Monday, 14 January 2013

Pete Brown - Hops and Glory

I read lots in the vain hope that it will improve my writing but being an analytical IT consultant writing nevers seems to come easy (this review will take me hours to write).  Travel books are a particular favourite of mine and beer is my passion and here comes a book that combines the two.  Surely a perfect combination.  The synopsis seemed simple.  Brew a traditional IPA and take it to India via the traditional route and once there open it and drink it.  However, the more simple a task seems, the more complicated it can become. 

My first concern about this book was whether the story behind the history of IPA would dominate ahead of the actual journey.  However, the mix was just about right.  The journey is the main theme but when things are going smoothly he adds some historical background to the adventure.  The story behind how the mad idea originated was detailed and amusing and I was immediately hooked by the complexity of the planning process.  Taking a keg of beer to India is not something I have considered but it is much more complicated than I could ever have imagined.   

The first part of the journey involved the canals.  The author's attempts at this form of transport soon had me in stitches and from the time he became intimately acquainted with the temperature of the water I couldn't put the book down.  I do get jealous when I read a book by someone who makes the art of writing seem so simple.  It is apparent to me that the author is a natural writer as the story has such an easy flow.  It wasn't simply a case of moving from A to B to C where I did this and that.  There are plenty of personal anecdotes and historical background mixed in with the journey and it kept me entertained from first to last.     

Obviously the author is the integral part of this story but the real stars were Barry, Kevin and Jeff.  Barry became an early casualty and I was wondering how the hell the story could progress following his sad demise.    How can you replace the irreplaceable?  Enter Jeff.  This guy must be totally trusting and have an amazing thirst for adventure.  I'm sure hearing the story behind Jeff's trip to Brazil with Kevin could provide enough material for a whole new book but that's one tale we never get to read about.

For me, a travel book must draw me in and make it easy for me to imagine what it must be like to be there and experience what the author is experiencing.  On this front it scores big time.  I may not want to have experienced the sea journey from Brazil to India via Iran (in fact having read about it I can say for certain I wouldn't) but I got a pretty good idea of what it must have been like.  You would also think that once he was on the ship to India it would be plain sailing but there were plenty of trials and tribulations still to come.  Would he finally reach his goal and open the keg of IPA?  Would there be a welcome party or would he sit on his own whilst drinking it?  Would it even be drinkable?  For answers to those questions I recommend you buy yourself a copy of this wonderful story.  It has plenty of heartbreak, highs and lows and, most importantly, humour.  My wife was constantly asking me what I was laughing at.  The final answer to this question was 'an Indian with a wind problem'.  Oh what horrors.
So I have discovered a new author and it's going to cost me.  The Amazon gift vouchers I received for Christmas will be spent on more Pete Brown adventures and I look forward to reading them.


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