My audience at the Borders Book Festival was marginally bigger than that shown here.
It’s been a crazy, fantastic few weeks around the book launch. As you can tell by my lack of posting, my feet have hardly touched the ground. There are so many stories I wanted to share, but I’ve forgotten most of them.
Billy and Declan proved to sceptical Three Sheets readers that they are indeed real, and that I did not exaggerate them in any way. The Animal Lover With No Arms now looks at them suspiciously when they run into him in Galway, so we think they’ve been rumbled. At first they thought they might get away with it because no-one in his family can read, but word has got out. And Declan informed us that he has been diagnosed with scurvy. When the doctor asked him when he had last eaten fruit, he replied, “Ah, that would be the early 1980s.”
The following week, the drunkenness moved to Burton on Trent. I was invited to lunch at the Burton Club – an institution I didn’t even know existed when I wrote Hops & Glory, but which was founded by the men I’ve spent two years researching. On to the Coopers Tavern for the Burton book launch. A more intimate and less glamorous affair than Brew Wharf, but with attendees from White Shield, Thornbridge, Acorn, Burton Bridge and the Crown Brewery at Sheffield’s Hillsbrough Hotel, it was great to get a gaggle of brewers around to taste the last remaining cask of Calcutta IPA. At nearly two years old, it was starting to resemble the beer I opened in India after the journey. A wonderful experience… until someone knocked the cask and it fell to the floor, churned up, but still about half full. Ah well. Was invited to brew IPAs by both Acorn and Crown, and will be doing so in July, around the Derby Beer Festival and my reading at the Devonshire Cat on the 9th. Me and Mrs Pete Brown’s Beer Blog will also be brewing again at Thornbridge that week. I really am spoilt. And getting Mrs PBBB to clean out the copper should be the spectator event of the year.
The following weekend saw me rubbing shoulders with Richard Stilgoe and John McCarthy on Excess Baggage on Radio 4, which seems to have gone down really well, and I got my sailing piece in the Guardian (before you follow this link – I’m sorry about the headline. This was a sub-editor who simply didn’t know any better. I would never knowingly try to appropriate the title they gave me). Sales went berserk as a result – Amazon ran out and everything, so I was well pleased. Spent the day at the Beers of the World Live/BBC Good Food Show on the Worthington White Shield stand, and the response was fantastic – hopefully a lot of fathers were pleased last Sunday, because I signed an awful lot of books to people who felt they’d found the perfect gift.
White Shield are sponsoring my reading tour and couldn’t be more helpful. If you live around the Midlands look out for Hops and Glory Ale, a special cask version of White Shield with the book cover design on the pump clip. And soon, White Shield in Sainsburys will carry a neck collar offering a great deal on the book. This legendary beer isn’t that easy to get hold of, but it’s having a huge renaissance and the ancient, creaking former museum brewery can’t brew enough beer to meet demand. It’s a fantastic experience to take it round and introduce it to people who have never tasted it before – a true taste of a traditional English IPA.
And then it was off to Scotland. Attendance at my Scottish launch event was disappointing because we’d moved the date from Thurs to Weds, only to find we’d moved it into a direct clash with an Oasis gig and, just a hundred yards away, the launch of the Edinburgh Film Festival. But it was great to have the Caledonian Brewery to ourselves. I had a fascinating chat with a woman from The Scotsman, and met a journalist whose girlfriend is a direct descendant of Samuel Allsopp! I spent so long trying to find info on him, and here at the launch I was hearing that there are lots of family stories about him, few of which are complimentary.
And on Saturday, down to the tiny town of Melrose for the Borders Book Festival, which has nothing to do with the chain, but is organised by a bunch of wildly enthusiastic and kind people who live there. It takes place in a few marquees in the grounds of a beautiful big old house. And after I got over the shock and nervousness and feeling of being inadequate and a fraud to be in the same room and on the same bill as Ian Rankin, Vince Cable, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Jim Naughtie and David Aaronovich, I had a fantastic time. My reading was well-attended, and the complimentary Deuchars IPA was swiftly despatched. If you love books, do yourself a favour and go to this festival next year. I certainly will be, even if it is as a paying punter rather than a performer.
My tour continues throughout the summer. Please do come along if I’m near you. There’ll be free beer and everything.
Hopefully now though, I can get back to talking about beer and pubs and the wonderful and frustrating industry I find myself stuck in.