Swotting up at the School of Booze

To celebrate the release of her two new books, Beer Sommelier Jane Peyton has collaborated with Brewsters Brewery to produce a special green-hopped beer. ICIP got their hands on the books and went along to the launch party to find out more.

DSC_0032Jane Peyton is a bit of an hero of ICIP’s. She’s one of just eight female Beer Sommeliers in the UK and has founded two alcohol-related events companies – School of Booze and Operalicious. She is also an author, after-dinner speaker, tasting tutor and occasional Fuller’s brewery tour guide. Summed up – she is our kind of lady. So we were very excited to find out she had not one but two books coming out this October.

DSC_0029Beer O’Clock: Craft, Cask and Culture (Summersdale, 2013) is a true celebration of beer, and an excellent addition to any beer drinker’s bookshelf. Jane’s passion is evident from the outset, describing beer as a “priceless gift to humanity, begetter of happiness, sociability and companionship”. She believes that beer, more than any other drink, brings people together, acting as an international language.

Her historical section on “beer’s early years” is fascinating, reporting that beer may have been produced as early as 7000BC. This section pays particular attention to the role of women throughout beer’s history, from early brewers to the female gods of beer such as Ninkasi (Sumerian), Ceres (Roman) and Mamasara (Peruvian).

Jane breaks down the brewing process into a summary easily understood by newcomers to beer. She takes time to explain the importance of each of the key ingredients – water, malt, hops and yeast – and also discusses the best way to taste beer to get the full benefit of aroma and flavour. One of our favourite chapters focuses on the health benefits of beer. High in antioxidants, B-vitamins, potassium and silicon, and offering protection from breast cancer, heart disease, gallstones and Parkinson’s, beer now seems an even more alluring option (in moderation!).

But the crowning glory of the book, as far as ICIP is concerned, is the whopping sixty pages dedicated to beer styles. This explains the characteristics of nearly seventy different beers, from Abbey to Witbier, and everything in between, also giving you examples of brands to try, recommended serving temperature, glassware and ideas for food matching. This section is so comprehensive that we wish we could carry it around with us everywhere (and given the neat design of the book, at a weeny 18x14cm, we probably could). It really is a beer-lover’s bible.

Jane’s second new book, School of Booze: An Insider’s Guide to Libations, Tipples and Brews (Summersdale, 2013) expands on some of the areas touched on in Beer O’Clock, but extends the scope to cover all alcoholic beverages. She traces the history of alcohol through Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, tells us why we get hangovers, where we get cork from, and explains the process behind everything you’d find behind a bar, from absinthe to wine. It is a dizzying trip, packed with enough trivia to make you popular down your local for a long time to come.

DSC_0026Beer O’Clock is dedicated to Sara Barton, founder of Brewster’s Brewery in Lincolnshire, and Jane and Sara collaborated to make an eponymous green-hopped beer for the launch party. For the uninitiated, when a beer is green-hopped fresh hops are used instead of the traditional dried ones (or pellets). This means that there is more oil left in the hops and more of their flavour is evident in the final product.

The beer obviously went down a storm in The Mad Bear and Bishop, the Fuller’s pub in Paddington station where the launch party was held. A whole firkin was sunk during the lunchtime session and ICIP was lucky to grab two halves before the pumps ran dry once again in the evening. The pub was heaving with beer fans – interestingly, predominantly female – snapping up signed copies of Jane’s new books while supping pints.

Beer O’Clock (4% ABV) is a golden ale, single-hopped with First Gold and made with three different malts. The result is a sharp, citrus aroma, a hoppy hit balanced with a good level of bitterness. The result was a light, session ale with a pleasing astringent mouthfeel and decent body. ICIP overheard other drinkers getting marmalade on the nose – very appropriate for Paddington station!

For anyone wishing to try Beer O’Clock, The Rake in Borough Market will have some in on October 23rd – be quick, it is very exclusive and this will be your last chance.

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