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Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer
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Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In Man Walks into a Pub, Pete Brown takes us on a journey through the amazing history 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 teetotaling prime ministers; of exploding breweries, a bear in a yellow nylon jacket, and a Canadian who changed the drinking ha ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Pan Macmillan (first published 2003)
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3.98  · 
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 ·  371 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Tom Webster
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I first saw this book, fittingly, in a pub some years ago (Montreal's Burgundy Lion). Flipping through it interested me enough that I made a mental note to look for a copy. When I recently found a revised and updated second edition, that was all the incentive I needed to read it.

Man Walks into a Pub is a history of beer and pub culture in Britain (although it doesn't mention it in the title, the perspective is very UK-centric). It contains enough detail to show that it was well-researched, yet t
Kristi Thielen
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fun book, wittily written by a British adman with an extensive background in the beer industry. The breezy copy is punctuated with delightfully loopy footnotes which I found myself looking forward to.

Despite the humorous take on the subject, the author still provides a great deal of information about the ancient history of beer, the history of beer in Great Britain and the evolution of the pub. The latter - an institution in the UK - has undergone a number of renovations over the decades, someti
May 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: HRMA students, nightclub entrepreneurs
Shelves: food, drinking
Enh. Brown spends way too much time denying any pretensions to expertise or intellectualism, writes a well-researched, coherent history of beer drinking amongst the English, and generally manages to be interesting or amusing about half of the time. It only actually gets really worthwhile when he starts discussing marketing and advertising, where his background in those fields makes him a little more compelling. The chapter on chain theme pubs is actually thought-provoking if you actually care ab ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read Pete Brown's second book first and it was a lot more fun than this one. The second book details his travels around the beer-drinking world - my kinda trip! This book is the history of beer and the pub - yawn. There were some interesting factoids - the Heineken special yeast was "kidnapped" and held hostage at one point - but mostly it was pretty boring stuff. Still, it made me want to pack up and head to England for more pub experiences. Mmmm, beer.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this account of beer, breweries, pubs and social trends around drinking, here in the UK. I had the second edition from 2010 which is ripe for a revision, given the developments in Craft Beer, Brewpubs, Brewery Taps and the influence of the likes of the Camden Mile brewers & Brewdog etc., on 'mainstream' brewers. The impact of the thriving US beer scene on UK brewers also could be covered in greater detail but, perhaps that's s later book!!

I've moved on to another of
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great trawl through the history of beer in the UK, not least in terms of its production and the places that we drink them in. Brown is particularly good on beer conglomeration, the rise of lager in the UK and the sociology of drinking (one example being thus: 'There is a very serious social stigma attached to not getting your round in. "He never buys his round" is a stain on one's character which few are prepared to live with.') Perhaps he's a bit too soft on the likes of Greene King and Marst ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading, beer and pubs three of my favourite things. Out all together and heaven so always going to be 5 star
Very informative and funny
Tom Webster
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Whilst the jokey, blokey tone can wear a tad thin on occasion,some of the jokes sound a bit too much like my Grandad made them. The engaging nature of Brown's writing works as a fine counterpoint to the near academic approach applied to the subject at hand by some of his contemporaries.

I am sure there is undoubtedly a large number of heavily bearded men in cardigans who need to know the precise output of Bass Charrington for Jan-March 1989, I am not one of them.

