It’s hard to know where to start when typing up a review for a book about beer; this is partially because I haven’t blogged anything for most of 2013. Perhaps it’s the fault of Andy Hamilton (the author) and his previous book “Booze for Free” – it’s hard to drink and blog at the same time, after all.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have more than a passing interest in foraging and growing my own fruit and vegetables. This lends itself to an immediate liking for Andy, who you might recognise from Autumnwatch on BBC Two; he’s the one who wanders around the countryside trying to persuade you to pick and eat things that you’d normally a) buy in Tesco or b) just ignore altogether. He’s also co-author of the Self-Sufficientish website along with his twin brother Dave, whose book Grow Your Food for Free is also a favourite. In fact, their ethos and writing styles are so similar that I’m tempted to doubt they both exist!
I received my copy of Brewing Britain a couple of weeks ago and have been itching to type up a review. Normally I’d flick through, perhaps read a couple of chapters, then get typing. But this book is hard to put down. It’s not often you find an author writing a book in the same kind of language you’d expect to hear down the pub; when describing how to detect a duff pint, for example, he warns that “you might just come across as a fussy prick”. This from the same man who taught me the (oft repeated) definition of yeast, “[it] eats sugar, pisses alcohol and farts carbon dioxide”. Other authors take note; this is how to make a book appealing to the common man, how to convey complex information and make it feel like it’s just another conversation while stood next to the bar, pint in hand.
Brewing Britain is a book both for drinkers and for brewers. I’ve tried my hand at home brewed wine before, but not even contemplated beer so fall firmly into the former category – at least for now. As a drinker I’ve always been a fan of real ale (it just tastes better) but never really understood the difference between different types. Andy solves that problem by dedicating a whole swathe of his book to the differences between them, especially useful to a man such as myself who barely knew an IPA from a stout, let alone knew what a “saison” is.
In the “Brewing” section, Andy describes every detail you could possibly need to make your own beer, from equipment to technique. True to form, he even describes how you can grow your own beer. As a man who recently managed to obtain an allotment this interested me, but I suspect I am already far too ambitious as to what I’m going to manage on my half plot without filling it with barley and the like. That said, Andy advises that I’d only need 15m2 – somewhere around 1/4 of the space I have available. Is there anything this man doesn’t have covered?
All in, Brewing Britain is a surprisingly good book. I say that because I didn’t expect a book on such a limited field to be so hard to put down – I’ve read similar books on wine and found them to be a great cure for insomnia, so really didn’t expect to be so drawn in. As part of my (cough) research for this review I’ve found myself sampling more and more different kinds of beer, a sure sign that Brewing Britain has me hooked. I just hope that, unlike with the book, I will be able to tell when I’ve had enough!
- Title: Brewing Britain: The quest for the perfect pint
- Author: Andy Hamilton
- Released: 24/10/2013
- RRP: £12.99 (but available from my Amazon aStore at the time of writing for just £7.00)