Pete Brown

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Assistant: Amber Garvey

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Pete Brown was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and still occasionally gets dewy-eyed about northern bitter. Since 1991, he has worked in London in various marketing roles, the best of which have involved advertising beer. He runs his own marketing consultancy, writes regularly for the brewing industry trade press, and appears on TV every now and then talking about beer.

 

Forthcoming publication THE CLUBS - HARPERNORTH - MAY 2023

It was Christmas, and in a community like that, you don’t do Christmas by halves. Every wall, every inch of ceiling, was covered by hanging decorations made from shining metallic paper. Tinsel adorned every corner and ledge. And behind it, the brass bar tops and beer fonts gleamed a fiery, welcoming glow. Perhaps it was fairy lights, possibly candles, but everywhere there was light, and the surfaces in the pub caught this light, refracted and amplified it, until it seemed that the very air shone. I had no understanding of alcohol, no concept of why we were here, but it was a magical place.

And this wonderland transformed the people within it. Throughout my childhood, all the adults were stony-faced and grim. People didn’t smile unless they absolutely had to. They cast their eyes to the sideboard or fireplace when they were talking to each other. They looked down by default. To my infant eyes, the true miracle of this place was that when they were in it, these same people laughed. Faces that were normally grey and drawn were now shiny and red, adding to the colour. They looked each other in the eye as they laughed. They were ostentatious in their generosity. The women were gorgeous, all long frocks, dangly earrings and blue eye shadow, and the men were open and expansive, generous and warm, somehow thawed out in the midst of the winter chill.

My childhood was not a happy one, and these Christmas memories stand out as brief moments when everything was OK and everyone was bright and sparkling. For a long time, I used to associate this memory with the pub. But my parents hardly ever went to the pub. My dad, when he drank at all, was a club man.

 

Latest publication PIE FIDELITY - PENGUIN BOOKS - APRIL 2019

In Britain, we have always had an awkward relationship with food. We've been told for so long that we are terrible cooks and yet when someone with a clipboard asks us what the best things are about being British, our traditional food and drink are more important than the monarchy and at least as significant as our landscape and national monuments in defining a collective notion of who we are.

Taking nine archetypically British dishes - Pie and Peas, A Cheese Sandwich, Fish and Chips, Spag Bol, Devonshire Cream Tea, Curry, The Full English, The Sunday Roast and a Crumble with Custard - and enjoying them in their most typical settings, Pete Brown examines just how fundamental food is to our sense of identity, perhaps even our sense of pride, and the ways in which we understand our place in the world.

 

Praise for PIE FIDELITY - PENGUIN BOOKS - APRIL 2019

“A much-needed book that mixes personal and social history … readers may thank him for writing a heartfelt book that makes an important point without false pride or sentimentality.  When it comes to food, we’re better than we think” The Times

“Brown is a natural raconteur, as listeners to Radio 4’s The Food Programme will know … This memoir mixed with a ‘defence of British food’ sees him at his funniest and most insightful. Highly recommended.” Sunday Times, Book of the Month

“Pete Brown’s quest to discover and codify the nation’s nine most popular meals from the humble cheese sandwich, through fish and chips and curry, to the ubiquitous Sunday roast. This mouth-watering menu is rendered even more piquant by his decision to sample an archetypal example of each dish, rather than necessarily the best. Thus he enjoys a sandwich in Sandwich, fish and chips in Blackpool, and searches (largely in vain) for a traditional Soho greasy spoon at which to enjoy a fry-up. The result is part Nigel Slater, part Bill Bryson, and wholly delicious … Funny, informative and written with passion, Pie Fidelity is a love poem to all that’s great in British cooking.” Michael Simkins, Mail on Sunday

“Erudite, personal … Brown’s writing has a pleasingly loose-limbed feel: he flits easily between memoir, food history and travelogue … Brown evokes the emotionalism of eating, but can also play the role of grown-up journalist.” Observer

“The book examines a series of traditional British meals with Hornby’s geeky obsessiveness and Orwell’s incisive class observation … His prose is engaging, his storytelling effortless … Brown writes beautifully and fondly of every dish in a way that will have you desperate to taste it again at the end of each chapter.  This historical information he weaves around the food is plentiful, accurate and worn lightly, and his observations are fresh and provocative.” Financial Times

“Lively and spirited, stuffed with juicy, mouth-watering food-writing” Herald

 

Praise for THE APPLE ORCHARD - PARTICULAR BOOKS - SEPTEMBER 2016

“His ability to laugh at himself, openness to wonder and willingness to go wherever the search takes him make Brown an engaging writer and The Apple Orchard an entertaining journey.” Mail on Sunday

“Wonderful, revelatory ... very moving” Sheila Dillon, BBC Radio 4

“Taking us through the seasons in England's apple-growing heartlands, this magical book uncovers the stories and folklore of our most familiar fruit.” Lovereading

“This impassioned, patriotic, richly informed book is really a piece of travel-writing … Brown’s enthusiasm is infectious … Just plant yourself an apple tree; after reading this delightful book, I will.” Sunday Times

“An absorbing love letter to the English apple tree ... lyrical and joyful” TLS

“The masterful Pete Brown tackles the apple and all it has done and all it means. A lively first-person romp through orchards and fairs over a year of a planting, harvesting and processing. No matter your apple knowledge, you’ll finish this book with a greater appreciation.” Daily Record (USA)

“Pete Brown has charted the fruit’s journey from April’s blossoms to October’s harvest… the beliefs of the Celts and Christians, the Romans, the Persians, the Greeks and the way that folklore and fairy tales often have apples at their heart. All this from a snack that’s often seen as the least glamorous item in a lunch box.” Rebecca Armstrong, Independent

