Soft cover, 370 pp., $18.95
Pete Brown is the first Gen X British writer to be published in the United States. His first book is a history of beer in Britain as well as a provocative analysis of the reasons why makers of good British beer are seeing their market share decline.
Brown is a breezy and entertaining writer who adds new details to familiar subjects. For example, many writers have discussed how the great microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, while working for Carlsberg, was the first person to see a yeast cell with a microscope. But Brown explains why Pasteur was working for Carlsberg-because Pasteur, a patriotic Frenchman, hated Germans and was happy to help a Danish company gain a competitive advantage over German brewers.
Brown has cogent criticisms of the Campaign for Real Ale and its allies. If real ale remains stuck at 10 percent of the British beer market, he argues, it’s because CAMRA and other ale aficionados haven’t given outsiders a reason to join their club. He visits the Great British Beer Festival and finds it an event hostile to new drinkers who might be put off by special members-only lines that enable CAMRA members to skip the lengthy queue to get in, or by a program that simply lists breweries alphabetically, without offering any explanation of what the breweries are or what they make. “The lasting impression” of the GBBF, Brown writes, “is that this is a club and you are not a member. Nor would you want to be.”
Instead of complaining, Brown writes, real ale lovers have to make their product inviting to newcomers-including advertising in an intelligent, non-snobbish way.
Man Walks into a Pub is a promising debut by an important new British beer writer.