Lately I’ve been prepping for the onset of middle-age by spending more time with a book. This started with the camping trip I just got back from when I decided it was tiome to read Pete Brown’s Man Walks Into a Pub. Well, that was a couple weeks ago, and I just got around to finishing the book, so now it’s time to share my thoughts.
As well as teaching a lesson in the history of the pint, Pete brings out that well known British wit to help get across many of his point. In closing up his chapter on the history of the pub (actually, the entire book is a history of the pub) he writes one of my favorite passages:
Over five thousand years its role may have changed, but in every society where it has been present it has been absolutely central to what people choose to do with their time. Next time you raise a pint glass, consider that you are carrying on a long and noble tradition without compare. You’re not just drinking that pint for base, selfish reasons; you’re doing it in tribute to the history of civilization. It’s a great thing you’re doing; you should be proud of yourelf. And you can tell anyone thinking of criticizing your behaviour that they should be proud of you too.
The format of the book is fairly linear, starting with the ancient brewing of the Sumerians and Egyptians and quickly moving to the British story. In the beginning, the book moves quickly, covering hundreds of years at a time as society moved slowly and facts are less readily available. As we get into more modern times, the pace of the book slows. With more facts at his disposal, Brown is able to delve deeper into the conditions of the pubs as well as the causes for their prosperity as well as their later decline.
Ironically, it’s this additional information and the nature of these facts that seems to hamstring the book as well. Brown does a great job of keeping the book moving with humor and asides presented in the form of footnotes, but as modern society creeps into the brewing industry, so do the exciting stories of corporate consolidation and franchising.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in a history of the British pub. On top of being entertaining, there are actually a lot of eye opening facts that many people might not be aware of (How authentic is that authentic British pub afterall?). While the end of the book drags a bit, I think it’s more a case of the beginning moving so quickly that you want more.
With Man Walks Into a Pub finished I will be moving on to another book before getting into Pete Brown’s newest book Hops and Glory. Since I’m getting older and finding peace inside the pages of a book more often, expect a few more of these book reviews in the future.