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

  1. 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.

Comments are closed.