There is a plethora of books about beer and fortunately there seems to be a fairly never ending set of customers for them. One of the first in the UK to take up this theme was, oddly enough, the Campaign for Real Ale, who have been producing beer related books for many years, as a follow on from their first effort, the Good Beer Guide. They are still doing it.
Well known beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones has ducked under the CAMRA Books umbrella for his latest offering, CAMRA's Great British Pubs. However this is no grim list of back street dives, but a well chosen selection of some of the most characterful pubs in the UK, cleverly chopped into sections such as "The best riverside pubs", "the best heritage pubs", "the best family pubs", "the best pubs to take your pet monkey to" -OK I made that one up, but you get the drift. This is a shrewd move as it breaks the book up neatly into type, rather than location, which makes for a more interesting read, though wisely there is an index by region to pull the whole thing into some geographical context and increase its usability as a guide.
This is no dry volume. Neatly studded throughout, like gateposts to lean on as you take in the scene, are one page articles such as "Edinburgh pub walks", "How cider is made", or "Fictional pubs" and there are appendices of beer styles and "how beer is brewed" to ease you out of the book and provide a practical aide-memoire. But what of the pubs? Like any list of pubs, there are those that would argue that such and such a pub should be included at the expense of some other. That is to miss the point. This is no complete guide to the best, but like beer itself is a snapshot. The writing is direct, personal and can be as delicious as a favoured pint. Take this about the Beacon in Sedgefield: "Come far?" asked a genial chap in the tap room as I sipped the Dark Ruby and looked about the equally genial surroundings. I replied yes, but I really wanted to say that distance is relative: a visit to the Beacon is a journey through time as much as space."
I know the pub and know what he means. Perhaps the test of this book is how it describes and brings to life pubs you already know. It does this in spades. Tierney-Jones has a great eye for a pub. No dry commission this, done for the shilling and little else. This is a labour of love and you can tell this was written by a pub man. The pubs are brought to life and perhaps best of all, it makes you want to visit the ones you haven't been to. It can be used as a guide, or just to read for the sheer pleasure and envy of it all. So many pubs - so little time.
Given that this is a snapshot of 200 or so pubs, the opportunity of a follow up second volume would be a possibility in due course, but if Adrian does it, he may need some time to recover first. Thoroughly recommended.
Published by CAMRA Books at £14.99 (or join CAMRA and get two quid off) Review copy provided by CAMRA Books.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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