|Words, food and beer: how a book begins (Marble Arch, Feb 2011)
Been some good books this year, but for me five stand out and here they are in no particular order. I loved Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s gorgeous World Atlas of Beer with the duo’s incisive and elegant styles of writing bringing the beers of the world to sparkling life allied with lush, luxuriant and lively photography. This is the beer book as a backpacker.
Then there was Chris Arnot’s Britain’s Lost Breweries and Beers, an elegiac and yet uplifting social history of those that were once at the centre of their community but have now gone. It might have been a yomp along memory lane but the lacrimosa was absent — some of the beers now vanished, Arnot suggested, might not have been that good. It’s a valuable record — Brian Glover’s The Lost Beers and Breweries of Britain covered a similarly melancholic subject but I have not seen it yet, but knowing how good a writer Brian is I will look for it in the new year.
Then there is Pete Brown’s exceptional Shakespeare’s Local. I did my first serious book review for the Telegraph of it and devoured it in one sitting. Even now I have been listening to Tony Robinson reading extracts from it on Radio 4 and continue to enjoy it. The strength and skill of the book is that Brown brings to life Southwark, seeing it through a beery eye and putting the George at the centre of things. I love it and think it’s his best book yet.
You will probably have a job getting these three books in time for Christmas but not with my final two choices, which are by the same writer and can be downloaded onto your Kindle within minutes. Evan Rail’s Why Beer Matters and In Praise of Hangovers are beer writing taken to a new philosophical plane, beer writing as a matter of musing, personal recollection, philosophical probing all brought together with an erudite and personable writing style. They are essays, elegant in their design, but also robust in the way in which they celebrate beer and its universe. In Praise of Hangovers was a particularly welcome company on a train journey I took from Pilsen to Munich back in September — a crowded carriage, a slight mustiness in the head after the Purkmistr festival the day before, the growing carousing of Oktoberfest-bound travellers, a desire to go home (though it would be another four days before that happened) and a disinclination to have another beer for a while. That essay made me feel much better and I remembered it that evening as I wandered open-mouthed around Oktoberfest’s carnage.
So there you are five great books and I haven’t even mentioned Mitch Steele’s book on IPA and Stan Hieronymus’ For The Love of Hops, which are for 2013.