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on 22 December 2012
There are lots of books about beer, but most of them are about how it's made, or about beers (and places to drink them) that are currently on the market. This book is far more interesting, a history of we English and our beer.

Some of it will be well-known to many people, but much of it, especially how our drinking habits have changed over time and more importantly why they changed and what were the social motivators for those changes will not be familiar to many. Brown makes legislation and the economics of beer and drinking interesting, and I would recommend this book based on that alone.

But he does a lot more, skewering several sacred cows and roasting them for us: he makes sense of pub architecture and provides what I think is a very fair view of CAMRA who manage to be at the same time both champions of great beer and enemies of innovative beer; champions of the great pub and enemies of any attempt to design pubs relevant to modern lifestyles and economic circumstance.

If there is one significant problem with the book it is that its coverage of the Beer Orders and the changes resulting from them is woefully incomplete, for which I deduct one star. There is little, for example, on how pubs' supposedly free choice of "guest" beer are now limited by shady discounting tied to rent. At least some of this shadiness was apparent by 2003 when the book was first published, although its effects have become even more prevalent in the succeeding decade. But then, I write that with the benefit of hindsight. Writing the history of what has only recently happened is always tricky because you can't tell what's a significant long-term change and what's just a minor abberation that will disappear shortly. I read the first edition. There is now a second edition (published in 2010). I have made a note in my diary to look for a third edition in about 2020.
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on 21 October 2011
This extensively researched book tells the tale of beer and it's evolution since it was first discovered to present day. With the occasional forays into discussion about why pubs look and feel the way they do and how governments have attempted to manipulate beer production and consumption, it really gives a great overview of how beer and the brewing industry changed over the centuries from "ale wives" & brewing monks of centuries ago, right through to the mega-brewers of today.

I was expecting the book to be a bit more real ale focussed, but much of the discussion of the last 25-50 years centres around the emergence of lager and the big lager brands we know today, so it's an interesting read for all beer drinkers - not just real ale fans.

The authors style makes for easy reading, but as has been mentioned in the first edition reviews - the sheer number of footnotes (apparently cut down since the 1st edition) can be rather numerous at times - although they do inject a bit of pub banter into the narrative.

If you've ever thought about beer as something more than a drink to get you plastered then this book will interest you.
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on 31 January 2011
What a great book.
I can't wait to get to the next two !!
What a history.
I started as a Watneys Red Barrel drinker (It wasn't that bad !!)
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on 7 February 2010
As a social history of the British beer producing and beer drinking experience, this book takes a lot of beating. Pete Brown writes a simple and illuminating narrative which maps the evolution of beer culture in Britain from the Middle Ages up to the present. Each chapter deals with a specific subject such as the effect of the World Wars on production and drinking habits, the political and social battles between temperance and intoxication, the development of the ale house or pub as a community hub, and so on. He throws in plenty of interesting and amusing facts which will surprise and engross readers. I have noticed a lot of reviewers mention the copious footnotes; Yes, on some occasions they break the reader's concentration especially when they are little more than Brown's own quick fire observations as opposed to actual explanatory material. However, on the whole they act as the latter and as far as I am concerned are generally welcome in this book.
I was also fascinated and amused to read the chapter which dealt with the rise of CAMRA as a force. Although Brown acknowledges them as important and courageous in standing up to the big commercial brewers of the '70's such as Watney Mann, he does not shy away from describing them as a bunch of self righteous Luddites also, arguably doing more self-damage to the fight to preserve traditional beer making.
Brown writes passionately and eloquently about his love for beer and British beer culture (he manages to throw in a few nods to Belgium, Ireland, Germany and Australia too), to the point where one can forgive him when he admits at the end of a blatant endorsement for Stella Artois that he was involved with the marketing of the beer!
An excellent and enjoyable read.
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on 10 October 2013
Firstly Pete Brown is a great writer: very readable, amusing and insightful, you can tell he's been in print writing for many years. This book is a fascinating history and insight into not just beer in the UK (and across the world), but also our particular love for beer and the places to drink it with our friends. Every page has you discovering something new and fascinating that you didn't realise would not only be interesting, but also provide so much insight into our culture.

Connecting the little historical dots as you go along gives you a very palpable sense of discovering a hidden social history that we are all involved in but no nothing of. Yards of ale, closing time, how much we actually drink, the 'English Pub', lager and pilsner, and the ages old history of governments versus brewers, it is a fascinating book and ideal for any fan of the pub, beer and social history.
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on 18 March 2015
I've not read it as was a gift for my husband. He hasn't got round to reading it yet
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on 14 June 2015
This is a really good book. Revised and updated since the first edition, though even now it's beginning to feel a little, just a little, out of date, it's nonetheless an enjoyable oversight of the social role of beer and drinking in society, our attitudes to drinking, the media's preoccupation with alcohol abuse and successive Government's attempt to regulate behaviour whilst reaping the taxation. If this sounds dry (pun intended) don't be put off, Brown makes for a great storyteller.
His two later books, Three Sheets to the Wind, and Hops & Glory do feel rather as though they are stretching a point and that the material is being re-visited but this the original by Pete Brown is a really enjoyable read.
Highly recommended.
And I'm a tee-totaller!
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on 12 December 2014
This arrived today literally minutes before I got in, (11.45.on the delivery note I was knocking on neighbours door at 11.46) neighbour took in for me, the packaging very flimsy open at both ends NO tape to seal, I don't know how it stayed in package!! It aso had a 6 dvd set in. No invoice or paperwork so I just hope my details are not flying around somewhere! Book seems ok, dvd set appears ok but is a present for Christmas as is the book, so I just hope all is ok inside the box. I have had lots of things off amazon in the past and all have been excellently packed, so hopefully this is a one off error.
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on 26 September 2015
You don't need a beard, you don't a beer belly, you just need to lift the front cover and the book does the rest. Pete Brown (no relation) has an accessible style which keeps the reader engaged. Seriously, if you're here looking at this book, just buy it, and to save yourself time, I also recommend Three Sheets to the Wind! I've recommended this book to so many people now, and none have been disappointed. I'm almost done reading three sheets to the wind, and have put the rest of this man's work on my wish list, because I know I will enjoy it.
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on 18 April 2014
I love beer and I enjoy Pete Brown's books, especially Hops and Glory. But I can't help being irritated by the lazy gender stereotypes in this book e.g. beer is a man's drink, for men! And 'when your women go away, the house turns into a grimy hovel' etc. It detracts from an interesting story and undermines some of his observations eg that beer used to be a family drink, brewed in the home and enjoyed by everyone (including children!), before the industrial revolution (and Victorian ideals) increasingly took women out of public life and made pubs male-dominated spaces. He seems to enjoy this idea that 'pubs are for men' without recognising the fact that women are also pub goers and increasingly beer drinkers too. Not much excuse for this as he updated the book in 2010. But that's my only gripe - it's an otherwise enjoyable read.
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