By David Nilsen
I will confess at the outset I was a bit disappointed with Cookies & Beer, a new book written by Jonathan Bender. The book sets out to offer pairings of its title delights, but the execution is something of a letdown. This isn’t to say the book holds no perks; it just isn’t the book I had hoped it would be, the one I had reason to assume it would be. More than anything, Cookies & Beer is a small collection of very good cookie recipes. One could do worse than that.
Cookies & Beer is visually sumptuous, which is to be expected from any modern cookbook, and the beertography provides plenty of eye candy for bakers and craft beer aficionados alike. The book is arranged into general flavor groupings–breakfast, chocolate, fruit, savory, and holiday–with brief sections for pairing beer with girl scouts cookies and store-bought cookies, as well as a final chapter on baking cookies with beer as a central ingredient. Each chapter contains half a dozen or so excellent cookie recipes, almost all of them gathered from top notch professional bakers and, in a few cases, brewers. Bender recommends a beer to pair with each and provides some limited tasting notes to go along with them. The variety of beers suggested is not dazzling, and at times feels repetitive (browns, porters, and stouts often have coffee and chocolate notes, which means they get leaned on heavily here). Bender sounds like he loves craft beer, but he makes some errors that will make the seasoned beer drinker scratch her head (if you have a sweet tooth, look for kriek? Really?) and sigh.
Ultimately the book feels like a cookie cookbook cashing in on the craft beer craze. It lures in craft beer drinkers but never really delivers the goods they came for–it has very little to say about beer. The book is better in concept than execution. Still, that concept is a fun one, and perhaps the book can serve as a springboard for adventurous beer lovers to look more into beer and dessert pairings. This book certainly isn’t going to remind anyone of Garrett Oliver’s gospel guidance on beer and food pairings, but it does open up a new area for exploration along those lines. As long as you don’t approach the book hoping for new insights in our understanding of beer and food pairings, the book provides some fun diversion. If nothing else, there are cookies.
Cookies & Beer is available now at GPL.