Friday, 19 June 2009
Hops and Glory
A couple of weeks ago saw the publication of the most eagerly anticipated beer book for some years. Yes, looked forward to even more than the Protz memoirs or the latest Belgium Good Beer Guide.
Hops and Glory by Pete Brown is sub-titled One Man's Search For The Beer That Built The British Empire and describes Pete's journey to India with a cask of IPA - India Pale Ale.
Pete recently won the Guild of British Beer Writers travel bursary and decided it would make a great story to re-enact the historic journey that IPA used to take from Burton-on-Trent, via London and the Cape of Good Hope, to refresh the Brits living in colonial India. The fact that he probably spent ten times the bursary on the cost of his journey is not the only reason the book deserves to do well.
It is a ripping read, a mix between a history lesson and a travel Odyssey. I hesitate to say it is un-put-down-able but once you join Pete on the narrow boat in Burton, you really empathise with his ups and downs along the way and are cheering him onto his final destination in Delhi some three months later.
The descriptions of the history of the Raj that break up the story of his journey are very informative and interesting but are slightly less thrilling. However, you are soon taken back to the cruise liner, the tall ship and the container ship enjoying the ride.
All beer writers are performing a public service to the beer world by bringing the world of beer to a wider audience. Pete has nailed this on the head with his latest book by making this as much a travel adventure as it is a book about beer.
One small omission from the book is the lack of a brief colour photo section. Usually I would not be interested in photos but such are the vivid descriptions of each mode of transport I felt myself wanting to see more tangible evidence.
However, there are plenty of photos on the Hops and Glory Facebook page which are well worth looking at to enhance enjoyment of the book.
It is also a great shame that a TV crew did not accompany Pete. Now perhaps if Michael Palin had come up with the idea those tie-ins would be more obvious.
Buy it, read it. Cheer him on and actually believe you can taste that strong, hoppy, IPA in those final pages.
The cover price is £14.99 but it is is still available at half price on Amazon here.
Pete also recently described his trip on Radio 4, Excess Baggage. You can listen to it here