Monday, 7 May 2018

The Beer Bucket List - Mark Dredge

One of  the last articles I wrote in 2017, was a post called "Follow your dreams". As the title suggests the post was inspired by the idea of a "bucket list"; all those things you'd like to do before you shuffle off this mortal coil (kick the bucket).  As I said then,"Having a bucket list, is to have a life and utilise it fully before it's knocked off from under your feet."

The gist of the article was, whilst I don't have a Bucket List as such, there are places and activities which I keep in the back of my mind, with the aim that one day they will surface so I can take action to bring them into reality. I have achieved many of these desires over the past few decades, and am regularly adding new ones.

Whilst many of the desires on my "virtual list" are naturally beer-related, there are plenty of others which are not, but the concept of a beer only "bucket list" does sound an interesting one, and one which could definitely work.

Enter Mark Dredge; one of the UK's most enthusiastic beer writers. I have followed Mark's journey from keen and innovative beer blogger, to today's well-regarded beer writer and connoisseur. With his latest book, entitled "The Beer Bucket List,” Mark has taken the idea outlined above and really ran with it, adding in touches of his own along the way. In doing so he has created a masterpiece of a book, which is a real joy to read.

Described as a “Collection of over 150 unmissable beer experiences, featuring the world’s greatest beer, bar, breweries and events: it’s the ultimate bucket list for every beer lover.” The description ends by saying, “This is any beer lover’s must-read book about the most essential beer experiences on the planet.”

I know Mark Dredge personally, but I won't claim we see each other often, or even go out for a drink together. Our paths cross from time to time, primarily at beer-related events, but given Mark’s rather hectic schedule, even these meeting are led frequent nowadays. Apart from researching and writing books, conducting beer presentations, tastings and other related events, Mark’s career has included working for Camden Town Brewery and managing online content for Pilsner Urquell.

He lived and worked for a while, in my adopted home town of Tonbridge, before moving up to London. Mark first made his presence known amongst the world of beer writers, with his blog, "Pencil & Spoon." The blog was always a good read, but sadly, Mark’s other commitments mean it is rarely updated these days; although an exception was made recently  to promote The Beer Bucket List.”

This is Mark’s 5th book, and he has posted about it on his blog. He says, he was inspired by thinking about where in the world he'd most like to drink a beer. And then by thinking about where he'd suggest others go to drink. The list included the places that any beer lover really should go, plus all those many oddities and idiosyncrasies that make beer – and travelling for beer – so great.

I wouldn’t argue with that, and because the book’s publishers Dog ‘n’ Bone, kindly sent me a copy to review, I was able to discover exactly what Mark is banging on about.

Before delving deeper it’s fun just browsing through the book and seeing how many, or quite often, how few of these beer experiences you have under your own belt. I am lucky to have have experienced quite a few, but then I’m probably twice Mark’s age, so this is not totally unexpected.

From a personal point of view, my beer experiences in Britain and Europe compare pretty well with those Mark describes, but I’ve only scratched the surface of North America. Further afield, with the honourable exception of Japan, South America, the Antipodes and the Far East are unknown entities, as far as I am concerned, but they certainly look exciting destinations for any beer lover, and places to add to ones own bucket list.

And there lies the beauty of this book, for a beer bucket list is something which will never be finished. There will always be some new, hitherto undiscovered gem of a place, just waiting to be explored, and by the same token, new and exciting beers are appearing all the time and not just in the usual places.

I’m not going to spoil things for you by listing too many of Mark’s choices, as the publishers and I obviously want you to buy your own copy but as a bit of a taster, visiting the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, rates pretty highly on my list, as it does on Mark’s, along with going to Oktoberfest for the first time.

This was another amazing experience, and it’s interesting to note that like me, Mark had been putting off going to this event for a number of years, primarily because of preconceptions which turned out to be unfounded. As expected there are quite a few classic breweries described in the book, and whilst I have visited several of these, Mark has the upper hand here, particularly with regard to some of the legendary North American establishments (Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Russian River Brewing etc).

