Friday, February 5, 2010

The Best Beer Book I have read in a long time: Hops and Glory

In the world or "beer" writing there is the late Michael Jackson aka the Beer Hunter, and then there is everyone else. Since Jackson's death in 2007, the dearth of talented writers on the subject of beer has been painfully felt. The truth of the matter is, good "drinks" writers are few and far between. Pete Brown has changed all that, and has set the bar to "Jacksonian" heights with his latest book Hops and Glory.
This book is not only a tale about one of the most beloved and cherished beer styles, India Pale Ale (IPA) but a history lesson on 19th Century Burton on Trent brewing, the all powerful East India Company, the history of the Raj, and a personal odyssey. For good measure you also get a nice history lesson about Madeira wine which India Pale Ale would dethrone as the drink of choice in British India.
Brown is a masterful story teller, and he weaves the history of his search for the beer that built the British Empire and love affair with beer into an adventure story anyone would enjoy reading, beer drinker or not. The meticulous research Brown puts into Hops and Glory is amazing. This is a powerful story.
Brown put words into action in this book and the reader learns at his own personal expense. The fact that he actually convinced a Burton brewer to brew up an authentic IPA recipe from 1800's for him? The fact he takes said IPA from Burton on Trent via canal to London, and then on the sea voyage route to India the way it went in the days of the East India Company to the Raj? The fact that he just did not talk about it, speculate "what it must have been like" but he actually did it? One has to admire this, and the pay off the reader is you are along for the ride when you read Hops and Glory. Brown makes you live it, breath it, you are there with him. No more tall tales or yarns here about India Pale Ale.
The story of the history of IPA needed to be told, and what a way to tell it. There are some bumps along the way, and why this book is so awesome is, its not just about the beer and its history, but the reader is living the adventure with Brown. We get the good, the bad, the ugly. Hops and Glory is a history lesson, travel guide, and adventure story all rolled into one. I literally could not put this book down. It is an enjoyable, informative read, and I'm still amazed that Brown actually made the journey that many have talked about, turn into reality. A journey that will most likely never be repeated by anyone. This is "beer" writing at its very best.


  1. OK, you've sold me! I just ordered a copy tonight. Can't wait to read it! I agree, nobody can fill Jackson's shoes, but good to hear this book is so good.


  2. You will not regret this purchase. Pete Brown does not pretend to be Michael Jackson. Brown actually dedicates Hops and Glory to MJ as well as his wife, paying respect to MJ in a very profound way. There would be no Hops and Glory if it were not for Jackson. Brown gets it, and while he and a handful of great beer writers might not be MJ, he is so head and shoulders above what gets passed off as "beer writing" (especially so in the U.S.) you will see MJ alive in Pete Brown.

  3. As a side note, I would like to say you also get a very interesting history lesson on maderia wine. Being an occasional port wine drinker, this book had me wanting to go out and get some maderia.