Book review

Beer history that’s fun

Man Walks into A PubMan-Walks-Into-A-Pub
Pete Brown
Pan Macmillan

While I’m very much a book geek, I tend not to re-read books. There are so many new ones to try and so little time to read them all, why would I want to spend some of that precious time reading a book again?

But I’ve read Pete Brown’s Man Walks in a Pub more than once. Three times in fact. That’s because, in terms of accessible beer history, this is simply one of the best books there is. There might be books that offer a greater amount of detail than Brown’s work, but they likely sacrifice readability.

It’s the balance between history and readability that makes Brown’s book so good. It starts with the origins of beer right through to the rise of craft beer and the consolidation of beer brands and pubs. Along the way Brown touches on prohibition, licensing laws, World Wars I and II, the rise and fall of different styles of beer and plenty more – and all with a good eye for a story.

These include the origin of the actual bar in a pub (it came into being because publicans needed somewhere to put their beer taps) and the fact that soccer started as a way of getting people to drink less beer and Louis Pasteur’s decision to turn his attention to beer was in part driven by a desire to get back at the Germans after his country’s loss in the Franco-Prussian War.

While it’s Brit-centric there’s still more than enough here to warrant those of us in other countries giving it a read. Maybe even three reads. It’s informative and enjoyable and treats beer with a lovely sense of irreverence. You get the feeling that, while Brown loves his beer, he also realises that it’s only beer. That it’s supposed to be fun.

And that’s just what Man Walks into a Pub is. It’s a romp through the history of beer that strikes the tone of a chat in a pub over a few beers rather than a longwinded speech in a lecture hall. It’s also one of the best beer books you’ll ever read.

I fully expect to read this book for a fourth time one day.

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