Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food

Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food

4.5 6
by Garrett Oliver, Denton Tillman (Photographer), Denny Tillman (Photographer)

See All Formats & Editions

Traditional craft-brewed beer can transform a meal from everyday to extraordinary. It's an affordable, accessible luxury. Yet most people are only familiar with the mass-market variety. Have you tasted the real thing?

In The Brewmaster's Table, Garrett Oliver, America's foremost authority on beer and brewmaster of the acclaimed Brooklyn Brewery, reveals


Traditional craft-brewed beer can transform a meal from everyday to extraordinary. It's an affordable, accessible luxury. Yet most people are only familiar with the mass-market variety. Have you tasted the real thing?

In The Brewmaster's Table, Garrett Oliver, America's foremost authority on beer and brewmaster of the acclaimed Brooklyn Brewery, reveals why real beer is the perfect partner to any dining experience. He explains how beer is made, relays its fascinating history, and, accompanied by Denny Tillman's exquisite photographs, conducts an insider's tour through the amazing range of flavors displayed by distinct styles of beer from around the world. Most important, he shows how real beer, which is far more versatile than wine, intensifies flavors when it's appropriately paired with foods, creating brilliant matches most people have never imagined: a brightly citric Belgian wheat beer with a goat cheese salad, a sharply aromatic pale ale to complement spicy tacos, an earthy German bock beer to match a porcini risotto, even a fruity framboise to accompany a slice of chocolate truffle cake. Whether you're a beer aficionado, a passionate cook, or just someone who loves a great dinner, this book will indeed be a revelation.

Editorial Reviews

Bob Townsend
“The best and most important book ever written on the subject of pairing food and beer..”
Los Angeles Times
“A scholarly and readable book.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Preached by the poet warrior of real beer and real food… The Brewmaster’s Table [is] a feisty and erudite tome.”
Publishers Weekly
Oliver, the brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, argues that brewing beer is far more complicated than making wine, and pleads with beer drinkers to reach past the shelves of mass-produced hops toward bottles produced in more specialized breweries. His message may seem past its sell-by date, but his tour of beers and his brew-and-food match-ups are anything but stale. After explaining beer-making processes, Oliver launches into his beer-food combinations; though he offers no recipes, his recommendations- the classic pairing of Irish stout with oysters; the dark, caramely flavors of Trappist ales balancing a duck confit; the IPA from his own brewery complementing Thai, Mexican, and Vietnamese food-are excellent. Beer drinkers of all sorts will happily drift along Oliver's exhaustive tour. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.02(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.35(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Brewmaster's Table

Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food
By Garrett Oliver


ISBN: 0-06-000571-8

Chapter One

When people ask me what I do for a living, I reply that

I have to admit that I get a kick out of their reactions. Often they take a step or two back and look me over carefully, perhaps inspecting me for horns or a cloven foot. Might I turn them into newts? One thing hasn't changed much over the past 4,000 years - brewing has always been considered mysterious. Old documents incorporating medieval brewers' guilds mention the "mystery and art of brewing." There is little mystery to winemaking - after all, many of us made crude wine as a science project in elementary school. We all know what wine is, even those of us who never drink it. Do you know what beer is? Most people haven't the slightest clue. Even people who drink beer every day rarely know anything about where it came from, a fact that makes it unique as a food product. Before we delve into history, styles, flavors, and food matches, we need to have some idea what beer is and where it comes from. I don't carry a wand, but there are parts of the brewing process that still strike me as magical, even after all these years.

Wine is a simple beverage to produce. In order to make wine, one needs only grapes. Crush the grapes, and the natural yeast on the grape skins will start the fermentation; and pretty soon - voilà! - you'll have wine. In fact, if you have enough grapes, they'll actually crush themselves by their own weight - the winemaker doesn't even need to do that! Beer is not nearly so simple, and brewing is a far more complicated art than winemaking. I can already hear the bleats of protest from the wine folks, but I'm afraid it's true. Brewing, at the very simplest, requires barley malt, yeast, hops, and water. True, the vintner must tend, prune, and choose his grapes carefully, and then oversee a long process of vinification. The brewmaster, however, must choose among a dizzying array of malts, roasted grains, unmalted grains, sugars, dozens of varieties of hops, and hundreds of strains of yeast, and then cause these ingredients to create exactly what he has in mind. In many ways, the brewmaster is more like a chef than he is like a winemaker. If the beer turns out poorly, he cannot shrug his shoulders and claim it was a bad year. A fine beer is not a discovery or simply a part of nature, but a work of art: a product of pure intention and imagination.

Brewing is also hard work. There are no easy sun-filled days of dancing in woven baskets - you can dance on the barley all you want, but it has no juice to yield up. The brewer must work to loosen its grip on the essential ingredient - sugar. Anyone who seeks to create an alcoholic beverage must have sugar to ferment. Grapes have their own sugar, but barley is packed with starch, which must be converted into sugar in order to make beer. This process starts with the mash, where starches are converted into a sweet liquid called the wort (pronounced "wert"). The wort is collected in a kettle, where the bitterness, flavor, and aroma of the hops are extracted into the wort by boiling. The hopped wort is then chilled and sent into a fermentation vessel where yeast is added and works its wonders, transforming homely sweet wort into beer. Sounds simple, doesn't it? In some ways, it is. But then, so is a soufflé.

There are many details along the way that will determine how the beer will turn out. Join me now on a journey from grain to glass as we unlock the mystery and art of brewing. First, let's have a look at the ingredients. Every journey must begin with a single step; and when it comes to beer, that first step is malting the barley.


Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a tall, tawny-colored grass with a seed head on top of its stalk. A field of barley looks a lot like a wheat field. For the brewer, barley has special gifts that other grains cannot offer. Its hard husk, low protein content, and high starch content all make it a more suitable candidate for brewing than for baking. Barley grows in temperate climates around the world. Like many grains, it comes in a number of strains and varieties. And like many other agricultural food products, barley varieties have become largely homogenized over the years. Growers have sought to maximize their yields per acre and also to produce barleys with little depth of flavors for use in mass-market beers. There are, however, still many barley varieties that command respect and high prices for their rare depth of flavor, such as the old British varieties Maris Otter and Golden Promise. "Maritime" varieties, grown near the sea in England and Germany, are favored by some brewers, while others prefer flavors developed in the sunshine on the plains of the United States. The sweet, toffeeish flavor of German barley varieties is unmistakable, and German brewers combine them with special mashing techniques to create beers with unique malt flavors. The distinct character of the barley variety will find its way through the brewing and fermentation process and show itself in the finished beer. At one time, all breweries malted their own barley, but these days the job is usually done by professional "maltsters." At Brooklyn Brewery, I buy malt from the United States, England, Scotland, Canada, Belgium, and Germany. Buying malt this way is more expensive, but each of these malts has distinctive qualities it lends to our beer.

Malted barley, also known simply as malt, is barley seed that has been steeped in water until it starts to sprout, then dried out in a kiln. Unmalted barley is as hard as stone - try to eat it, and you risk breaking a tooth. Malting turns the starch inside the seed soft, white, powdery, and ready for brewing. The germination is traditionally carried out by spreading the barley several feet deep over a large concrete floor specially built for the purpose. Water is sprayed onto the barley, and the dormant seed wakes up - germination begins. The maltster must keep the seedbed cool and aerated, and he does this by sending rakes through the germinating seeds. This also keeps the seeds separate - they would otherwise become a tangled mass as their rootlets braided together. The raking would once have been done by hand, but today this is rare; mechanized raking systems are now the norm.

A barley seed is essentially like a little egg - an egg with a plan. The plan calls for the seed to develop enzymes to break down its starch into sugars, burn the sugars for energy, use that energy to grow leaves, and then start photosynthesis when the sugars are used up. The maltster has far loftier plans for the barley seed ...


Excerpted from The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Bob Townsend
“The best and most important book ever written on the subject of pairing food and beer..”

Meet the Author

Garrett Oliver, author of The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering The Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, likens his role as Brewmaster at the award-winning Brooklyn Brewery in New York City to a chef: "The Brewmaster is essentially the chef of the brewery." Gourmet magazine described him as "a passionate epicure and talented alchemist."

In Oliver's new book, his expertise about beer is as entertaining and authoritative as his culinary tips, especially in the numerous savory beer and food matchups he recommends. How did Garrett Oliver come by these consuming passions?

After years of amateur brewing inspired by beers he had encountered during a year in England, Garrett Oliver began brewing professionally at Manhattan Brewing Company in 1989. He was appointed Brewmaster there in 1993. He soon became widely known both here and abroad for his flavorful interpretations of traditional brewing styles and as an avid and entertaining lecturer and writer on the subject of fine beer. Garrett has hosted hundreds of beer tastings and dinners, writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals, and is internationally recognized as an expert on traditional beer styles and their affinity with fine food.

In 1994, Oliver joined The Brooklyn Brewery as Brewmaster and partner. Many of his beers have won national and international awards. He has also served as a judge for the Professional Panel Blind Tasting of the Great American Beer Festival for eleven years, has judged the prestigious Great British Beer Festival competition five times, and the Beverage Industry International Awards twice.

Oliver has hosted tastings and talks for numerous cultural institutions, including the Smithsonian, MassMOCA, and The Jewish Museum. In the United States, Garrett has made numerous radio and television appearances as a spokesman for craft brewing, including segments on NPR, CNN, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, The History Channel, Food Network's "Emeril Live, and CBS' Martha Stewart Living.

Garrett has hosted beer tastings and dinners at many fine restaurants, cooking schools, and food events including dinners at James Beard House, Oceana, The Waldorf-Astoria, the Slow Food Cheese Festival and Salone del Gusto in Piemonte, Italy, The Association of Westchester Country Club Chefs, The American Institute of Wine and Food, The Culinary Institute of America, the Sommelier Society of America, The French Culinary Institute, and Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (now ICE), and the London BAR show. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Slow Food, USA.

Garrett's first book, The Good Beer Book, co-written with Timothy Harper, was published in 1997. Oliver is a graduate of Boston University, and holds a degree in Broadcasting and Film. He is the recipient of the 1998 Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation and Excellence in Brewing, granted by the Institute for Brewing Studies. It is the highest award given within the United States brewing profession.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Halfway through it - great read so far, if you're a serious beer fan. Probably not the best book to get started in the world of beer (and there's wayyy more to this book than just pairing beer with food); Garrett knows his craft and assumes at least a tacit understanding of industry terms on the part of the reader. Extensive history and backgrounds on brewing, cultural impact, styles, and people of note in addition to all of the recommendations as far as food and beer - all in all, a very comprehensive book. I'd certainly type more in this review, but B&N haven't figured out the whole web thing, and this textbox keeps shrinking and garbling. Technology isn't their thing, or Netflix would work on my Nook. Oh well - they may suck, but the book is quite good! I'd suggest getting it from Amazon - their tech seems a lot stronger, and they're much more concerned with customer experience than these clowns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well done great research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of my favorite books related to beer. It not only gives pairing suggestions, but also gives you some history and background of each beer. It is very detatiled on why the pairings go so well together. A very well written book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I find this book to be an excellent source of info on foods will go best with whatever beer I have on hand. Also if you are planning a party, it is also a great source for planning what style of beer to serve with what foods. This one is a must have, easily a 5 star choice and for the price you can't go wrong.