What is better than beer? Cheese. What is better than cheese? Beer. And so it goes on. Combine the two and you create one of life’s pivotal taste experiences. And that is the underlying theme behind this foray into the world of cheese and beer matching.
There has long been something of a dichotomy in the world of food and drink pairing. Wine snobbery, backed by entrenched elements in the industry, holds that wine is the perfect accompaniment to cheese. Port with Stilton: that sort of thing. And yet, as the introduction to this book says, it’s long been known that beer is a much better match for cheese.
The fact is that red wine is too full of tannin to be suitable for pairing with cheese. It overpowers the cheese instead of complementing it. Hence in France, they prefer white wine with their cheese as they know that its lively acid will combine better with the fat in the cheese.
And as it is for white wine, so it is with certain types of beer. Beer can cut through the fat, cleanse the palate and create a harmonious whole. Beer and cheese are a natural union. And finally that has been recognised with a worthy tone that attempts to match fifty Belgium beers with its ideal cheese partner.
The authors are both well respected experts in their field. Ben Vinken is a leading authority on Belgian beer and is the publisher of Bierpassie magazine. Michel Van Tricht needs no introduction to the serious cheese lover. He holds a god-like position in that arena and has brought affinage (cheese ripening to the uninitiated) to new levels.
So how does it work? Well, each beer gets a page photo and a page giving tasting notes and some background history. The same applies to the cheeses-warning: the eye-catching photos will make you salivate-with Michel explaining his reasoning behind the matches.
It’s all done in a very none-too-technical way and it’s the sort of book you can just dip into at random. It makes for great light reading and does make you stop and consider things. And, of course, naturally you start forming opinions of your own. That’s half the fun. Would you pair Hoegaarden with Mount Ventoux? Well, would you?
The great thing is that you don’t have to be familiar with all the particular beers and cheeses. Substitutes are often given as it’s all about trying to match styles rather than brands. It’s this simple, laid-back approach that makes the book very accessible to a subject matter that could have easily been a niche, technical bore.
Frankly a book like this has long been overdue. Any serious imbiber or food aficionado should have this on their shelf. If only to casually leave lying around the next time the local wine snob calls round. And if any publisher is considering a second volume, focusing on English beers and cheeses, please remember that I am available for a very reasonable fee...
Beer and Cheese: 50 Delicious Combinations by Vinken & Van Tricht
Published by Lannoo £28.50