Long ago, when we were poor university students, my wife and I were invited to a wine and cheese party held by some rich (that is fully employed) teachers. They had a wonderful array of cheeses, each decorated with two little flags, one for the country of origin and the other naming the cheese, and many bottles of wine, all of which came with corks.

We were impressed and would have liked to have had a wine and cheese party ourselves. But given our combined incomes, we could only have afforded a couple of bottles of Manor St. David Red Table Wine (a screw-topped dollar and a quarter Canadian wine), a bottle of cheese whiz and a head of celery.

When we graduated and had full-time jobs, we did have a wine and cheese party, with all the trimmings, including little flags.

Now that beer has become the new wine and books like Garret Oliver’s THE BREWMASTER’S TABLE have revealed how the many and complex styles of beer can be paired with a variety of foods, people are holding beer and cheese parties. (In my university days this would have meant Old Milwaukee and cheezies.) It’s a wonderful idea, and people who haven’t spent much time with craft beers are amazed when presented with various beer and cheese pairings.

If you think a cheese and beer party would be a great idea, there’s a book to help you get started: CHEESE AND BEER by Janet Fletcher (Andrews McMeel Publishing). The author of numerous books about food and beverages, she explains that she wrote this book because there were “so many beers, so many cheeses, so little time.” In the pages that follow, she guides readers to “some proven pairings.” First, however, she provides some important terms like texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness and bitterness, tips on the buying, storing, and serving cheese, and a valuable chart indicting the correct temperature specific types of beer should be at before they are served. Don’t worry, she also indicates the amount of time out of the refrigerator a style of  beer should stand before it reaches that temperature. She also has tips on styles of beer glasses and best ways to pour a beer.

There follow chapters on the main beer styles, with style notes for each, representative beers of each style, and appropriate “cheese affinities.” At the end of the book, there is a very useful chart called “What Beer with that Cheese?” and a useful index listing specific cheeses, specific beers, and beer styles. All though the book are full color photographs of beers and cheeses standing deliciously side-by-side. It’s enough to make you stop reading and rush over to the nearest places where you can get good beers and cheese. But don’t forget to make notes before you go.

Goodbye cheezies, goodbye the Beast of Milwaukee. But I don’t think I’ll forsake celery. Sometimes it makes a good palate cleanser.

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