Published on July 5, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour0
One of the world’s finest beer writers dropped in on Tyneside carrying his new book, where Alastair Gilmour met him
Beer writers get into their pet subject in many different ways and it’s surely an absolute joy to successfully turn curiosity and communication skills into a full-time occupation. Canadian author Stephen Beaumont has managed that perfectly – with world travel thrown in to put a perfect head on the job, too.
“Back in 1987 I graduated from university in political science,” he told an audience at The Central, Gateshead, who were also treated to a tasting of five beers courtesy of Camerons Brewery. “The three things you do while studying political science is you talk a lot, you write a lot and you drink a lot. I wasn’t interested in anything political, but I like a beer and I liked writing.”
In 1990 Stephen managed to get a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star, the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada, which he kept up for three years, gaining a huge following and consequent respect, even from wine writers who admired his ability to put a niche subject across. His first book, The Great Canadian Beer Guide, followed.
Stephen says: “There were 92 breweries in Canada then and I visited them all. Canada is a big country and 92 breweries is a hell of a lot of travel. This turned into a 90,000-word best-seller which led me to the conclusion that this was more than about beer.”
Stephen then met Tim Webb, the prolific British beer writer who specialises in all things Belgian and the pair co-operated on The World Atlas of Beer, divvying up the planet between them.
“It plunged me further into beer travel, doing Asia, Western Europe, Canada and the US which was creating its amazing, exciting beer market.” he says. “The initiative for this latest project came when I woke up one morning with the name of the book in my head – Would Travel For Beer – so I contacted a publisher who to my amazement got back to me straight away. I decided on the number 101 for sections and sat down with a map of Great Britain because I’d been here before looking at developing cities. Bristol was building up, Leeds was emerging, London was already there, Manchester – sorry Tyneside, I missed you out..”
Stephen has the ability to look at beer with fresh eyes and on his beer tasting sessions he is not afraid to criticise.
He says: “If you put IPA onto anything it’s going to sell. Period. Citrus, grapefruit, lemon, orange are what Generation Z thinks about craft beer.
“Italy is such an amazing country for beer – there are now 1,200 breweries there. According to one survey, more Italians now drink beer with their meals than wine. And beer gardens are the lifeblood, the soul of Munich, with some of them holding up to 4,000 people – the biggest one holds eight thousand – all clinking glasses.”
Stephen has been on a UK-wide publicity tour where he discovered a few personal “firsts”, including an introduction to the North East.
He says: “I shall most definitely return. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Central Bar and look forward to exploring other Newcastle and Gateshead haunts.
“As much as I love the Bow Bar in Edinburgh – and I really do – I’ve got to say that the highlight of my time in the Scottish capital was drinking with Ian Rankin at the Abbotsford on Rose Street. It’s a lovely place with an impressive literary history – and pretty good beer and whisky to boot!”
Follow Stephen Beaumont on Twitter @BeaumontDrinks