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Man Walks into a Pub

Pete Brown

Pete Brown’s first foray into beer writing came in 2003 with Man Walks into a Pub. Ostensibly, it’s a history of beer and its social context within civilisation, which sounds a rather dry subject. Brown, however, makes it anything but dry, which has to be a good thing.

Man Walks into a PubThe humour and, for want of a better word, ‘laddishness’ he brings to the subject open up a world previously only inhabited by beer connoisseurs and historians – a move perhaps frowned upon in some quarters at the time, but clearly relevant if beer, in all its glory, is to gain a new audience and understanding among a generation weaned on international lager.

Taking all that on board, the book is an absorbing read, picking up in Sumeria, at the dawn of time and rattling on through to the so-called binge drinking of today.

The research and detail are by no means as authoritative or precise as in Martyn Cornell’s Beer: the Story of a Pint, which launched broadly at the same time, but for an introduction to beer, where it comes from and how it has stood centrally within our lives for millennia, the book has its place.

The perspective Brown brings to the subject is refreshing. Here is a man whose background lies in advertising, and, more specifically, in advertising lager.

His expressed fondness for Stella Artois and his forthright views on CAMRA will jar in certain quarters (perhaps even his own now, given several years of experience as part of the beer writing community and exposure to the wider beer world), but it shouldn’t be overlooked that the place Brown comes from in beer drinking terms is still heavily populated and this is precisely the sort of book that might change perceptions of beer there.

I particularly like the sections on the temperance movement, beer and football and the insider’s guide to beer advertising. What I don’t like is the overplay of drunkenness and the countless vulgar terms repeatedly used to describe this state of debilitation.

Perhaps it’s an age thing (or even my Welsh Baptist roots showing through), but I no longer see it as being clever to either be exceedingly drunk or to be expressly coarse about it. There again, I’m not in the target audience of this book.

I’m sure Pete himself will agree that his writing has improved with time. His second book, Three Sheets to the Wind, is undoubtedly more subtle and more clever, while Hops and Glory takes his work onto a different level altogether.

But Man Walks into a Pub is a good, easy, informative read, a book that deserves to be a part of every beer bibliography.

First published 2003

388-page paperback (Pan)


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