Neither are most of the people I k
Jake Goretzki
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
A curate's egg and probably better if you do enjoy a chatty companion. His preface to the 2010 edition says how he's reined in the worst of the dad-joke footnotes, but I still found myself rolling my eyes at plenty of them (things like 'Don't ask me what that even means. Really' and 'As you do'). But they're well meant. I also got a bit wound up by the jingoism of some of the tone, which can feel a bit Clarksonian (lines like 'that's the French for you' and 'we're British, after all') - which, i ...more
Carla Coulston
Jan 31, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was given to my husband for Christmas and I only picked it up because of a dire lack of anything to read at the time. Being a dyed-in-the-wool wine drinker, I have no interest whatsoever in beer, or the history of it; but it was a book, and it was the only option available at the time.
Well! I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. 90% of this book's charm is due to the author's funny and engaging style of writing, and I kept reading mostly for that; but as I found, the history of be
Daniel Etherington
Despite Brown writing the book in a jokey, blokey style, it's actually almost academic in its scope and thesis. So the thing that frustrates me most about this edition is the lack of index. There are so many fascinating pieces of information that it'd be good to be able to look them up. Similarly, although he packs the book with footnotes, these are generally funny asides. That's all well and good, and some of them made me laugh out loud, but I'd kinda like to have proper references for his sour ...more
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not knowing quite what to expect, I found the book to be a great read, very funny and full of quotable trivia. Although beer and beer culture are the focus, the author does a great job of using the topic to shine a light on cultural shifts and tensions. The book begins in the deep past, and is quite funny, becoming more serious as the account becomes more contemporary, reflecting, I believe, the authors passion for the subject. All in all, a worthwhile and recommended read.
I love, love, love when someone writes a book that involves PhD-levels of research but presents it in an engaging way that's sort of an irreverently academic self-deprecating memoir. I especially love it when the thesis is as grandiose as: "Beer is the root cause behind the emergence of civilization." Bill Bryson-y, I guess, is the best way to describe this book. But later Bryson. After Into the Woods.
Rob Godfrey
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
The title says it all.
This is a very sociable book that explores the history of ale/beer and how we continue to consume it with relish, despite its all to evident unpleasant side effects.
Reading the introduction and the very long list of words we use for getting or being drunk brought tears of laughter to my eyes.
A thoroughly enjoyable book, although sometimes the 'laddish' commentary was sometimes a bit overused.
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting history of the beer and pub business as it relates to the culture of the UK from the very beginning to the present. Brown presents the information in a light and entertaining manner. Be forewarned, there is a LOT of information here. Only read this if you want to go deep into this topic. ;)
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun book about the history of beer and pubs in England. Brown adds enough humor to keep the book fun. At the same time he has a lot of knowledge on the subject and provides plenty of facts about beer. I found the history of the breweries particularly interesting given how similar that is to what is currently going on with many breweries in the states.
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference, drinking
An enthralling, engaging and thoroughly researched journey around British beer and drinking habits. Pete Brown has a very down to earth style which he effectively employs to reveal a multitude of fascinating facts and dispel many myths over 5000 years of brewing and ale-supping. A must read for anyone interested in the history of beer!
Brett Parker
Over all a good book, I've actually got the Kindle edition which doesn't seem to be listed in the options - the only annoying thing is that 3rd level footnotes don't link to the right place - but there's only a few of those, and weirdly the 4th level works again (there's only one of those!). Fun read :)
An expansive and engaging history of Beer and it's drinking in England that doesn't take itself too seriously, written by someone who clearly loves his subject. Plenty of material for beer fans or social historians to enjoy (perfect for historians who like beer).
I should have guessed Brown was from Barnsley.
Rachel Knickmeyer
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
A fun read for anyone with a passion for beer and the places where we drink beer. I'd love to read a similar writeup of American drinking habits, but this peak into the English love affair with beer was entertaining even for this outsider.
John Welch
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an interesting book. It is a social history of beer and pubs in the UK. It's not an acedemic book, but a light hearted introduction to the complex relationship us Brits have had with beer and pubs.
Gareth Davies
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft-beer
An interesting meandering look at the British brewing industry with a good focus on the public house systems all the way from the origins and beer wives. Worth a look for any fan of beer history and especially the British context.
Ron Sitton
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel, humor, food, beer
Brown primarily looks around England to determine what makes folks drink beer. The book summarizes a lot of previously written material on the subject, but he does it in an amusing fashion.
Todd Williams
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
An in-depth study of how shitty lager took over the UK beer market. An interesting history written in an engaging way.
Paul Gallear
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As informative as it was entertaining.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very casual tone belies a rather complex examination of the interaction of social mores, government regulation, desire, prudishness, and unintended consequences.
Liv Walker
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable book with a host of quirky facts and stories about the National Obsession. I read the original version - would be interested to read his update - the resurgence of cider and microbreweries
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Quite enjoyed this book. His jokes do wear a bit thin, but all round an interesting read
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There is more than one author with this name

Pete Brown is an English writer who has written extensively on the subject of beer and drinking cultures around the world. He has written three books; Man Walks Into a Pub, Three Sheets to the Wind, and Hops and Glory. Brown was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and now lives in London.

Above bio is from Wikipedia. Photo is from Flickr user epicbeer.
“In ancient Babylon King Hammurabi (the same bloke who decided barmaids could be drowned for serving short measures) decreed that the introduction of political debate into beer shops was an offence punishable by – you guessed it – death.” 1 likes
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