“Road to Damascus” post. This was when I ended my love affair with “big brand,” keg beers and started to take an interest in local and regional beers, brewed specifically to take account of local tastes and preferences.
Looking back, although there were a series of related “light-bulb” moments which combined to inspire in me a life-long passion in all things beer-related, it was a specific incident which provided that “vital spark."
That so-called “epiphany moment” took place in October 1973 when as a young student, in my first year at Salford University, I was browsing through the shelves of the university book-shop. I came across a book which caught my attention with its unusual cover design and poignant title. The book was titled "The Death of the English Pub", its author was one Christopher Hutt and its cover price was 75p! To a student existing on around just £7 per week, this represented a considerable outlay, and yet a quick flick through the pages was enough to convince me that I just had to buy this book.
The appalling record of the major brewing firms was contrasted with the exemplary behaviour of many of the surviving smaller, independent breweries whom, the book argued, were truly reflecting the real needs of customers rather than some obtuse marketing fantasy created by advertising moguls totally divorced from reality. In short by taking these policies to their logical conclusion, the big brewers would be responsible for "The Death of the English Pub".
"The Death of the English Pub" changed my whole outlook on life and made me realise that certain things are important and are worth preserving. More importantly, they are worth fighting for. Although I had enjoyed a pint from the age of 16 or so, I had tended to take beer and pubs for granted, as my main interests at the time were rock music and chasing after the opposite sex.
When I returned to Manchester for the summer term, I eagerly sought out as many independent brewers and their beers as I could. I was helped in this quest by a fellow student, who shared the same lodgings as myself. Howard came from the Lake District, and was a great fan of Hartley's. He also had a van, and with the Good Beer Guide pointing us in the right direction we tracked down beers from Lees, Hyde's, Holt's, Oldham and Marston's, which were in addition to ales such as Boddington's, Robinson's, Tetley’s, Greenall Whitley and Wilson's which I had already sampled.
Looking back through the archives, I found a review I’d written, back in 2010, on "The Death of the English Pub.” The review gives a brief synopsis of the book, on a chapter by chapter basis, so if you want to get a proper flavour of what Christopher Hutt’s pioneering publication was all about, just click on the link here.