Subtitled, "An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada" this book really isn't a history. And it isn't always limited to Canada or even speaks to all of Canada. It is really a collection of personal essays on beer culture in Canada and elsewhere, including many on history filling about the first half, from one Ontarian's point of view. But that is a bit too much to fit on the spine so it is "an intemperate history" - whatever that means.
I was actually irritated by the style of Pashley's writing until I realized that I wasn't. He's chatty and palsy and puts a punchline at the end of a heck of a lot of paragraphs. For a while I was not sure if he knew his stuff but after a while the volume of information made its own case. Pashley is a bookman as well as a beerman so his decision regarding style has to be taken as a deliberate one and, for what the book is, I may well have been convinced. Don't expect footnotes but there is plenty of citation of other works throughout the text. A book needn't be thin even if it has some lightness about it.
There are still missed opportunities. His chapters on travelling to beery cities across Canada disappoint. The pages dedicated to Halifax as mainly about the schlock of the Keith's Brewery, a tourist trap - even though passing reference is made to the toilets at Tom's Little Havana. No Mid-town, no Lower Deck, no Seahorse. The result, however, is not so much that the book fails to present the scene as it comes across as the description of one personal visit. We are left wondering if the caught the heart of the town which leads to wondering about the other topics covered. But then we are reminded a number of times that this is about Pashley, that it is a book of personal anecdote and recollection, that it is a book from the perspective of Ontario and even Toronto rather than an effort to actually address the greater Canadian relationship with beer.
That being said, the book is good. A chapter on taking Ontario's Smart Serve course for waiters here, another on how to spot a beer geek there. Pashley covers a heck of a lot of ground in the 33 essays. Displaying his bookishness, he also includes a great bibliography not to mention an index. Sounds like an obvious thing to have an index but then we remember the lack of one in Sneath's Brewed in Canada and are grateful.
A breezy read that is well worth picking up. In a way it reminded me of The Naked Pint, just reviewed, except that they largely cover different ground. Each would serve as a great introduction for curious non-beer people but from different perspectives. If The Naked Pint uses a tutorial structure to explain what the beer geek is about, Pashley's Cheers! tells us about beer culture in Canada through describing the major themes as he sees them.