 

Praise for Pete Brown

“This book is delightfully tongue in cheek but deeply informative. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of beer, travel or history, you’ll end up feeling all the more informed of and entertained by all three subjects.  Engaging, side-splittingly funny at times – and all the more rewarding for it.” Bookseller

“Like a good drinking companion, Pete Brown tells a remarkable story ... The beer drinkers’ Bill Bryson.” Times Literary Supplement

“Like an evening in some louche boozer packed with crackpot regulars, this travel-cum-history book about India Pale Ale froths with offbeat charm.” Boyd Tonkin, Independent

“The tale of his travels and the alcoholic history of the Raj is big beery fun.” Times

“The action-filled book by Pete Brown covers everything from the definitive history of Indian Pale Ale to the chaotic recreation of its 30,000 mile sea journey.” Metro

“This account of his beer-inspired voyage is as entertaining as it is enlightening.” London Review of Books

“An engaging travel tale ... whether you’re a beer aficionado or not, it’s a fascinating story.” Scotsman

“This is one of the drink books of the year. Beer lovers should hope to find Hops and Glory beneath their Christmas tree.” Daily Express

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2016

PAN MACMILLAN

Welcome to the George Inn, near London Bridge; a cosy, wood-pannelled, galleried coaching house a few minutes' walk from the Thames. Grab yourself a pint, listen to the chatter of the locals and lean back, resting your head against the wall. And then consider this: who else has rested their head against that wall, over the last 600 years?
Chaucer and his fellow pilgrims almost certainly drank in the George on their way out of London to Canterbury. It's fair to say that Shakespeare will have popped in from the nearby Globe for a pint, and we know that Dickens certainly did. Mail carriers changed their horses here, before heading to all four corners of Britain -- while sailors drank here before visiting all four corners of the world...
The pub, as Pete Brown points out, is the 'primordial cell of British life' and in the George he has found the perfect case study. All life is here, from murderers, highwaymen and ladies of the night to gossiping pedlars and hard-working clerks. So sit back and watch as buildings rise and fall over the centuries, as 'the beer drinker's Bill Bryson' (TLS) takes us on an entertaining tour through six centuries of history, through the stories of everyone that ever drank in one pub.

2006

MACMILLAN

Having written MAN WALKS INTO A PUB, an irreverent book about beer drinking in Britain, Pete Brown thought he deserved a holiday. Leaving Britain was one thing, but getting away from beer proved impossible. While the British believe beer is, well, British, it seems a few others have cottoned on to the fact that its a damn fine drink. In fact, it turns out there are seven countries that make more beer than Britain and though it is hard to believe there are at least five countries that drink more beer per-head of the population. The Germans claim beer as their own; the Czechs, invented lager; the Chinese like their beer made from rice and the Spanish see it as trendy new drink, far more fashionable than wine. Whats going on? After a great deal of thought (about 15 seconds), Peter Brown decided the only way to find out was to go on the biggest pub crawl ever. Drinking in more than three hundred bars and pubs in 27 towns in 13 different countries on four different continents, Pete puts on a stone in weight and does irrecoverable damage to his liver in the pursuit of saloon bar enlightenment. On his way, he meets a wild cast of bleary eyed eccentrics and samples legendary local brews in legendary quantities, from Dublin to Tokyo. Its an epic challenge, a hilarious, life-changing, globe-trotting adventure to the heart of beer.

2003

MACMILLAN

Pete Brown takes us on a well-lubricated pub-crawl through the amazing story of beer, from the first sacred sip of ancient Egyptian bouza to the last pint of lager on a Friday night. It's an extraordinary tale of yeast-obsessed monks and teetotal prime ministers; of how pale ale fuelled an Empire and weak bitter won a world war; of exploding breweries, a bear in a yellow nylon jacket and a Canadian bloke who changed the drinking habits of a nation. It's also the story of the rise of the pub from humble origins through an epic, thousand-year struggle to survive misunderstanding, bad government and misguided commerce. The history of beer in Britain is a social history of the nation itself, full of catastrophe, heroism and an awful lot of hangovers.

2009

MACMILLAN

The original India Pale Ale was pure gold in a glass: a semi-mythical beer from the late 18th century, brewed in Britain to travel halfway around the world, through ocean storms and tropical sunshine, and arrive in perfect condition for a long, cold drink on an Indian veranda. And although you can still buy beers with 'IPA' on the label today, most are, frankly, pale imitations of the original.

For the first time in 140 years, a keg of traditional Burton IPA has been brewed for a voyage to India by canal and tall ship, around the Cape of Good Hope; and the man carrying it is award-winning beer writer Pete Brown. Brazilian pirates and Iranian customs officials lie ahead, but will he even make it that far, having fallen in the canal just a few miles outside Burton-on-Trent? And if Pete does make it to the other side of the world with 'Barry' the barrel, one question remains: what will the real IPA taste like?

Weaving first-class travel writing and new historical research with assured comedy, Hops and Glory is both a rollicking, raucous history of the Raj and a wonderfully entertaining, groundbreaking experiment to recreate the finest beer ever brewed.

2016

PARTICULAR BOOKS

Taking us through the seasons in England's apple-growing heartlands, this magical book uncovers the stories and folklore of our most familiar fruit.

“An orchard is not a field. It's not a forest or a copse. It couldn't occur naturally; it's definitely cultivated. But an orchard doesn't override the natural order: it enhances it, dresses it up. It demonstrates that man and nature together can - just occasionally - create something more beautiful and (literally) more fruitful than either could alone. The vivid brightness of the laden trees, studded with jewels, stirs some deep race memory and makes the heart leap. Here is bounty, and excitement.”