Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer
Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey
Aurum Press (2014)
When it comes to books about the beer history of a certain area I reckon the big test of success is how it reads for someone who isn’t familiar with that area.
Take this book, by British bloggers Boak & Bailey. As the subtitle gives away, it details with the upsurge in good beer that the UK experienced. In that respect, it’s a story that’s been happening in tonnes of places around the world. But they’re British so they’re dealing with the story in their country.
Okay, so, if you’re a British beer geek, you’ll obviously get a lot out of this book because you’ll know the towns and cities mentioned, the key figures involved and, quite likely, most of the beers mentioned.
But for someone in another country whose only on-the-ground experience of the UK is 10 days back in 1985, they’re not going to know any of that stuff. Yeah, okay, I’m talking about myself. I’m not going to know any of that stuff. At this point the writing and the storytelling is what matters. It’s picking the right bits of history, the interesting bits, and leaving out all the trainspotting detail.
And the blogging pair are great at that. I didn’t know a lot of the people in the book, or the places, or the beer. But, jeez, I loved reading this book. When I bought it, I honestly expected to skip pages here and there due to a lack of interest in the subject. But I didn’t – read every damn page.
It probably helps that they have things like the people from the ridiculously obsessive CAMRA or the often-irritating BrewDog (the chapter on these guys is supremely illuminating) to write about. But still, when it comes to writing you can have great raw materials and screw things up massively.
These guys certainly don’t screw things up (and I dare them to use that quote as a cover blurb for the second edition).