Top Menu

Tag Archives | Pete Brown

And just when I promised to play nice

Now the Village Voice has a list, Our 10 Best Beers. Great fodder — they include a “plebian” list and a “connoisseur’s list” — but a promise is a promise so nothing snarky from me.

Instead I’ll take it out on . . .

An opener for screwcap wines. Did some wine drinker miss the memo? They’re screwcaps. Granted, there is a legitimate use for people with arthritis. But “keeping the romance alive?”

Now back to be the nice guy who buys the next round and a link that should have you smiling right into Happy Hour.

Pete Brown celebrates. As far as I am concerned this paragraph alone makes him worthy of Beer Writer of the Year:

I fucking love beer. I love the taste and appreciation of it. I love the society and culture that surrounds it, and the way it influences society and culture more broadly. I love the history of it, and what that history tells us about ourselves. I love the way it’s an international standard, a universal signifier of unpretentious sociability. I love the fact that I’ve made scores of genuine new friends through it – many of whom I’ve yet to meet physically. I love the way it inspires and intoxicates me – both in a physiological sense and an intellectual one.

But wait, there’s another.

Today I’m going to write my final column of the year for the Publican and then I’m going to a beer festival and/or a bar and I’m going to exceed the recommended daily guidelines of alcohol unit intake. I’m going to get drunk. I’m going to get shitfaced, sozzled, pissed, bladdered, cunted, wankered, soused, and most of the other 1346 words for inebriation I’ve collected over the years. I’m going to have a good time doing it, and the people who are with me are going to have a good time too – a better time than they would if they stayed in and watched the telly. And when I come home with The Beer Widow and a few mates, I’m going to share with them a bottle of Bass Kings Ale, brewed in 1902, which cost me over a hundred quid, and I’m going to marvel at the miracle of beer all over again.

The nice thing is this evening we’ll be drinking something local, maybe on cask, and it will be part of the same miracle.


Book review: Hops and Glory

Hops and GloryOn July 9 Luke Nicholas put two casks of Armageddon IPA on a New Zealand ferry, sending them on a journey that would last six weeks, 126 trips back and forth across the Cook Strait.

Colin Mallon, manager of Wellington specialist beer bar The Malthouse, and Nicholas, owner and brewer of Epic Beer, hit upon the idea during a trip to England. They named the casks Melissa and Pete, for beer writers Melissa Cole and Pete Brown, the latter author of Hops and Glory: One Man’s Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire.

“The idea is to see what effect changes in temperature and constant movement have on beer stored in wood,” Nicholas said. “Most pundits believe India Pale Ales benefited from the conditioning they received during their sea voyages.”

When they tapped the casks a couple of weeks ago they found the beer quite tasty, but then you go to that much trouble you’re likely to be predisposed to feel that way.

Likewise, when 410 pages into an epic journey Brown finally tastes the IPA he’s given up a good chunk of his life to haul from England to India would you expect anything other than love? It might have made a better story had he spit out the beer in disgust. That would have been a hoot, wouldn’t it? However, even though he attempted to “create a buffer of skepticism” he found perfection.

It pours a rich, deep copper colour, slightly hazy from the sheer weight of the hops. The nose was an absolute delight: and initial sharp citrus tang, followed by a deep tropical salad of mangos and papaya. And when I tasted it, my tongue exploded with rich, ripe fruit, seasoned with a hint of pepper. That bitter, hoppy spike had receded, the malt reasserting itself now against the hop attack. As well as the rich summer fruit, there was a delicate tracery of caramel, not thick and obvious, but more the golden, gloopy kind you get in Cadbury’s Caramel bars, light and not too cloying. The elements of the beer ran into each other, harmonizing. The finish was smooth and dry, clean and tingling. And by God it was damned drinkable for its hefty 7 per cent alcohol.

He also writes, “In the global family of IPAs, it combined the weighty hop character of the American beers I loved with the balance of the more restrained English brews, the best of both worlds.”

You’d expect no less enthusiasm from an author who proved in both A Man Walks into a Pub and Three Sheets to the Wind an unrelenting appreciation for what he refers to as the “best long drink in the world.” In Hops and Glory we get considerably more, some of which we might not have bargained for.

