NJ Journalist’s New Book Cooks With Craft Beer in Mind

"The Craft Brewery Cookbook," written by Metuchen-based journalist John Holl, provides readers with recipes to pair with their favorite beers.

Waffles with beer-berry compote are among the creative recipes readers will find in "The Craft Brewery Cookbook." Photo courtesy of Jon Page/"The Craft Brewery Cookbook"

Since 2003, Metuchen-based journalist John Holl has been covering the American beer industry. With a handful of books already under his belt, Holl’s newest addition, The Craft Brewery Cookbook: Recipes to Pair with Your Favorite Beers, takes a current look at beer and food as natural partners.

Including two New Jersey breweries—Cape May Brewing (Rio Grande) and Carton Brewing (Atlantic Highlands), which both made New Jersey Monthly’s list of the top breweries in the state—the book guides readers to pairing beers from the country’s best independent breweries with home-cooked dishes.

“The Craft Brewery Cookbook” comes out May 10. Jon Page/”The Craft Brewery Cookbook”

Since releasing The American Craft Beer Cookbook in 2013, Holl has noted that breweries are diversifying their offerings with 100-calorie beers, low-ABV beers and even alcohol-free beers, all of which “still have a lot of taste.”

“The [new] book reflects those trends,” he says. “I wanted to showcase where brewers’ strengths are. I wanted the recipes to reflect that as well.”

The Craft Brewery Cookbook is set to release on May 10. Readers can purchase the cookbook anywhere books are sold, though Holl encourages readers to support their local booksellers when picking up a copy.

“In the book, there’s things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as potential beer pairings,” Holl says. “But that’s sort of the beauty of it, how versatile beer can be.”

What inspired this book?
John Holl: In 2013, when The American Craft Beer Cookbook came out, we were trying to tell the story of beer and food in America through recipes. There was a lot of pub food featured. Since then, the beer industry in America has grown tremendously. I thought it was time to revisit where things stand.

How is the cookbook organized?
In stores these days, beers are often categorized by style, so the book is organized by styles. I thought if somebody is in the mood for an imperial stout or a saison or whatever, they can find recipes relating to that in the book, rather than hunting for dishes that match your beer preference. In some cases, beer is an ingredient, which can be a lot of fun, but this book is a lot more about pairing.

How did you go about pairing beers with foods?
It’s hard to make sure you have a good balance. I wanted versatility in the book and made sure I had vegetarian recipes, breakfast recipes, soups, stews, sandwiches, covering the major food categories, and as many different beer styles as possible. There are so many breweries in the U.S. doing amazing things. The conversations I was having with brewers and chefs were a lot of fun.

What New Jersey breweries are featured?
Augie Carton of Carton Brewing and I have been hosting a podcast together for seven years now, “Steal This Beer.” I probably had to include him or he might have been mad at me!

Also, Cape May Brewing is in there. They are doing some really fun things with shandies, which are part juice, part beer, really refreshing and perfect for drinking down the Shore. In the book, there’s a really nice berry compote recipe you can use their beer with for a nice at-home brunch.

Any tips on what flavors pair well with specific beers?
Lagers and pilsners are certainly versatile, but a lot of times salty things can go with them—something like a deviled egg or traditional fish and chips. Sours are really interesting. Much of that has to do with their level of acidity or tartness. Something like a fish would go well with the tart characteristic. Smoky foods can pair well with fruity, tart beers.

The book has some great pairings to guide people, but much of the fun is tasting for yourself. There are so many breweries out there and so many brewery restaurants. The great adventure is the endless possibilities of pairing. Experimentation is part of the fun and always being on the lookout for something that speaks to your palate.

Did you take inspiration from your past cookbooks?
No. I wanted to start at zero again with asking questions and interviewing and finding out where beer and food in America are right now. I used the old book as sort of a road map a little bit, but I like to look forward. It was sort of fun to capture where we are now. Ten years from now, if I do another cookbook, it will be fun to see where we are then compared to where we are now.

What do you hope readers get out of this book?
I hope it brings the opportunity to get together with friends and family to have a good meal, a good drink, and a good conversation. We’ve been missing that for the last couple years. Food brings us together; it sparks conversation and creativity. I hope people find beers and recipes in this book that speak to them.

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