinations such as moules à la bière with witbier, beer carbonnade with Belgian dubbel and blue cheese and barley wine. There are more off-the-wall suggestions, too. How does Rochefort 6 with sausage, chips and beans sound? And what's the best beer to drink with a pork pie or even a KFC bucket?

The book concludes with a chapter on cooking with beer, setting out the basic rules of play and detailing around forty recipes that cover everything from main courses to desserts by way of side dishes and condiments.

If you've never tried serious beer and food pairing before, you must give it a go. There are numerous challenges (although certainly not impossibilities) to making the idea work in a commercial environment, which is what has led to doubters revealing their hand, but at home and among friends it's just great fun and the flavour matches really can be extraordinary.

Mark Dredge's book will, I'm sure, persuade you that it's well worth a try.

First edition (2014)

208-page hardback (Dog 'n' Bone Books)

£16.99

Available now from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com

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