Well into his journey Brown steps aboard the tall ship Europa, one of several water vehicles central to the story:

A tanned blonde woman in her mid-twenties, Scandinavian looking, pretty yet overwhelmingly practical, direct from central casting for an advertisement for healthy living on the ocean waves, appeared and said, “Hi, I’m Val.”


“Ah, you’re English Pete, yes?”


This was great. Already I had a pirate name. English Pete — it suited me.

This was it. The full impact of what I was doing finally hit home. I was an adventurer, an explorer, embarking on something few wordinary people would every dare. Wasn’t I?

“‘You’ll be sharing your cabin with a couple of men in their late fifties.”

OK, maybe not as adventurous as I thought.

But it is an adventure. One that starts with what turned out to be a crazy idea: “. . . something that would make people stop and ask, are you sure? Something that might even make them worry for my safety.” In fact I remember when the first stories appeared, announcing that Brown would haul a cask of traditional IPA from Burton-on-Trent to India. Didn’t sound all that tough. Put some beer on a boat, actually a few boats in succession, sail to India. Get off. Tap. Enjoy.

That would be a magazine article rather than this book of considerable heft. Like in any good travel yarn, Brown uses his geographical journey to frame a story in which he and the rest of us move from illusion to understanding. Unlike in many the author — beer is not the central character in this book; Pete Brown is — also takes a long, honest at himself. He invites us to do the same, to perhaps consider similar questions about ourselves. How sane is he? Are we? How competent?

To the credit of his wit, and perhaps beer, what could have turned dark doesn’t.

Curiously, this book has not yet been printed for sale in the U.S. market, although it is available in Canada (where they spell flavor with a “u”). Curiously because of (some) Americans love affair with hops. It really should be sold in the U.S. Certainly it has a BBC feel to it — a well done travelogue with social history and liberal remorse — but Brown writes in a language the American beer drinker can understand and in a way hip readers of AFAR would likewise appreciate.

He’s not the first to get the IPA story right (Martyn Cornell did that quite nicely), but since history gets mangled in different ways on the two sides of the Atlantic there’s work to be done. He’ll also admits this is not the compleat history of IPA, because modern history took a turn since Bert Grant reintroduced India Pale Ale to the American market in 1983.

Writing a bit for Grant’s biography, Michael Jackson recalled the first time he tasted Grant’s IPA: “I was just stunned by the bitterness of it. I just loved the bitterness of it. I thought, ‘christ, he’s really going to do this. Bert really expects people to buy this?’

“It was like hearing Charlie Parker for the first time, and wondering, ‘Are people really going to buy these records?’ I have sampled Grant’s IPA many time since, and always found it very hoppy. But nothing could match the shock of that first encounter.”

American IPAs since evolved, heading in a variety of directions so let’s not start a debate about style definitions, keeping bitterness as a hallmark but with many putting equal premium on hop flavor. They are not beers designed to be put on a boat for months. Whether somebody else thinks they could do with mellowing brewers want them served fresh.

“This idea of keeping the hoppy beers fresh is what will keep us from ever growing too large,” said Russian River Brewing co-founder Vinnie Cilurzo, who is credited with brewing the first commercial Double (or Imperial) IPA ever. He said that he and his wife and partner, Natalie, take freshness of Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig IPA personally. “In Northern California, we have 100 percent coverage regarding these beers being kept cold (in store coolers). Now we are working to get at least 90 percent of the accounts outside of Northern California to keep them cold. Our next step will be to survey every market and note on our list of accounts on our web site who keeps our beer cold and who does not.”

There’s still more to explore about IPA, but you get a sense reading the book and his blog that Brown will not be the one making the trip or performing various experiments.

Too bad, because it’s hard to imagine anybody else writing about it in as engaging a manner.


Damn Pete Brown: The best beer trip ever

Pete BrownAuthor Pete Brown – who is having way too much fun in his role as “the second-best beer drinker in Britain!” – has talked Coors into letting him take a pin (small cask) of India Pale Ale from its White Shield brewery in Burton-on-Trent and transport it to India in much the same manner the highly hopped beer would have traveled in the 19th century.

Not everybody would consider this the best beer holiday ever, but if you care about IPA and its history this might be better than a visit to Belgium or one to Bavaria. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You can go to Bamberg next year.

