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Austerity! (Book Review)

Austerity! cover

One of my Christmas presents this year was Austerity! by Ronald Pattinson. If you’ve never heard of Ron you might want to go check his blog out at Shut Up About Barklay Perkins and watch the BeerSmith podcast #176 where Ron is interviewed about this book. And what’s the book about? Well, British beer. That is… British beer from 1945-1965 in the post-War period of Austerity. He’s an interesting beer history nerd with a lot of tabular information packed through the first half that lets you get your head around what beers they were actually making in that time period.

And I don’t mean in a general sense. Ron is a man of specifics (where he can inform) and educated information (where there are gaps in the record). Which is about the best we’re going to get on the subject if you’re looking to make these old recipes. People exactly like me who have a thing for history and making booze are the perfect market for his books.

A big takeaway from reading Ron’s book is that the idea we seem to have in recent years (probably with emphasis on competition definitions) about what a style of beer has to be is more fluid than fixed. An Imperial Stout under 4% ABV? The beers of the time were often different in colour, taste and strength depending on what part of Britain you were buying the product. Or the year it was brewed. Grists were also more interesting for some styles than I would have considered before reading about them. It’s made me think less rigidly about what my next oatmeal stout has to be as a beer that satisfies my palate. A single style seems to have been variable.

One criticism I’d make for a AUD$50 book purchase is that while I do understand the self publishing model is an ideal way to get this information out there and it’s not easy to produce such a work… that is a steep price for a book that hasn’t been edited. And I mean at the most basic level, given the number of typos alone. Widows and orphans. Simple academic level editing. He could well buy a copy of Editing Made Easy by Bruce Kaplan. I would have felt much better about the price were professionalism to editing and printing displayed at equal strength to the information on the pages. I’m not really sure how to process that one, either. Which will make me unlikely to purchase his latest book Armistice!, the story of British beer during World War 1. Or maybe it won’t. We’ll have to see about that one down the track. The price is too steep for me to pay for unedited content.

That aspect aside, I’m gagging to make a half a dozen of the recipes from Ron Pattinson’s book this year. It’s a gem of researched information. That just needs editing. Which, as I mentioned already, would be fine if it wasn’t so expensive. And we go around that mental loop once again.

Would I recommend you to buy this one? Maybe. It depends. In a way he has you over a barrel with a lack of other books of it’s kind out there. I’d say, if you want to make historic British beers from the period… maybe. Or read, Shut Up About Barklay Perkins. The truth is out there, as they say. On the other hand, it’s staying on my bookshelf and will be well used now that I’ve got it in my possession.

It just needs good solid professional editing. And for that I can’t really make excuses. For the price. Let’s just say it was a wonderful present that I’ve enjoyed reading.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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