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Well, actually, as it turns out, I hate typical American beers made by the famous big beer makers. Once I tasted an Old World beer made without adjuncts, I discovered that beer can be really good. Since then, I've made a point of tasting beer from local microbreweries and trying a variety of craft beers.
I'm no expert and will likely never be, so I'm thankful that Ashley Routson wrote The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer: An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer. Her tasting notes, helpful information, and food pairings--all wrapped up in a down-to-earth, conversational style--are just what I need to help me make wise choices at the store and in the kitchen.
The book is divided into three sections, and Routson invites us to flip through her book, reading the information that interests us most. She's pretty straightforward in her evaluations; if she doesn't like a particular type of beer, she's not afraid to say so. At the same time, however, she remains respectful enough to provide the same in-depth discussion of her least favorite beers as she does for the ones she loves.
The first part of The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer is just that--a guide to all the different styles of beer. Routson includes enough facts to make a beer nerd swoon and enough other information to invite the rest of us to the party. Here's where you learn which beers are bitter, hoppy, light, heavy, dark, and smooth. My favorite part is the listing of beers to try for each style. Some of the breweries might be obscure, but most of them, even I (a beer novice) recognized: Dog Fish Head, Spaten, Troegs, Paulaner, and Odell, for example. I love that she recommends beers that are relatively easy to find throughout the country.
The second part of the book is all about ingredients, how to make beer, how to taste it, and how to serve it. The final part is where we find the food pairings and recipes. What's cool about the food pairings is that Routson not only gives us the expected lists of beers and food but she also offers tips on how to come up with our own pairings. That kind of information is so helpful and really helps us learn the reasons behind the pairings.
The handful of recipes range from soups and stews to main dishes and desserts. Oh and, of course, there are drinks and cocktails. I'm curious to try her beer risotto (I bet it's great!) and especially some of the sauces. There's a salmon dish that's calling my name, along with a hearty Texas-style chili.
Ashley Routson's The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer is not just for beer geeks. It's a great reference to keep on hand if you want to learn about beer and are curious to try different styles from around the world. I love the beer pairings and will be turning to this book often for tips when we have friends over for dinner. This is the clearest and most accessible beer book I've run across and highly recommend it.
Here's how to make Pale Ale Jalapeno Cheese Dip (click the image to enlarge it). Note that the recipe comes from an uncorrected proof copy of the book.
Photos: The photos were scanned from the book and all rights remain with the original copyright holder.
Published by Voyageur Press, 2015
Source: Review (see review policy)
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