You don't need to be Otto Rühle to see that much of the recent revolutionary rhetoric about beer doesn't quite add up. Beers that "are not in any way commercial" are for sale in every supermarket, "anti-corporate" brewers go multi-national and "peoples' power" means the chance to buy shares at inflated prices. Not exactly a grass roots movement aiming to make good beer widely available.
I had thoughts like this in mind when I picked up Britain's Beer Revolution, a "behind the scenes" look at the "people, breweries and beers inspiring a nation". Being written by Roger Protz, CAMRA stalwart and sometime editor of Socialist Worker; and Adrian Tierney-Jones, beer writer and paragraph break hater, I was intrigued to see what line they would take on this "revolution".
The book starts with an introductory section about beer and brewing that sadly had me tsking to myself at the factual errors. It's like someone sticks a fork in my leg each time I see them. Maybe I should just start skipping bits like this in beer books, the pain I feel when people get things wrong does detract from my enjoyment. Or perhaps I should offer my services as a technical proof reader, my fees, being nothing, are very reasonable.
But moving on we get to the meat of the book, a tour of the different regions of Britain and the beers and breweries causing most excitement there. Each region gets an introduction, followed by selected breweries getting a few pages each, interspersed with an insiders view from a local, and rounded off with details of beer destinations to seek out.
The book's very much "cheery beery" in tone so no polemics about recuperation, and recent controversies within the beer nerd milieu are lightly touched upon before moving swiftly on, so no calls to drive the neo-kegist heretics from Britain either. Personally I found this a little disappointing as I do like watching a fight. Though to be fair I should mention that despite what its detractors might think our mother church has always been pretty relaxed about decent beer that doesn't meet its kosher definition so the book is only following in that tradition.
And I suppose I should also concede that most people won't come to the book with my preconceptions. They're probably just after information on the contemporary British beer scene, which the book gives a good overview of. The regional structure means there's no geographic bias and the authors have enough space and experience to include more than the usual suspects. A few favourites of mine were missed out, but there's a few that weren't on my radar I've now got a thrist for so I guess things balanced out.
To the dedicated beer obsessive the books probably a bit too general to cause much excitement, but to someone after a good primer on the best of British beer it can be recommended.