Monday, 20 September 2010

Amber, Gold and Black: The History of Britain's Great Beers by Martyn Cornell

I got very excited when the lovely Lisa bought  Amber, Gold and Black for me. Martyn Cornell's blog Zythophile is one of my favourites, and I find beer history fascinating, so this book looked set to be a cracking. And indeed it was. I even tried slowing down my reading speed as I didn't want it to end. I still finished it rapidly so I've made up for it by reading it twice.

Divided into 16 chapters ,with each one devoted to a different beer style, the origins of the style and details of how it was or is made and the changes that may have taken place over time are all covered. Each chapter is independent of the others so the book can be dipped in to or read cover to cover depend on how much of a beer nerd you are.

As regular readers of the Zythophile blog will expect there's an impressive level of carefully researched detail, and not all about what you might expect. When discussing the various beers found in the different styles some pretty obscure ones get mentioned, even some that are probably best forgotten about. The beers styles are mostly defined by the simple and sensible method of using what the brewers called them, though an old favourite of mine, Ind Coope Burton Ale is singled out for criticism for it's gratuitous misnaming. 

Reading about the rich and varied history of British Beers has been inspirational to me as a brewer. I've already brewed a unhopped lemon balm ale (like my previous unhopped ales still a bit shit sadly) and I have a culture of a Brettanomyces yeast waiting in my fridge until the traditional brewing season opens in October, which I think will be a fitting time to brew a Colne Spring Ale inspired stock ale.

I can thoroughly recommend the book to brewers and beer historians, and I dare say those whose interest in beer is simply in drinking the stuff will get a lot out of it too. 


  1. Sounds a great book, it's been on my to get list for a while now. Nice to see a real person review of it rather than a reviewers one.

  2. Glad you liked it, Ed. Save me a bottle of your Colne Spring …

  3. The beer will only be inspired by Colne Spring as my information about it is a bit sketchy. I'm sure I'll be able to spare a bottle though, I'll drop you a line in a year or so!