Beer: the sociable beverage
By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Three Sheets to the Wind
By Pete Brown
Macmillan, 458 pp, 10.99 pounds
Fancy a beer? You will after reading Pete Brown's
account of a 72,000-kilometer odyssey through the beer-drinking nations of the
In Three Sheets to the Wind, Brown invites the
reader to join him on the ultimate pub crawl, through a dozen countries across
four continents. After 450 pages, you don't even end up with a hangover.
With the highest per capita beer consumption in
the world, it seems appropriate for his odyssey to start in the Czech Republic,
allowing him the first of many opportunities to attack the U.S. corporate owner
of 'The King of Beers' as he enjoys a glass of old-fashioned, noncorporate
Budwar in its hometown of Ceske Budejovice.
Living in Japan, I'm always curious to hear the
views of visitors, and Brown's observations on Tokyo follow the usual
His arrival on flight number 007 inspires a James
Bond theme for his trip, from his description of the electronic traffic
congestion guide at Narita Airport as straight from a Roger Moore-era Bond film
to his trip to an Asahi brewery, where he likens watching the introductory
video in sumptuous surroundings to a scene from the lair of one of Sean
Connery's foes in the 1960s.
The "heart of Japanese beer drinking,"
according to Brown, can be found at the yakitori stalls under the tracks near
Yurakucho Station, though his descriptions of "tan" (tongue) as heart
and "leba" (liver) as tongue are a little off the mark.
A trip to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day takes him
to Dublin, where he discovers that Guinness is hugely popular in Nigeria for
its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. A bottle left out by a Nigerian woman for
her husband when he comes home means he won't get much sleep that night if she
has anything to do with it.
The United States has more types of beer than
anywhere else in the world and he heads for "Beervana" (Portland,
Ore.), where he discovers the spiritual home of American craft brewing.
The city is clearly a hit with the author, as
would be any town that's home to 70 microbreweries and brewpubs. His
description of the Horse Brass pub and its 50 plus draft beers has moved the
City of Roses to the top of this particular beer hunter's list of places to go
in the United States.
If Portland is Beervana, the Oktoberfest in
Germany is the ultimate bacchanalia. Never has an oompah band sounded so
inviting as when Brown tells of the camaraderie and fun of quaffing liters of
German beer with 5,000 fellow drinkers in a tent.
The book ends with the author returning to his
hometown of Barnsley, in northern England, to check out the binge-drinking
culture seemingly rife in the nation by experiencing the phenomenon first hand.
However, he heads back to London on a positive
note when he realizes the boozers in Barnsley have as much energy after a night
out as their peers in Roppongi, Tokyo, or Las Ramblas, Barcelona. They are all
simply out to have a good time.
Brown concludes that "beer is without doubt
the most sociable drink in the world," and generally that's the feeling
that comes across in the book. After drinking in over 400 pubs and bars across
the world, his belief in the sense of companionship in a good pub holds strong.
You never know when you'll find one, but the search is part of the fun.
Now, what'll it be--lager, stout or bitter?