Archive for July 7th, 2009

I’ve been carefully skimming some of the other beer blogs recently, as I’ve tried not to read other reviews of this book before finishing my own. Well, I’m through, and, to jump to the conclusion, I can recommend this as an addition to your beer book shelf.

I think you know the plot already: English journalist/writer/beer blogger resurrects an original IPA in Burton, then takes it by canal and sea all the way to India in a rout similar to the one they used in the golden days of India Pale Ale.

Aesthetics first: A very nice book to receive. An old fashioned hard cover with thick creamy paper and a font that pleases the eye. It’s Macmillan that makes books the way books should be made. Much better to spend the money on high quality paper than on grainy sections of photographs.

And what kind of book is this? It appeals to a number of audiences, I’d think middle aged men like me dominate several of them:

  • It’s a beer book
  • It’s a travel book
  • It’s a humour book
  • It’s a history book

Does it succeed in all of these? Well, the travelogue would not stand on its own, but it’s the vehicle that drives the story forward. And it’s the travel that brings the anecdotes that makes you chuckle over and over again. Because parts of this is great fun. You’ll recognize Pete’s style from his previous books, he is good at describing encounters with everyone he meets – Brazilian prostitutes, Filipino crew, brewers and drinkers.

There is a dark backdrop to the fun in the story, a sadness at both ends of the journey. The brewing in Burton is just a shadow of its former self, and the future of British beer lies elsewhere.

But it’s the history of British rule in India, with an emphasis on beer and other alcoholic drinks, which is the really bleak stuff. There is no attempt to paint this in a rosy hue, and the story shows that the IPA so loved by British expats never was a drink available to the Indians. Small wonder, then, that it was forgotten there.

Hops and Glory is a personal book. While the documentation for the factual bits seem to be in proper order, there is a personal voice here that dares to speak up against cruelty and injustice. Not preaching, but it adds an extra quality to the book – the voice of Pete Brown is not just the one telling jokes and tall tales, but it is also one that shows that the British rule in India is not a pretty picture.

This is not the most important book of the year, but it never intended to be that, either. But it’s a good read. This is just the thing to pack with your sunglasses, your sandals and your iPod. It’s just the thing for holiday reading. Just make sure you have some good beer in your glass before you sit down.

And if you’re interesed in a signed copy, follow Pete’s blogwith updates of promotional activities. If you see him, say thanks for mentioning the beer bloggers in the book. We appreciate it.

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