It’s been ages since I finished a book, let alone one that has some significance for the blog. But, last week I started commuting by train again, and that means at least 40 minutes of reading extra per day. In some cases I don’t even mind delays, depending on which book I’m reading.
Anyway, I finally finished ‘Man walks into a Pub’. Finally does not mean it’s a bad read, but it does mean I didn’t get around to it as quickly as I would have liked.
The book is a history of British pubs, and therefore a history of beer in England. I felt the time was right in reading it now since I’m going to Dorset for a week soon. I should know what I’m getting in to, right? I already checked the Camra website and it seems the Best Real Cider pub of the UK is near where we’re staying. So that’s a good thing.
Anyway. The review in short is: Read this book. It’s awesome. Although it stretches back some 500 years it is nicely focused on the periods that matter, sometimes making jumps spanning decades in which not much happened.
It start with ale houses, inns and stage coaches. While this is all quite interesting I was more interested in more recent times, and that’s where the biggest part of the book focuses on. From the first world war and the temperance movement from that era onward to current times is more than half of the book and it’s very interesting to read how the brewers got bigger and bigger. How the pubs sometimes had to close down because of changing social and economic standards, and how a pub was obliged to open if it had a license in WW2.
Add to that the history of beer itself and what styles were popular at which times, and more interestingly, why they were popular and you’ve got a great read. While all this info might sound a little stale at times, it’s written in a very affable manner and isn’t lecturing at all.
There’s enough jokes and cynicism to entertain me (and I am cynical of a lot of things). The book and more important, the writer don’t take themselves too serious. Also, while I’m not much of a lager drinker, I find it very refreshing that lager is an important part of the story told and Pete Brown is never condescending towards lager drinkers. He even admits to being one himself. That doesn’t happen often in professional beer writing!
So, if you have an inkling of curiosity towards British pubs, or beer in England, you really want to read his book. You also might want to pledge a couple of bucks to his new book in which he will write in depth about the ingredients that make a beer a beer.