Great beer-drinking destinations feature highly, but so do other slightly more “off-beat” experiences such as London’s famed Bermondsey Beer Mile, drinking in some of the capital’s Historic Pubs, along with a comparison between two of the UK’s finest cask ales, with a definite north-south divide coming to the fore.

In summary, “The Beer Bucket List” is a real labour of love, in which the author’s enthusiasm for his subject really shines through. If you are planning your own beer voyage of discovery or, like me, looking for inspiration for your next beer destination, then this publication really should be on your bookshelf.

I could go on, but having whetted your appetite you will need to buy a copy, if you want to know more. “The Beer Bucket List” is a hardback publication, which runs to 225 pages. It is well illustrated and is nicely laid out, following a geographical pattern. The book is published by Dog ‘n’ Bone, who are an imprint of Ryland Peters & Small Ltd.

For all bibliophiles out there, the book's identification number is ISBN: 978 1 911026 27 3. Available from all good bookshops, price £16.99, although I’m sure a well-known on-line retailer may offer it at a lower price. Before going down that road though, please consider your local, independent book-seller, as it’s not just pubs which are disappearing from our towns!

 Disclaimer: I have reviewed this book on behalf of the publishers Dog ‘n’ Bone.  For doing so I received a complimentary copy, but did not allow this to influence my review in any way.

With the exception of the front cover, the photos are my own. They all relate in one way or another, to the book.


RedNev said...

There does seem to be some kind of death cult in the world of beer:

"300 Beers To Try Before You Die";
"300 More Beers To Try Before You Die";
and now "The Beer Bucket List".

I think I enjoy my beer better for not permanently keeping one eye on the Grim Reaper!

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Yes Nev. "Life is what happens to you whilst you are making other plans", as I seem to remember John Lennon saying, but even he might have been quoting.

Paul Bailey said...

I wouldn’t describe these books as a “death cult”, Nev. The idea behind the “bucket list” concept is to focus one’s mind on what might be achieved, rather than to drift aimlessly through life. Of course one should enjoy life’s pleasures now, by living in the moment, but having a few aspirations is no bad thing either.

Ethelred, I’m pretty certain that quotation was attributed to John Lennon. It was probably said around the same time he wrote the song “In my Life.”

Throwing in one of my own, or rather one from Mark Twain, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes!”

RedNev said...

I looked up the Lennon quotation in a search engine and its first recorded appearance was in the Reader’s Digest of January 1957 in the "Quotable Quotes" section:

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." - Allen Saunders.

Ethelred was right!

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Paul, sadly, Mark Twain has been left high and dry on the second by Lord Ashcroft etc.



Ethelred The Unsteady said...


If not for quotations, then conversation between gentlemen would be an endless string of "what-ho!"s.

(That's a quotation too, incidentally)



RedNev said...

"I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking." Dorothy L. Sayers.

Martyn Cornell said...

'one from Mark Twain, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes!”'

I think you'll find that was Benjamin Franklin (who did NOT say the words regularly attributed to him about beer being a sign of God's love for us, incidentally).

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

It's interesting to hear the wise words from Tim Minchin, about this American import, that "every kid gotta have a dream".

What he says, is that this fallacy is what is holding back so many from success. There is a vanishingly small chance that any given eight-year-old will be another Cristiano Ronaldo, but the general encouragement given to them to obsess about their Dream, to the detriment of all else is often pretty disastrous.

Tim himself made use of whatever opportunities circumstances presented him, over a wide range of sometimes unglamorous engagements, and it certainly served him well. "I wonder if I'll be any good at this?" he would ask himself.

I doubt that he'd pass over a decent beer though.



Professor Pie-Tin said...

Wise men speak because they have something to say;Fools because they have to say something.
It seemed appropriate in this case.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Nice irony, prof.

Hey, what are the Two Secrets Of Good Comedy?

Well, the first is, always leave your audience wanting more.



Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for all the quotations, folks. There were some good ones amongst that lot.

Here's one from Albert Einstein to end on. "Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions."

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