Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Hops and Glory, by Pete Brown

I recently finished reading Pete Brown's book Hops and Glory. The book serves two purposes. One is to act as a travel book describing Pete's journey from the UK to India carrying a traditionally brewed barrel of India Pale Ale. Secondly the book tells the story of the history of India Pale Ale, from its surge in popularity amongst the ex-pats in India, to the rise and fall of the numerous breweries in the UK that quenched the thirst of the colonists.

Hops and Glory: One Man's Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire
The book alternates chapter by chapter between the travel log and the history lesson and is all the more enjoyable for it. Some may have found a book dedicated to the history of a beer style a little hard to get through, but when it is interspersd with the entertaining travel stories of Pete's journey it hits the mark.

Pete Brown's journey began in Burton-on-Trent, he travelled across the atlantic twice, around the Cape of Good Hope and on to Calcutta. The description of the journey is at times laugh out loud funny, whereas the history of IPA is both fasinating in itself, but also offers an insight into the lives of those involved in its production and consumption. From the brewers of Burton, to the leaders of the East India Company, and from the lowly crew on the sailboats to the consumers of the beer in India.

Of course the whole reason behind the book was to answer a simple question. Was it the beer, or the journey that the beer endured that created the flavour so coveted in modern day craft brewing*? Highly hopped IPA's are one of the most popular craft beers at the moment and if you have any interest in the subject, or indeed if you simply enjoy travel novels, then I would highly recommend Hops and Glory.

* as the story goes, beer sent to India tended to spoil quite quickly while at sea, brewers in the UK found that if they highly hopped their beers that this acted as a preservative, the side effect of this was that by the time the highly hopped beers had made it to India that the hops had mellowed and the flavours had combined to create a superior beer.

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