Brew Britannia Reading List

In writing Brew Britannia we relied upon some books heavily and they’ve become our ‘go to’ references.

Though they’re list­ed in the select­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy at the back of our book, we want­ed to spare a few words explain­ing exact­ly why we found some of them so use­ful.

The Death of the Eng­lish Pub by Christo­pher Hutt (1973)

Impor­tance: 5  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 4

The Death of the English Pub (cover)If the Cam­paign for Real Ale was one expres­sion of ‘some­thing in the air’ in the ear­ly 1970s then this book was anoth­er. Though he began writ­ing it before he’d heard of CAMRA, Hutt would go on to be the Cam­paign’s sec­ond chair­man, and this short, fiery ‘fight­ing paper­back’ would be its unof­fi­cial man­i­festo. Through­out, it con­veys des­per­a­tion, pes­simism and pre-emp­tive grief for a cul­ture that Hutt was sure would soon be gone, helped along by beau­ti­ful if rather sen­ti­men­tal black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy. It’s hard to believe he was only in his mid-20s when he wrote it, with scarce­ly a decade’s drink­ing under his belt.

The Beer Drinker’s Com­pan­ion by Frank Bail­lie (1973)

Impor­tance: 5  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 1

The Beer Drinker's Companion (cover)A vital ref­er­ence, this hard­back records the prod­ucts of every brew­ery in the coun­try (not that huge a job in 1973, to be fair), cask, keg and bot­tle. Want to know how many stouts were being brewed in the ear­ly 1970s? Count them. Was all keg beer irre­deemably ter­ri­ble-tast­ing? Not accord­ing to Bail­lie’s pre-CAM­RA dog­ma tast­ing notes. It’s good he wrote it just when he did because even two years lat­er, many more of these beers and brew­eries (such as Barns­ley and Joule’s) had dis­ap­peared.

CAMRA Good Beer Guide 1982–1999

Impor­tance: 3  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 3

The very first edi­tions of the Good Beer Guide are slim and don’t have much con­tent beyond pub list­ings. As they go on, how­ev­er, they begin to accu­mu­late inter­est­ing front and end mat­ter, illu­mi­nat­ing the atti­tudes of their time and pro­claim­ing CAM­RA’s var­i­ous pri­or­i­ties over the years. There are con­tem­po­rary essays about pub preser­va­tion, the puri­ty of beer, the rise of the glob­al micro­brew­ing move­ment, lager, the place of women in the Cam­paign, bot­tled beer and numer­ous oth­er top­ics. Oz Clarke’s essay in favour of pre­ten­sion, from the 1990 edi­tion, is a par­tic­u­lar­ly daz­zling, provoca­tive piece.(And, of course, it is always fun to look up places you know to see what the pubs were like in, say, 1986…)

Beer & Skit­tles by Richard Boston (1976)

Impor­tance: 4  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 4

beer_skittles_boston_200The ‘Boston on Beer’ col­umn in the Guardian from 1973 was vital­ly impor­tant in CAM­RA’s ear­ly suc­cess; this pock­et-sized anthol­o­gy updates and dis­tils the best of those columns. Some of his opin­ions now seem quaint, and the ‘beer his­to­ry’ sec­tion is not to be relied upon as a work of schol­ar­ship, but as a record of the times, it’s hard to beat. His prose is also wit­ty and sharp – enjoy­able in its own right, even if you’re not that inter­est­ed in beer. (Here’s Alan McLeod’s review from 2008.)

World Guide to Beer by Michael Jack­son (1977)

Impor­tance: 4  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 5

A glossy cof­fee-table book, yes, but also the found­ing doc­u­ment of the glob­al beer geek cul­ture we all enjoy (or endure?) today. His art­ful prose inspired not only drinkers to broad­en their hori­zons but also brew­ers. Also essen­tial read­ing if you want to see the low base from which Amer­i­can ‘craft beer’ had to start. Though there had been books about pubs and beer before this, Jack­son, we think, invent­ed ‘beer writ­ing’ as we know it, and we sus­pect most mod­ern prac­ti­tion­ers have a copy of this, or one of the many revised, con­densed or pic­to­r­i­al vari­a­tions on the same basic text, close at hand.

New Beer Guide by Bri­an Glover (1988)

Impor­tance: 5   |  Read­abil­i­ty: 3

A fas­ci­nat­ing coun­ter­part to Bail­lie’s book of 15 years before, this CAMRA pub­li­ca­tion, based on Glover’s work for their news­pa­per, What’s Brew­ing, attempts to record details of all the new micro­brew­eries. Glover is more suc­cess­ful in find­ing sto­ries and char­ac­ters than Bail­lie and indi­vid­ual entries are often colour­ful in their detail. The intro­duc­tion is an excel­lent sum­ma­ry of devel­op­ments from the mid-1970s, much of it draw­ing on first-hand expe­ri­ence and Glover’s own store of inter­views with key play­ers. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly strong on the then ongo­ing post-Firkin micro­brew­ery boom.

Called to the Bar: 25 years of CAMRA, ed. Roger Protz and Tony Millns (1991)

Impor­tance: 4   |   Read­abil­i­ty: 4

This col­lec­tion of essays includes per­son­al accounts of the found­ing years of CAMRA and British micro­brew­ing by impor­tant char­ac­ters such Michael Hard­man and Mar­tin Sykes. It also rep­re­sents an offi­cial his­to­ry – writ­ten by the vic­tors, yes, but still use­ful in fix­ing details of, e.g., the first nation­al beer fes­ti­val in 1975. It is also a good sum­ma­ry of where the Cam­paign found itself at this point – in the process of becom­ing a seri­ous, mid­dle-aged nation­al insti­tu­tion with a ten­den­cy to self-mythol­o­gise.

Three Sheets to the Wind by Pete Brown (2006)

Impor­tance: 2  |  Read­abil­i­ty: 5

Three Sheets to the Wind (cover)But this only came out recent­ly!” you cry. Well, eight years is a long time in British beer. This extend­ed pon­der in the form of  a trav­el­ogue offers a valu­able snap­shot of what was going on a decade ago: Brown, ahead of the curve as ever, express­es an enthu­si­asm for vibrant­ly hop­py Amer­i­can beer that, by 2007-08, was being echoed by beer geeks across the UK, and espe­cial­ly in the blo­goshire. His stri­dent crit­i­cism of CAMRA also put into words frus­tra­tions felt by many among a new gen­er­a­tion of drinkers, and arguably pro­vid­ed the tem­plate for much of Brew­Dog’s rhetoric in the years that fol­lowed.

If you only buy one beer book this year, it should obvi­ous­ly be ours, but if you decide to spring for one or two more, most of these are avail­able sec­ond-hand at fair­ly rea­son­able prices. For even more sug­gest­ed read­ing, see Justin Mason’s ‘long read’ about his beer book col­lec­tion.

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