My friends Dave and Natalie gave me this book for my birthday last month. Remarkably, considering I'm a paid-up CAMRA member and have taken days off work to attend beer festivals, it's the first book about beer I've ever read cover to cover.
Pete Brown, a drinks marketeer and author of Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer, takes a tour around the world's most noted beer-producing nations exploring its role in each country. Brown's an entertaining tour guide, illuminating everywhere he visits by not only recounting his pub crawls but also trying very hard to find out why beer drinking in other countries rarely results in the vomit-strewn pavements it so often does here.
He enjoys cerveza y tapas in Spain, sings along with oompah bands at Oktoberfest and marvels at the Bond villain architecture of the Asahi brewery in Tokyo. The section on America is fascinating. I've long been a fan of American beer like Sam Adams and Anchor Steam and the book contains a revealing insight into why US beers are currently so tasty. Karl Ockert, the brewmaster at Portland's Bridgeport Brewery, says:
"In the UK you had a real ale tradition that was almost wiped out. CAMRA rescued it, but because they were trying to preserve something. Here, [in the USA] the tradition of making beer decent beer was completely wiped out. Destroyed. There was nothing to preserve. So craft brewers started with an attitude of experimentation. We don't worry about whether something is traditional not, just if it's great beer."
It's an interesting point. The book is full of them. It also made me realise that I'm still probably too much of a beer conservative. I think the reason I've never been a fan of Belgian beer is not because I don't really like the taste. It's because they don't taste like the British beers I love. Any suggestions of what to broaden my tastebuds with gratefully received.
As I said, the book's full of the sort of trivia that's irresistible to pub quiz bores like myself, my favourite being the fact that home brew was illegal in America until 1979 (God bless Jimmy Carter).
I actually bought a copy of Pete Brown's previous book a few years but never opened it. That was until last night when my thirst for beery facts was not yet satisfied.
Since most of my posts here have so far been music related, this is a perfect opportunity to share a few songs from the superb Barstool Mountain blog. Hank Thompson, who died last week, was a master of beer-inspired song. You can download two of his classics below.