To say I am pleased for the authors of Brew Britannia, Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey, would be an understatement. They have taken a charged topic - the last 50 years of British small scale brewing - and present back a superbly researched and deftly written history. It is packed with quotations from both interviews and primary source literature bolstered by over 600 end notes. I didn't quite read it in a single sitting but it was certainly dispatched in a single weekend. Most refreshingly, it is not written from that ghost written "insider" view so it lacks all the irritating self-aggrandizement or, conversely, half mentioned back biting that is so common with memoirs from within one or another part of the brewing trade. At a couple of points, the authors step forward past the proscenium arch and speak to the audience directly but otherwise they stay to the neutral voice and avoid, quite rightly, any sense of triumphalism.
The book does a great job placing important and less heralded individuals in their proper order. I am very pleased that the role and context surrounding David Line in advancing good beer and his influential books from the 1970s is explored but maybe that's because of his influence over my interest in good beer. The thirteen passages which make reference to Peter Austin and his role in the UK micro brewing scene have - what with his foundational role in north-eastern United States craft brewing - asked me to reconsider how influential he was on the entire scene and creates a strong opposing hypothesis to the "Jackson + jet planes" explanation for the development of US microbrewing. The disclosure of the emptiness of the myth of BrewDog being founded by two guys who brewed together in college is firmly but succinctly put.
The positive reviews of the book themselves have been interesting, too. Because the subject matter is within living memory, recollection is at play which either fools or informs those who were present at certain points described in the book. What comes out is the bias or perception but also perhaps gaps in experience. The silliest is, as you might expect, that of Protz who misdirects you to the starting point, corrects facts from party line hugging recollection and in the end awards himself a gold star in beer history that was never offered. Adrian Tierney-Jones provides much more thoughtful comments suggesting that the more recent era is not as strongly described. I didn't take away that point of view from my reading but, of course, I am not as close to the topic as ATJ. Like you, I didn't view it from a front row seat. Tandleman's thoughts ran along the same line, adding he thought The Society for The Preservation of Beers from the Wood got too much attention. For me, it was a wonderfully played structural device - illustrating the dust to dust, ashes to ashes aspect of good beer during the era. By which I mean how players and themes come and go, how the progress of beer is story arc formed by a complex relay race that moves the collective movement forward in a number of directions while each event and player has only their day or perhaps handful of years in the sun. For me, this is actually the main argument being made.
Buy this book. It is one of the strongest and most entertaining bits of writing about good beer that has come out in recent years. And demand the documented evidence supporting any alternative view of the interpretation Boak and Bailey provide - for no other reason that they took the time to research the evidence for their findings so fully, something sadly too rare in good beer. You can read other writings by the authors at their website which also has lots of information these days about book signing events and other appearances they are making. Good job.