What has happened to beer? It used to be just beer. Blokes swilled it. Not any more, if Susan Nowak's excellent The Beer Cookbook
is anything to go by. Beer has fallen into the hands of the connoisseurs and as a result it has acquired unsuspected qualities, the sorts of things wines have, like noses and finishes. The number of styles of beer is considerable, and growing: pilsners, porters, ales and stouts, fruit and heather beers, Trappist beers and barley wine ... They vary as widely, if not more so, than wines in flavour, strength, weight and colour. It was only a matter of time before a survey such as this appeared. Beer cookery has come a long way from the handful of butch stews it used to be restricted to. Or rather, as Susan Nowak points out, it has regained the intimate connection it used to have with food and eating in Britain until the rise of the drinking house drove a wedge between brewhouse and kitchen.
The Beer Cookbook covers an amazing range, both of beers and recipes: Starters, Soups, Fish, Poultry and Game, Meat--all the way through to Puddings (yes, beer puddings). Beers appear triumphantly in sauces for meat and fish, in marinades, in casseroles and stews, in stir fries, in savoury jellies, in frying batter, as a rich, caramelised syrup to poach pears in, in tarts, trifles and ice creams. The recipes are by turns sophisticated and hearty, many of them collected from cooks who also run pubs or breweries. This is a really exciting book, offering something of a revelation to anyone whose view of the real ale and craft brewing movement is of a bunch of beer bores banging on about legendary poisons with names like Old Hogwhimperer. --Robin Davidson