Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland is a four volume, 2,183 page, work written by Alfred Barnard towards the end of the nineteenth century.
It is a personal account by Barnard of his visits to a wide range of Victorian breweries giving detailed accounts of the premises, plant and product range at a time when the industry was booming.
Given its importance as a beer related historical reference, I am slightly ashamed to say that it has only hit my attention in recent weeks. Firstly at the (now legendary) Beer Bloggers Conference, when it was discussed at a time when a talk on the future of beer writing seemed to get a bit bogged down in the history of beer writing.
A week or two later, the Brewery History Society Journal hit the doormat and the first paper was entitled A personal consideration of Alfred Barnard's Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland and aspects of its relationship to the late Victorian brewing industry written by Paul Bayley.
A little dry you may think but by the end of the 40 odd pages, I was hooked and keen to get my hands on a copy. That is until I learnt on the last page that copies were now changing hands for about £1,000 !
All is not lost though, there is a CD ROM copy available for about £30.
Excellent I thought and set about googling to find a copy.
Even better news, and the real reason for this blog post, is that I have found a free download of all four volumes.
It is included in the Ask About Ireland digital book collection at www.askaboutireland.ie
I can't really do it justice here; suffice to say that even though there is a body of evidence to suggest that the breweries paid fees to be visited by Barnard, this is a very readable collection of beer and brewery travels, has fabulous illustrations for its time and is well worth getting a copy of.
I downloaded it to my IPad and now have it in my electronic book collection, available in seconds with a swipe of the finger. I guess it would also work just as well as a normal PC PDF download.
Never let it be said that I don't bring you value. £1,000 worth of beer history, at your fingertips, thanks to the digital age.
Finally, I am never slow to say that the £18 annual subscription to the Brewery History Society remains excellent value and is recommended.