Authors, Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros
Two powerhouses from the craft brewing industry—Julia Herz, a certified Cicerone and craft beer program director for the Brewers Association (BA), teamed with Gwen Conley, director of brewery production and quality for Port Brewing Co. / The Lost Abbey / The Hop Concept—paired their prowess in penning the definitive guide on the art of marrying quality beer and cuisine. That tome, Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairings Pros, goes on sale later this year (but you can pre-order it now in preparation for the gift-giving season). With our taste buds abuzz and our mouths salivating in anticipation of this delicious edition, we checked in with this dynamic duo to find out what went into its conception, creation and soon-to-be-food-stained pages.
How did the two of you pair up?
Gwen Conley: We’re two firecrackers who were naturally attracted to each other, especially with a shared love of craft beer and the need to enlighten others. Sounds like we wanted to start a cult, doesn’t it? The love we have for what we do is just a part of who we are and when I started to slow down a bit, I was very thankful Julia continued to push me further.
Julia Herz: As soon as I met Gwen, I decided she needed to be one of my mentors. I bugged her until she was open to collaborating on projects like presentations we’ve given on pairing at the Great American Beer Festival and Craft Brewers Conference, and now, this amazing book.
Why did you feel the time was right for this book?
GC: People’s senses are awakening again. Where everything in life used to be about what is fast and most convenient, it’s now about slowing things down and enjoying what is going on around you, and this includes what we’re eating and drinking. We just want to help people listen, if you will, to what their senses are telling them about their food and beverage choices. We really want everyone to become the most conscious tasters possible and the best way to do that is to make it easy and fun.
JH: The time is actually overdue. This is a guide to the practice of pairing like no other. Most pairing books only cover wine. This is backwards since beer is the number one adult beverage in the U.S. You have to combine sales of wine at $35 billion and sales of spirits at $65 billion to match the $101 billion sales of beer in 2014. It’s time the food community becomes as empowered in beer as they are in wine because, per a BA-commissioned Nielsen Omnibus panel, 88% of beer appreciators said they drink craft beer with food.
What makes this book special?
JH: Content-wise, Beer Pairing is groundbreaking in that it covers more than any other book we’ve come across when it comes to discussing pairing principles, pairing interactions, pairing descriptions and the science behind how we taste and perceive. What we’ve both noticed over the years in going from pairing newbies to pairing pros is that the food community really knows very little about how we perceive and why different interactions occur. So, we cover the pairing lexicon, popular beer styles and some of our favorite pairings, a beer dinner chapter, palate trips to take your taste buds on a ride, cooking with craft beer and much more. We present this all with the notion that we are each anarchists and whatever works for our own individual palates is what to tune into and embrace because, in the end, there really are no rules!
What are some important things to keep in mind when tasting and pairing beer and food?
JH: Since perception is personal, pairing is personal, too. We each have the power to properly pair based on what is pleasing to our individual palates. Screw what anyone else says. If you like it or not, that’s what should carry the day. Also, shed your biases. Be open and aware. The palate does not have bias, but your mind certainly does and that, unfortunately, skews tasting experiences in the same way discrimination will rob one of a richer life. Deep thoughts to chew on!
What are some of the finest beer-and-food pairings you’ve experienced?
JH: The first IPA I ever had, Bear Republic Racer 5, and fettuccini Alfredo dusted with rosemary and sage; Ska ESB Special Ale with fish and chips plus tartar sauce; and Boulevard Brett Saison with pan-seared scallops and mustard sauce.
GC: The Lost Abbey Carnevale paired with a slice of brie topped with apricot preserves, Snake Dog IPA with passion fruit-infused dark chocolate, and a German hefeweizen with tomato soup—so simple, but so enlightening.
What are some of the most surprising beer-and-food pairings in the book?
GC: The “Palate-Trips” chapter of this book is full of non-conventional pairings. We want people to go that path to help them catch what they might be missing, and help them stop playing it safe!