The Morning Advertiser provides the details (they wrote “pint” but must mean “pin”):

He’ll follow the route round the Cape of Good Hope, taken throughout the first part of the 19th century before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 shortened the journey.

Working with Coors brewer Steve Wellington, Pete will take to Bombay a pint of IPA brewed by Steve in Burton-on-Trent, Staffs, exactly as it would have been in 1820.

He sets off from Burton by canal in mid-October, spends a month on a P&O cruise ship, jumps on a 19th-century three-masted tall ship for the passage round the Cape, then spends a month on a giant container ship before arriving in India in late December.

Martyn Cornell provides more perspective:

“I’ve been saying for several years that a British brewer really ought to take a cask of well-hopped IPA and ship it to India to see what happens to the flavour – the Norwegians still do a similar thing with Linie Akvavit, though that goes to Australia and back, rather than the sub-continent.”

Which brings us to . . . an article in the new All About Beer magazine (dated September and with Dave Alexander on the front) titled “IPA Master Class.” From Roger Protz. But only half the story.

The cover touts the “Search for Authentic IPAs.” That means, I guess, that Stone IPA, Victory HopDevil and Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale aren’t authentic.

Te article provides important historical perspective about both IPA history (credit London before Burton-on-Trent) and the impact IPAs had on pale lagers. You need to read more, right?

I just wish that Protz, or AABM with a companion story, had got to American IPAs. A heck of a lot more drinkers consume US-brewed IPAs these days than those brewed in the UK. And these are beers that showcase Northwest hops.

Protz lists his personal Top Ten IPAs, with five from America:

– BridgePort IPA
– Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
– Goose Island IPA
– Sierra Nevada IPA
– Pike IPA

Great beers every one, but are they the first ones you think of when you say I’ll have an IPA?

But back to the top, the Morning Advertiser reports that Brown intends to write a travel book, rather than a beer book, about his journey. I can’t wait.

Pete Brown’s Top 10 beers

Why should you care about a list from Pete Brown headlined The Ten Best World beers? (Since you might be asking yourself, who is Pete Brown?)

Maybe because he’s written two beer related books – Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer and Three Sheets to the Wind: One Man’s Quest for the Meaning of Beer – that are just plain good reading.

Or because his list, obviously intended for the UK audience, appeared in the The Independent. You’d want to read a similar list if it appeared in the New York Times. (Quick aside, it appears the Times’ next beer feature will be about wheat beers.)

The article isn’t available online, but Glenn Payne of Meantime Brewing was nice enough to send along a copy (I asked him; he wasn’t promoting Meantime, which made the list).

The 10:
– Budweiser Budvar (Czech Republic)
– Badger Golden Champion Ale (UK)
– Brooklyn Lager (USA)
– Gonzo Imperial Porter (USA)
– Meantime Grand Cru wheat beer (UK)
– Asahi Black Lager (Japan)
– Cooper Extra Strong Vintage Ale (Australia)
– Goose Island IPA (USA)
– Deus (Belgium)
– Duvel (Belgium)

Of the Badger Golden he writes: “This is the taste of summer evenings captured in a bottle.” And of Duvel: “Let it rest on your tongue for a while and the citrus flavours come out from behind the alcohol like a lover re-entering the room after slipping into something a little more comfortable.”

Kind of a new way to think about Duvel, eh?

Goose Island IPA is on a bit of a tear in the UK. Jeff Evans gave the IPA his only “9” (Editor’s Choice) in the April/May edition of Beers of the World. Evans wrote: “One of the world’s great beer aromas, with big, juicy, fruity hops leaping out of the glass. Earthy resins; deep citrus and pineapple notes” and “Astonishingly fresh tasting, outstanding pale beer. Will a UK supermarket please put it back on the shelves?”

Brown described the IPA this way in The Independent:

It can be confusing when beer is described as “hoppy” if you don’t know what hops are like, so this beer is an object lesson in the delights of the multi-talented little plant. The depth of its piney, grassy, citrussy bouquet rivals any sauvignon blanc. That, plus the zingy bitterness that follows on the tongue, is what hops are like.

An object lesson in the delights of the multi-talented little plant. Indeed.

Powered by WordPress