Book Review: Beer Pairing

by Jessi Boehme Updated on March 31, 2016

The first time I took biochemistry it stumped me. I got a ridiculous D+.

Second time around, the light bulb clicked. I finally saw and understood the complexity and simplicity of how biochemistry in our body and in our food interacts with one another.

Taking a palate journey with this mega burger and some beers
Taking a palate journey with this mega burger and some beers

The same goes for reading, Beer Pairing, by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley. They made me rethink what I thought I knew about tasting beer and food side-by-side.

As I studied their guidelines (and practiced with a pint or eight), the intricate connections between the ingredients in beer and food really astounded me. It was biochemistry and school all over again, except way more fun.

What Herz and Conley did so well was make their book easy to follow, exciting to read, and applicable to all types of readers. For me, I read it like a lab manual for an experiment.

Step one, read through each chapter. Step two, try out as many different suggested beer, food combinations as possible. Step three, repeat step two. In all seriousness, this essential guide will take you from perceptions of beer, techniques for tasting it, cooking with it and pairing it with some essentials of life, cheese and chocolate.

Making veggie sushi and doing some taste testing
Making veggie sushi and doing some taste testing

One thing I wish the book had at the beginning of every chapter was a materials list. Each chapter provides different mini experiments and I would have been more prepared with a list. However, in the the Palate Trips chapter (my personal favorite part of the book) they gave you your list of beer and foods to purchase and guided you step by step through a circle of tastes.

What you’ll love most about Beer Pairing

  • Clear and conversational, it is like talking with a friend at a beer bar
  • Photography: Crucial for a book like this, and oh man did they deliver!
  • Non dogmatic! The authors did a great job acknowledging that everyone’s taste buds are different.
  • This book also challenges assumptions you might have on what beers taste like and what foods to pair them with.

What also worked well was their writing style being conversational and clear without sounding like beer and food pairings were black and white. Not to mention their photography of the beer and food makes you want to take palate trips every day…

Along the journey, they remind you of the individuality of every person’s taste buds. Though they provide classic pairings such as feta cheese and a wit, or cheese pizza and an American amber ale, they are open to saying classical pairs may not work for everyone. Every self-proclaimed or actual proclaimed beer expert should read through this book and challenge the assumptions they have for beer and the food it pairs well with.

Testing my abilities to bake with beer. This banana bread turned out pretty unique, but it was better eating it and drinking the remainder of the beer
Testing my abilities to bake with beer. This banana bread turned out pretty unique, but it was better eating it and drinking the remainder of the beer

In short, reading Beer Pairing reminds you that flavor is is more than just what you taste.

It’s aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. And my hope is that just like my biochemistry experience, you’ll take a second look at tasting beer and incorporate it into your meals in new and exciting ways. Because as rewarding as it is on its own, beer gets even better when paired with the perfect dish.

As a homebrewer, this book armed me with better tools to choose ingredients, so I get the just the right palate I am looking for in the finished product.

Every meal you eat without this book is an opportunity lost

Herz and Conley will guide you through planning a beer dinner and make suggestions for incorporating beer into your cooking. As a bonus, they will surprise you with side notes of science, trivia information, and interviews with industry professionals.

Let them take you on a flavor ride  and they will help you understand the effects of aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. At the end of your journey you’ll know just what beer to order at dinner tonight.


Buy Beer Pairing on Amazon

Beer Pairing Book
Jessi Boehme (pronounced like fame) is a registered dietitian and a recent graduate of Central Michigan University’s Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, living in Beer City USA, Grand Rapids, Michigan. She works locally as a dietitian by day and by night you can find her getting flights of beer with friends and family. She’s excited to bring a nutrition and science background to the Homebrew Academy. Cheers!