Book Review: Beer & Cheese

As some of you may be aware by now, I'm writing an E-book of cheese and beer pairings. When I had the idea I Googled cheese & beer pairings and found a book had recently been published in Belgium on that very subject. The catch? Its in Dutch! Well its evidently done well enough in the author's native tongue to be translated into English and its to be published on July 25th. (Available on Amazon here)

The authors certainly have the right credentials on paper, one a brewing industry professional/ sommelier of many years standing, the other a cheese affineur of almost 35 years experience. The book looks the business, harback with succulent cheeses arranged on slate.

Inside it's even better, with thick paper, decent quality photos and a two page spread for each suggested pairing. It purports to cover "all the major styles" and whilst it features 50 different beers, a number of styles are repeated whilst other more modern or obsure styles seem to have been omitted. It also seems to rely heavily on the more commercially available beers (unsurprising given Vinken's connections) but does feature six of the seven Trappist breweries (what, no Westvletern?). Comprehensive tasting notes though and a few beers I've not yet come across I shall now be seeking out.

The pictures of the cheese cause much salivation and there's plenty of info on the cheeses but actually little by way of tasting notes on the cheese or the pairing, relying more on writing up the "experience" of the pairing. I'd have liked to know a bit more about the cheeses as there were a number I'd not heard of, let alone tasted.This is reinforced by photos of the authors scattered throughout tucking in to cheese and beer. Its less of a guide and more of a report on a few enjoyable afternoons.

One thing I did enjoy was reference to brewery and cheesemaker visits, which were the subject of a series of 15 minute programs on a Belgian food and drinks channel. There are also suggestions of alternative cheeses, which is handy as I suspect a number of them may not even be available in the UK. Unlike the beers, there are a smattering of cheeses from outside Belgium and France used as pairings, but the omission of a decent cheddar is surely a grave omission!

My biggest bugbear with the back is perhaps the lack of indexes. I'd like to see an index by cheese and by beer at the very least. A decent glossary would also make the guide more accessible to the casual reader. There is a contents page but the pairings are in no discernible order.

I'd recommend the book to anyone interested in cheese and/or  Belgian beer and it certainly looks the price. Perhaps a little highly priced, but I've seen Lulu prices would be similar if I were to go down the printed route. If successful it could potentially come out in paperback in the future. Nevertheless this is a great coffee table tome and one which I will enjoy dipping into on occasion. As for the greatness of the pairings I've not yet had a chance to test them, but there's plenty I'm keen to try!

I requested a review copy of the book from, Lannoo, publishers of the book. 
"Beer & Cheese" by Vinken & Van Tricht. Lanoo (Tielt) 2012. ISBN 978-9-401401-73-9  RRP: £28.50

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