Where's the Cheese & Beer Book You Were Writing?

Image kindly created by Simon @ CAMRGB
Its a question I'm often asked and certainly valid, given the number of people I told I would be writing it! Its a difficult topic to write about because it touches on life outside of the beer bubble so take this post outside of my usual sphere of comfort but people deserve some kind of explanation, particularly those brewers who sent me beer samples for potential inclusion and the cheese makers who likewise sent through cheese. Special mention must also be made of Paxton and Whitfield who kindly arranged to sell me cheese at cost; to make it easier for me to afford the project on my own coin. Perhaps a chronological summary would best help explain.

Things kicked off well in early 2012. The idea was fresh in my mind and I drafted  layout of how I envisaged the book to look. Possible pairings were drawn up using previous experience as a guide. I decided early on that I wanted to feature UK breweries and cheeses; to highlight the breadth and quality we have on our own shores. I wanted to challenge the unwritten assumption that the best cheese is French and the best beers are Belgian and US! (I'd very much have liked to included Irish beers and cheeses, and whilst the latter was flourishing Irish brewing was fairly stagnant; an explosion in brewers (and more importantly UK and world class beers emerging) perhaps contributed to what would transpire).

Anyway, I digress, rough pairings hashed out I went about sourcing the best examples of beers and cheeses within the proposed styles. Once sufficient of each had been accumulated I was able to hold pairing sessions (often ably assisted by my friend Julie), determining whether my envisaged pairings actually worked (luckily the majority did!), taking photographs and notes on all of the pairings. These were all completed by Autumn 2012.

At the same time I began submitting my proposal to a number of publishers, with some enthusiasm at first. However when they read in to the detail the majority decided that focussing solely on the UK wasn't going to result in many book sales. Unwilling to change the raison d'etre of my book I decided to go down the self-published e-book/print on demand route. This was the start of the procrastination.

You see, when you don't have a deadline looming over you, or someone to prod you in to action things get put on a back burner. I edited a few photographs, started compiling tasting notes and worked out a rough page order for my pairings. Confidence already knocked by the rejections of publishers it was to suffer further on the release of Vinken & Van Tricht's Beer & Cheese. Aside from having to think of a new title, the calibre and quality of the book and writing was amazing. How could anything I write,a some-time beer blogger and enthusiast with some technical knowledge compete with the years of expertise of a sommelier and affineur? How could self publishing result in anything to compete with a gorgeous coffee table tome like theirs? My photos look crap in comparison. I knew my book would be unique and certainly more from a beer angle than theirs; so I wasn't completely put off. Then Janet Fletcher came along and took "Cheese & Beer" away as a possible title, I've not even been brave enough to look at that one...

Yet I was still keen to get the story of British Brewers and Cheesemakers out there to a wider audience (as well as of course opening people's eyes to the fact that beer and not wine is the best liquid to pair with cheese!). I kept the draft notes at the top of my to-do pile, picking them up, leafing through them but never getting anything substantial written.

The constant realisation I was letting down people who had kindly sent me samples led me further away from getting the writing done, causing me to lie awake at night fretting that I should actually be up and trying to write something...but what was the point anyway because whatever I wrote wouldn't do the beers and cheeses justice and I'd be better off not writing anything and pretend I wasn't writing anything in the first place.*

Alongside this self-doubt & self-loathing my personal circumstances outside of beer changed. I moved house, my fiancée (now wife) moved in with me and my job changed at work. My in-laws also came to stay for a while; so I decided to regroup for a few months and start afresh in the new year. Now almost three years have passed, I still get occasional pangs of guilt but often manage to ignore those notes calling at me from their pile on my upstairs desk. But then I start to get asked when the book will be coming out. I feel like a fraud, no better than that guy scamming loads of free beer for his non-existent book just to avoid having to pay for anything. At the same time some great UK beer writers began to emerge, all keen on food pairing and the writing began to be featured in more publications...did I even need to write the book any more?

At the same time new breweries and beers that I would love to include were cropping up all the time, some of the beers I'd written about were no longer in production, cheese companies had closed and our near neighbours in the South had really pulled their fingers out in the good beer stakes. It would be a tough job to revisit all of those pairings again.

But still the questions about the book continued to come, the "cheese and beer" pairings on my blog business card always garners the most questions, there's still plenty of interest out there for a book. But how to reinvigorate myself to start again? The answer came to me during a  cheese and beer pairing session at Killarney Beer festival. My Co-host Caroline Hennessy (co-author of the splendid book Slainte) asked me about the book and I tried my best to explain all of the above. "Never mind," she said, "Why not serialise it on your blog". What's that now?! "Why not write some of the pairings up and blog them, you've done single posts before, it will certainly be easier to tackle one at a time than trying to get everything together at once".

What a great idea! I can get all the pairings written up as a collection of blog posts then bring it all together as a book when I'm done, tweaking things to use beers that are still available and feature newer breweries, without wasting the work I've done to date. Fantastic idea. So that's what I'm going to do. The long dormant Cheeseandbeer.co.uk will play host to the 50 pairings I had arranged. I'm going to aim for one a week. Please feel free to harass me if I let that slip. That should allow me to pull everything together by the end of summer 2016 with the aim of having something releasable in time for Christmas sales next year. Wish me luck!

*This also impacted on my frequency of writing other non cheese, beer posts helping to explain the often large gaps in between posts. I have plenty of stuff pre-written but I've lost confidence in my writing and end up not publishing with things inevitably going out of date whilst dithering over that "publish" button.


  1. Yippee! That's great news, Steve. You'll get there, one beer and cheese at a time. Looking forward to reading it.

  2. Glad to read that you'll release the content after all :-). You have lots of stuff to explain out of your rich knowledge on beer (and I assume on cheese should be likewise). So here we are, waiting for it to be published! Cheers mate!