On Monday, when checking one of my various email accounts I noticed a message from Amazon.ca saying that my copy of Pete Brown's "Hops and Glory" had finally shipped, after several delays and what have you. Imagine then my joyful surprise when the DHL man rang the doorbell on Tuesday morning and handed me a package containing the long awaited book. Let me just say that I hate, literally hate, being unemployed - I hate not contributing to the household, hate not doing something vaguely useful, hate the feeling of uselessness, but when the book you have been waiting for arrives then I guess the chance to read it undisturbed is a good thing, and sure enough 22 hours later it was finished.
It was through my good friend Jay, who is coming to CVille this weekend, that I became aware of Pete Brown. Jay gave me his copy of "Three Sheets to the Wind" and I got repeated strange looks on the metro in Prague for chuckling out loud at points. So I was really looking forward to "Hops and Glory".
For those few people living in the outer reaches of the universe, "Hops and Glory" is about India Pale Ale, and Pete's journey taking a cask of a specially made beer from Burton-on-Trent to India by ship, around the Cape of Good Hope. The book thus is part travelogue, part history, part beery geekdom, and eminently readable. Pete has a talent for letting the reader in on his inner feelings, so much so that you can clearly imagine headed toward the equator on a sail boat - or perhaps it was just my seething jealousy?
In the chapters about the history of the British in India and the characters that sailed from our tiny islands to the far flung corners of the earth it is impossible not to feel a certain amount of pride - quickly followed by a healthy dash of liberal guilt for the unseemly side of Empire. In discussing though the racism that became part and parcel of the Raj in the latter years of the 19th century, I think it is important to remember that this was the era when blind nationalism became the rage throughout Europe and not just a British thing.The chapters about the actual making of an original IPA recipe were of course fascinating for my inner beer geek, especially given that the American version is fast becoming one of my favourite styles over here, hence the picture at the bottom of this post. I find myself very much agreeing with Pete that American IPAs could use a healthier dollop of malt to balance out the hoppiness, thankfully the Northern Lights in the picture does have a nice marmeladey sweetness to back up the citrusy hops. Completely incidently I have been drinking a fair bit of Bass Pale Ale recently, a beer which I actually quite enjoy - one of the upshots of reading the book is wishing that I had enough cash to rescue Bass from the grip of A-B InBev and restore it to its former glory (even though it is a perfectly drinkable pale ale as it is).
I really don't want to give too much away about the actual contents of the book, but I would encourage you to rush out, if you haven't already, and buy it. If you are one of my American readers then visit Amazon.ca and get it from Canada, you really won't be disappointed.
Well done Pete in writing a simply superb book.
Just a little side note, it was kind of weird at first seeing the names of people who follow, have commented on this blog and even that I have sat and drunk with being mentioned, but I guess the beer world is like that and I for one thoroughly enjoy being a small part of it.