Editor’s Note: British beer brewer, Frank Priestley, in this engaging author’s interview, tells us a little about his new book, The Brewer’s Tale: Memoirs of a Master Brewer (Merlin Unwin Books, 2010).
1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
After leaving school, I started work in a brewery almost by accident. Of the three jobs available to me, the brewery seemed the least objectionable. However, I very quickly realised how very lucky I was to be working there. It was like joining an extended family. There was a wonderful atmosphere of friendship and co-operation. Of course, in those days, all the breweries that I worked in were ‘wet’. That is, a beer allowance was available to the men who wanted it – a couple of pints a shift. Some men managed to drink more and some drank less. The work was hard but the job always got finished. And then there were the characters – The Irishman on the loading bay who, however busy they were, would say, “When the good Lord made time, He made plenty of it.” And Wee Jock in the cask shed, who was from Glasgow and no-one could understand his accent. And Big Jock from The Isles whose cap rotated round his head, depending on how much he had had to drink. There were many such characters, very many, and when I was made redundant after twenty years service, I missed them grievously. I never found another job in a brewery but consoled myself by studying the history of the public house (which will be the subject of my next book). I find the practical research very rewarding. However, I still think back to those days in the breweries, “where, between those precious pints, there was conversation and songs, friendship and jokes, music and laughter and such magic that sober men could never dream of.”
2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?
The history of the brewing industry forms a significant part of this book.