Book review – The Family Brewers of Britain: A Celebration of British Brewing Heritage

I previewed the latest publication from CAMRA Books, The Family Brewers of Britain: A Celebration of British Brewing Heritage, in the last edition. I have now received my copy (for which I paid!). It is not a disappointment. Author Roger Protz is, of course, one of our best known beer writers and was editor of the Good Beer Guide for 24 years. He needs no further introduction.

Although Britain’s middle sized brewers might currently be embroiled in some controversy over Small Brewers Duty Relief, their history and significance to our brewing history cannot be denied and Mr Protz explains it all in his usual readable style and with attention to detail, featuring some 30 of them from all over the country. There are many excellent photographs and illustrations. The book has 276 pages and is 21 cm by 25.5 cm in size.

Interestingly, the book was given a substantial review in the 6 September edition of the Observer. This focused on the part played by women in these companies. As Mr Protz says, “Beer is often portrayed as a male domain, even though many iconic breweries would not be what they are today if they didn’t have strong women at the helm.” These include the formidable Hester Parnall, who was chairman of St Austell brewery in Cornwall from 1916 to 1939 and who, I am sure, would approve of the recent appointment of Georgina Young as brewing director. Today, Joseph Holt’s of Manchester have a female brewing director in Jane Kershaw while Elgood’s of Wisbech is run by sisters Belinda Sutton and Jennifer Everall.

More generally, Mr Protz warns that both family and craft brewers are facing a challenge. He says, “The large global breweries are on the march. Sales of bog-standard lager are in decline so they’re looking for more interesting beers, and running the rule over smaller brewers to see if they can take them over.” On the pandemic, he adds, “It’s been so hard, but I’m so full of admiration for the way small brewers have been creative, switching to bottled beer and direct deliveries while the pubs were shut.”

I’m only sad that there is no longer any place for Fuller’s and Young’s in this book.

The Family Brewers of Britain was published on 9 September. The cover price is £25.00 but is available to CAMRA members for £19.99. It can be ordered on-line from the CAMRA Shop. ISBN 978-1-85249-359-2
Tony Hedger