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Book Review: The Lost Beers & Breweries of Britain

Beer label: Fremlins County Ale

We covet Brian Glover’s experience almost as much as we envy his library.

This 160-page ‘trade’ paperback tells the story of fifty beers and/or breweries that no longer exist. The author, whose 1988 New Beer Guide is one of our go-to research texts, is a CAMRA veteran and long-time beer writer and so, in many cases, is able to draw on his own recollections, or those of acquaintances, such as CAMRA-founder Graham Lees. (The latter recalls drinking Chester’s ‘Fighting Mild’ as a 13-year-old and finding it ‘dark, hoppy and lip-smacking’.)

The Lost Beers & Breweries of Britain by Brian Glover.Where he doesn’t have first-hand experience of a particular beer, he turns to newspaper articles (he seems to have read all of them, ever) and what seems to be a particularly complete collection of brewery publications. We’ve got a few of the easy-to-find ones — Whitbread, Watney, and so on — but Glover’s years spent digging in second-hand bookshops means that he is able to refer, for example, to Seventy Years and More, an official history of the Barnsley Brewery published in 1960, as well as various beer mats, leaflets, labels and advertisements.

While certainly no coffee-table book, it is also generously illustrated, with 32 pages of colour illustrations (mostly beer labels and posters) and many more in black-and-white.

Whether you enjoy this book as much as we did will depend upon your appetite for nostalgia, but even those who prefer to live in the now might find inspiration here: Meat Stout is surely due a revival, and why do more Yorkshire breweries not make a ‘Stingo’? The story of the oddity that was Davenport’s ‘beer at home’ — delivered to the doorstep by float, done for by supermarkets — reminds us that entire business models are also waiting to be rediscovered in the age of the ‘veg box’.

Any complaints? As ever, we’d love footnotes and a bibliography, but sources are cited throughout, and the claims about the development of IPA — fast becoming the test of any beer book’s mettle — seem sound to us. (But we stand ready to be corrected if some subtlety has escaped us.) And, in contrast to Chris Arnot’s very similarly titled hardback, also published last year, there is perhaps a little too much emphasis on dates and details at the expense of people and stories.

That’s nitpicking, though. We expect to spend many years dipping into this book until it falls apart, and recommend it highly.

2 replies on “Book Review: The Lost Beers & Breweries of Britain”

A Colleague Who Knows What I Like saw this on the freebie table at work and got it for me. Thoroughly enjoyable book. The ‘did you know’ factoids at the end of each section contain some real gems.

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