Pete Brown used to work in advertising selling beer brands such as Stella Artois and Heineken. Despite that start, he managed to develop a love for good beer–both its flavour and its role as the liquid wallpaper in a life well lived.
I discovered Pete through his blog and from there his two books, Man Walks into a Pub and Three Sheets to the Wind, both books that look at beer, its history and the role it plays in society. Having thoroughly enjoyed them both, I anxiously awaited the arrival of his latest effort, Hops and Glory, the account of Pete’s efforts to uncover the truth about his favourite beer style–the India Pale Ale. I had followed the gestation of the book through his blog and so knew that it was going to be a cracking story but I was worried that he would have revealed all of the best bits in that forum, much the same way as teasers for bad movies do. I needn’t have worried. It is a compulsive read.
Hops and Glory sees Pete enlist the help of some talented brewers to brew an authentic IPA in the home of IPA, Burton, and then attempt to get it to India following as closely as possible the original sea route to the subcontinent. What follows is equal parts Around the World in 80 Days travel mayhem, Bill Brysonesque wry observation and reflection and a fascinating and painstakingly-researched history of a beer style. It adds up to an engrossing tale.
In an age when beer is a commodity that can be brewed in any style anywhere and sent around the world without effort, this book gives beer a sense of time and place.
Pete is one of those rare writers who can write passionately about a subject as commonplace as beer in a way that elevates it, but still maintain its “essence of unpretentious sociability”. In a book about beer he writes from a personal perspective with honesty, sensitivity and insight but never self-consciously or self-indulgently.
This is a very good book. Whether you like beer or you like travel, buy it. It’s not released in Australia yet, but you can track it down easily on Amazon.co.uk. You will be rewarded for the effort.