Where to Drink Beer

Where to Drink Beer by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso.  Phaidon. 2018. Hbk. £16.95. 478 pp. 

This is a hardback book which looks a bit like the old fashioned Kelly’s Directories which listed every household and business in a town.  Where to Drink Beer lists 1,600 bars in 70 countries.  The book was apparently compiled by 500 beer experts from around the world.  I did not recognise any British beer writers in the list of contributors.  Indeed, most of the experts seem to be bar owners and brewers who rather unsurprisingly recommend their own bars.

I have struggled a bit trying to understand the point of this book.  CAMRA Good Beer guide lists 4,500 pubs in the UK where you can get a reliable pint of cask ale.  The Good Pub Guide lists 5,000 British pubs where you can get a drink and a reasonable meal. There are a number of Belgian guides that will point you in the right direction if you are seeking to sample Belgium’s exotic brews. However, Where to Drink Beer has only 115 UK entries (out of a possible total of 50,000).  The entries are also rather sparse.  No poetical waxing lyrical about the merits of a particular establishment, just the bare bones: name, address, telephone number, opening hours and a note about credit cards.

There are around 25 maps of big beer cities such as Melbourne, Stockholm, Berlin, Portland and London, but they lack much in the way of detail.  This book must have taken forever to compile and I wonder by the time it was published how many of the entries were still open.  We are still experiencing a high rate of pub closures in the UK with around 18 closing every week. I don’t know if other countries have similar problems but one of the reasons why the Internet took off and made many reference books redundant was its ability to keep up to date.

I cannot imagine libraries, which used to be the place to go to consult reference books, wanting to spend £16.95 of their budget on this book.  The author/editor is a Danish gypsy brewer who founded Evil Twin Brewing who have brewed a huge range of extreme beers.  I do feel that someone who clearly must know a lot about beer could have applied his mind to something a bit more useful than this rather pointless and seemingly random listing of bars.  If you should find yourself in Kosovo, Guam, North Korea, Bhutan or Lebanon then this book will give some suggestions of where to drink but I think the internet will probably come up with much more choice.

David Harris