We all know the story: in 1971 a group of Englishmen on a walking holiday in Kerry created a beer drinkers' protest group to fight the rise of industrialised beer in Britain.
35 years later, a pair of young Scottish home brewers set out to shake up the staid UK beer scene with a daring and aggressive new venture: we all know that story too.
But neither of these well-worn creation myths are the full truth. The circumstances behind the formation of CAMRA and the founding of BrewDog are just two of the areas covered in Brew Britannia, a book about the changes in British beer culture from the middle of the 20th century to the present day, and one which shows a continuity between the events with which, perhaps, neither entity would be entirely comfortable.
Veteran beer writer Tim Webb has been publishing a guide to Belgian beer and pubs since 1992. This and the previous edition in 2014 were co-edited by the Europe-based American writer Joe Stange. A short essay by Webb at the front of the book charts the origin of the guide and announces his retirement from it. That means the next one will have a different feel to the current edition, because this is not simply a list of Belgian pubs and breweries, but rather a series of personal observations. This unusual approach really captures the idiosyncracies of Belgium's beer culture.
No beer aficionado needs to be told what India Pale Ale is -- the style is brewed anywhere there's a market of drinkers who really care about what's in the glass in front of them. American craft brewers have made it their own, with their signature bitter fruity hops and ever-increasing levels of alcohol. And the story of the style, how it was exported from Britain to India, maturing on the long voyage around the Cape, is inscribed on almost every IPA label. In Hops & Glory, Pete Brown not only gives the full intriguing story of India Pale Ale and its place in the building of the British Empire, but also sets out to recreate the journey from Burton-on-Trent to Calcutta with a cask of authentic IPA.
The book divides roughly between these two stories: on the one hand we have the history of the British in India, how their beer became an intrinsic part of their lifestyle. And on the other there's the tale of what happens when one man decides in the pub that he will take some IPA from the brewery in Burton to India by sea, to taste firsthand the effect of the journey on the beer. It is, in many ways, a book of discoveries. Pete gives us never-before-seen insights into British beer history and the mythology around IPA, and tells us candidly the things he discovers about himself on his epic voyage, including just what it's like to get cabin fever and skirt the edges of sanity.
It's twelve years since Tess and Mark Szamatulski published the first edition of Clone Brews, a slim volume containing detailed instructions on how to recreate 150 different beers from around the world. The book was a hit with homebrewers, with its combination of clear, concise instructions and the enhancement of extract recipes with minimash and all-grain options. The end results of recipes, anecdotally speaking, tend not to be exact replicas of the beer being copied, but it's a useful book for when you want to make a beer in a particular style and you know of a commercial example.
Now, the publishers have released a revised and expanded edition of the book, incorporating even more clonable beers.
My review of Iorwerth Griffiths's small 2007 volume, The Complete Guide to Beer and Cider in Ireland, expressed the hope that growth in Ireland's craft beer scene would mean the next edition would be more of a coffee table size. A successor has finally been published and while it's not a large-format work it does share much in common with the glossy, image-rich, lifestyle publishing genre.
That's not to say it's all fluff, however. Far from it. Caroline Hennessy and Kristen Jensen have meticulously researched the current state of the Irish beer and cider scene and drawn upon a wealth of sources, historical, zythological and gastronomical to create this compact and accessible guide.