Hops and Glory, By Pete Brown

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The Independent Culture

Like an evening in some louche boozer packed with crackpot regulars, this travel-cum-history book about India Pale Ale has its longueurs but froths with offbeat charm. The Bill Bryson of beer, Brown took a specially-brewed barrel of 1830s-style IPA on its original canal-and- ocean-going route from Burton to Calcutta - and beyond.

His absurd mission is enlivened by detours (above all, to Brazil), distractions, and forays into the past of both beer and the British in India. If the brewery minutiae might make some non-buffs droop, this cask-conditioned trip never loses sight of India as "a stage on which the English could play out their fantasies... desires and neuroses". The sea voyage has flat patches but, like the cargo, Brown keeps his zest and colour to the end.

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