Book: Brew Britannia

I like reading a lot! So much so, that we have a library in our house (hey, we had a spare room). So of course I also love reading books about beer.

When you look at the beer shelves at the book store, you will mostly find books about beerstyles (Michael Jackson was really onto something there), about brewing and/or ingrediënts and about cooking. Ok, since those beer shelves in Dutch bookstores are mostly in the cooking section, that’s probably not that weird, if it weren’t the case that if you search for beer at for example Amazon, you will find more or less the same books, mostly just in in higher quantities. I really want to know more about beer history and beer countries and the such, and although I have some titles yet to read, those are less easy to find. On of those books is Brew Britannia by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey. According to Goodreads the duo has written four more books together:

Their writing is a wee bit chaotic, leaves room for interpretation and feels coloured, leaving doubt about the historic accuracy. But it is a wonderful read and gives a good look and mostly feel of the beer history in the UK since the Preservation Act. A lot of the information seems to come from interviews, which gives the coloured feel of the book, but also gives you a real inside in all the non quantifiable things why beers developed this way in the UK: The mood, the attitude of the people, the beery civil unrest. It’s almost similar to reading Les Miserables en the feel that gives you for the attitude of Parisians. So yes, not ALL British people and yes, it’s anecdotal, but yes it also is quite recognizable.

The book tells you about CAMRA (Campaign for real ale), about the big six, about the up-and-coming BrewDog, Thornbridge and Meantime, about everything that influenced and changed beer in the UK. Why pilsner/lager had a bit of a harder time (but not that much harder) to conquer the UK than the continent, how real ale or cask ale (unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned and served from a cask using a handpump which doesn’t add nitrogen or carbon oxide) persisted on the isles, why new beerstyles couldn’t land easy earlier than they did, why BrewDog became so successful with those new beerstyles, why CAMRA began successful, then wasn’t and now… Well, it still exists. The excerpt from Goodreads tells you this about the book:

At the start of the twentieth century Britain was home to over 6,000 breweries. By 1960 this number had dwindled to 358 and, with the “Big Six” increasingly dominant, the prospects for British beer looked weak, yellow and fizzy. In 2012, however, UK breweries topped 1,000 for the first time since the Great Depression. Moreover, they are now producing and exporting more varied and inventive ale than ever before. Across the country, evidence of this national brewing renaissance is easy to find: the Campaign for Real Ale has more members than the Conservative Party; beer festivals proliferate with every passing month; the Camden Brewery and Meantime have become international brands, producing acclaimed lagers and IPAs; the ultra-fashionable BrewDog dispenses shots of strange 40%-proof liquids to hipster media types; and cyberspace plays host to hundreds of thousands of beer enthusiasts, all debating and virtually savoring the merits of New Zealand hops, or the latest chocolate stout. The Strange Rebirth of British Beer will tell the story of this remarkable reversal. Following a disparate group of Trotskyite hacks, eccentric City bankers, hippie “micro brewers” and a lot of men in pubs, the writers behind the acclaimed Boak & Bailey blog promise to reveal how punter power pulled the British pint back from the brink.


I loved this book! It makes you feel like you now understand a bit about the beer culture of the UK, through reading about the history, the developments, the mood and attitude during those times. It also feels a bit dated, but that’s probably why they published the sequel The Good, the Bad, the Murky. The book is also very entertaining. Earlier I said chaotic, but that probably adds to the reading enjoyment. It’s not dry, or bulky, but just a nice read, for on a sunny afternoon with a pint of ale (not lager). So now it’s time for another beer book.

I have some books on my ready to read pile, like Der Köbes by Jens Prüss, the whole Classic Beer Style Series, Minder Trammelant in Bierland (Less issues in the beer world) by Rick Kempen and Marco Philipsen, Van brood tot Brood (bier in art: From bread to artist Brood) by Henri Reuchlin and more.

Which beer book would you recommend me to read first and/or next?

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