29 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Year in Food & Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels

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Most of us are at least aware of the idea of pairing wines with food, but I'm often surprised by how often people choose their beers without a thought for what they are eating. Now that Americans finally have more choices than [big beer brand] light in a can, we should be paying more attention to the interplay of flavors.

In A Year in Food & Beer, Emily Baime and Darin Michaels offer a guide for pairing a world of beers with specific recipes and seasons. They encourage readers to pay attention to what they are drinking, noting how summer's heat requires sharper, more citric flavors, whereas winter's chill calls for darker, more roasted brews.

Besides offering their own recipes with specific brew suggestions, Baime and Michaels provide helpful information about the different types of beer so we can start to make our own successful pairings. I particularly like the extras, such as the section titled "Care of Beer and Glassware" and the solid advice on pouring.

The heart of the book is made up of recipes plus beer suggestions, organized by season. Here is where A Year in Food & Beer gives mixed results. Before I get to the details, I want to make it clear that I read an ARC, and some of the issues I mention may have been corrected in the finished book.

The Beer Pairings: As expected, Baime and Michaels tell us which beers go well with each of the recipes in the book. They not only provide a general description of the paired drink (such as aged wheat beer, porter, or fruit-forward beer) but also name specific beers by brewing company and label. In addition they tell us why those beers work well with the recipe, so we are learning, not just following along blindly. I was pleased to see that the authors were not afraid to tackle some of the more difficult foods (asparagus, artichokes, caviar, and desserts), increasing our confidence when serving guests.

The Beer and Cheese Party: The last chapter of the book contains "detailed tasting notes to pair fifteen beer styles with cheese." This section is a gold mine of information about how to host a tasting party, including glassware, serving temperatures, and advice for how to make your party informative but still fun.

The Recipes: Here is where Baime and Michaels were less successful. First, the recipes are arranged oddly within each seasonal category, jumping from desserts to sides to main dishes willy-nilly. Second, the directions are not kitchen friendly. For instance, oven temperatures are not always listed early enough to allow for preheating, and yields aren't provided. Finally, although the dishes are appealing--such as grilled trout, vegetarian lasagna, and pork meat balls--they are common enough that most readers will already have a favorite tried-and-true recipe.

The Bottom Line: Refer to A Year in Food & Beer to help you learn more about beer and how it pairs with the food you plan to serve your family and guests. Although I'm sure there are more comprehensive beer pairing books available, Baime and Michaels offer a reasonable place to begin. On the other hand, you'll probably not be motivated to try the recipes, though you may want to host a tasting party.

Rowan & Littefield Publishers / AltaMira Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780759122635,
Rating: C
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 6/29/13, 6:31 AM  

I've never acquired a taste for beer, so it seems unlikely that I'll read this book myself. But I know lots of others who would love it. Great idea for a book.

(Diane) bookchickdi 6/29/13, 7:05 AM  

I wished I liked beer too, as I am in the minority.

Tina 6/29/13, 7:29 AM  

That is so true about beer pairings. We like lighter beers and pale ales with wings but give me a Guinness or porter with a steak. Cool book!

By the way, I hit enter too soon on my link, meant to add a closing bracket but added an A. Grrrr

caite 6/29/13, 7:41 AM  

Cheese and beer...really, can it get any better? I think not.

MJ 6/29/13, 7:53 AM  

My husband loves trying new microbrews, so there's always quite the selection in my firdge. We've never played around much with beer and food pairings. This looks like it could be a good place to start.

jama 6/29/13, 9:46 AM  

Not a beer drinker either, but I'll make note of this for future reference. Too bad the recipes are not user friendly.

Joy 6/29/13, 10:07 AM  

A tasting party sounds like fun -- and I would definitely need a good resource to plan such a thing.

Joy's Book Blog

bermudaonion 6/29/13, 5:32 PM  

It's too bad the recipes didn't live up to the rest of the book.

Linda 6/29/13, 5:34 PM  

I'm getting more and more into beer. I usually prefer to drink it without food but should learn how to pair food and beer.

angrygreycatreads.com 6/29/13, 6:15 PM  

I love this meme but I haven't participated much so I thought I'd give it a shot this weekend.

Peaceful Reader 6/29/13, 11:51 PM  

My friend Rocky would love this beer book. Beer has come a long way!!

Yvonne@fiction-books 6/30/13, 2:40 AM  

Hi There,

I'm afraid that I have never acquired a taste for beer. Although I have been known to enjoy a tall glass of shandy or cider on a warm Summer's day, my favourite 'tipple', not that I drink very often, remains a good, dry, white wine.

Hubbie is finding that beer tends to be very 'gassy', but perhaps that is just an age thing, so he too now tends towards the white wine.

We do have some excellent 'micro breweries', both as a whole in the UK, and specific to the area in which we live and the brews they make, do have some very interesting names, always a good talking point!

We also have one of the largest National breweries not too far away, where they have an excellent visitor's centre and the drayman still delivers to the local hostelries using a Clydsedale horse-drawn dray.

The bottom line is .. this is not a book for me, but an interesting post nonetheless, thanks.


Laurie C 6/30/13, 9:42 AM  

I like cookbooks that are arranged seasonally, but I don't think I'm ready to go beyond the basics of beer vs. wine with a meal, at this point!

Cecelia 6/30/13, 11:12 AM  

A beer tasting party, eh? I'd like to see the tips and tricks on that - I may have to get this one out of the library the next time I'm tempted to host a get-together. Thanks for sharing!

Sue Jackson 6/30/13, 11:34 AM  

A Year in Food and Beer sounds great. I really love different varieties and flavors of beer. Alas, I can no longer drink any alcohol because of my chronic illness, though I sometimes sneak sips of whatever beer my husband is having!

Hope you had a good week!


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Gilion Dumas 6/30/13, 4:28 PM  

I'm not a beer drinker either -- too many carbs. But I live in Portland, a beer-obsessed city, where I bet this is a popular cookbook. I looked up to see if the authors lived here, but couldn't figure it out. Does it say where they live?

Julie P. 6/30/13, 8:07 PM  

I loved visiting Otto's in State College and finding beer recommendations for their specials!

Paula 6/30/13, 8:32 PM  

I'm thinking my husband would really enjoy this book. He's a big beer fan, loves to try them all!, and loves to cook so this might make the perfect stocking stuffer.

Mary R. 6/30/13, 11:00 PM  

This sounds like an interesting book. My post this week was about making beer. If you want to know more about food/beer pairings The Brewmaster's Table by Garett Oliver (the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery) is THE go-to book on this topic.

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