You got the impression that Craft Beer Channel’s first book, Beer School: A crash course in craft beer, wasn’t really the book that Jonny Garrett and Brad Evans wanted to write.
Informative and entertaining though it was, the book didn’t really lend itself to the type of content for which the duo are best known on their YouTube Channel. The topics covered were too broad to enable their passion and enthusiasm to come across in the copy, and although nicely designed, it wasn’t the most visually appealing book to read.
I’m delighted to report, therefore, that Jonny & Brad’s follow up, The London Craft Beer Guide, suffers from no such niggling issues. A gloriously illustrated and beautifully photographed coffee table companion, The London Craft Beer Guide does what countless apps, blogs, websites and other books have not quite managed to do, and captures the true character of the capital’s eclectic and wonderful beer scene.
“The initial premise of the book was that it was to be a very short guide to the best places to drink in London,” Jonny tells me at the launch of the book at Mason & Company in Hackney Wick. “But pretty soon we realised that if we wrote that book, it would be very quickly out of date, so we decided to focus more on depth and really getting to the heart of the people behind the venues, and telling the stories behind them.”
The result is a chunky and comprehensive 250-page guide that reads at times more like a series of individual small features. Each of the 40+ venues in the book is beautifully photographed, and its story told in an engaging and lively way, interspersed with quotes from some of London beer’s biggest movers and shakers.
The book is split into five sections, with venues organised by location, making the guide a handy tool for any seasoned pub-crawler (although I wouldn’t rely on the maps, beautifully drawn by Alex Foster but somewhat lacking in accuracy). There are also short two page sections on more generic parts of beer culture, from pump clip design, to pub snacks and gardens.
Short fact boxes with key information about the beer selection in each of the venues make it is easy to dip in and out and decide quickly whether a venue is right for the visit you are planning. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to read the profiles in full, which are littered with fascinating tidbits of information and amusing anecdotes (Did you know that Sporty Spice likes to drink in The Stag in Hampstead?)
With good beer now so widespread throughout the capital, whittling down from a selection of thousands of venues to under 50 was never going to be an easy task. “It’s about finding those special places, and sometimes that is unquantifiable,” Brad explains. “Obviously it is about the beer list, and how they take care of the beer, but it is also the atmosphere, the regulars and all those little things that come together to make a place special.”
It’s clear that a lot of time, thought and love has gone into making this book. The Craft Beer Channel’s reputation is built on Jonny and Brad’s love for, and ability to talk about, places that serve incredible beer. The London Craft Beer Guide encapsulates that passion and presents it in a way that is instantly accessible both to beer geeks and more casual readers. It’s currently on Amazon for about the same price as two pints of beer (or about 2/3rds of a Cloudwater DIPA), which sounds like an absolute steal if you ask me.
This review was written on the back of attending the launch of the book at Mason & Company, which I covered for The Morning Advertiser here.
Disclaimer: Jonny and Brad are very good friends of mine. They’re also lovely blokes and objectively bloody brilliant at what they do. I paid for my copy of the book, and you should too.