Best Beer Book 2022
Clubland: How the Working Men’s Club Shaped Britain (gold) and A Year in Beer (silver)
Saturday 22 October 2022
This article is from
Beer52 Awards 2022
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• • • Best Beer Book • • • GOLD
Clubland: How the Working Men’s Club Shaped Britain by Pete Brown
Precisely how Pete Brown manages to turn out new books at quite the rate he does, while still keeping them completely original and brilliantly entertaining is a mystery.
Clubland, Pete’s recollection and exploration of working men’s clubs, is a characteristically personal turn, from a writer whose work has a knack of making the reader feel like an old friend. In it, Pete shares some of his earliest memories from 1970s working class Barnsley, with wit, warmth and affection.
It is not, however, a romantic portrait of simpler times, of cask ales supped gratefully at the end of an honest day’s work. As Pete does best, Clubland is a masterful blend of pub-fire anecdote, rigorously researched social history and insightful commentary; ultimately, a political book, tracing a clear line through the cooperative spaces that nucleated community, culture and collective will among the UK’s vast working class over the past 150 years.
With a real lightness of touch, Pete invites us into a world that today feels far removed, even hidden, from what we in modern craft like to view as ‘beer culture’; whether we choose to infer that we’ve lost something radical and important along the way is up to us.
• • • Best Beer Book • • • SILVER
A Year in Beer by Jonny Garrett
In all honesty we feel a bit silly giving this award to Jonny Garrett’s astonishing A Year in Beer, seeing that it was published almost a year ago and has already picked up every food and drink writing award going. But then, we also feel duty bound to give it its dues – it’s that good.
Its premise is pretty straightforward; an old-fashioned almanac of sorts, A Year in Beer roots our favourite drink firmly as an agricultural product, walking us through the hop and malt harvests of late summer, snuggling up with us for autumnal feasts and gathering us around the fire for Christmas beers, before bursting back into life for spring.
It marries beer, food, tradition and the land in a way that is plainly heartfelt, taking on a tone that sidles toward narrative non-fiction, and is a joy to read simply for the beauty of the words on the pages. Yet it’s also rooted in Jonny’s deep understanding of beer as a product, an industry and a cultural artefact; there’s no fluff here.
At the final page, you will definitely feel entertained and educated, but also oddly motivated to be a better drinker. You’ll see that Johnny has very subtly pitched you a manifesto, of sorts, to reconnect with beer, to see it less as a commodity and more as something to be considered and cherished. With such unassuming powers of persuasion, we can only hope he sticks to beer rather than world domination.
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