Jane Peyton interview: Britain's Beer Sommelier of the Year on witchcraft and Jane Austen

Peyton is a 'booze historian' and author, whose books include 'Beer o' Clock' and 'School of Booze'

Adam Jacques
Friday 03 July 2015 16:59 BST
Peyton says: 'Don't patronise a woman and assume she wants to drink wine. And if she orders beer, don't assume she'll want a pale, tasteless fruit beer'
Peyton says: 'Don't patronise a woman and assume she wants to drink wine. And if she orders beer, don't assume she'll want a pale, tasteless fruit beer' (Orlando Gili)

Beer isn't just something you glug while watching the footie It's actually a much better pairing with food than wine, and there are so many special beers for fine dining. There are beers made with champagne yeast and finished like champagne: try Chapel Down's Curious Brew as an aperitif, in a champagne flute. For rich, meaty dishes, and even desserts, Fuller's London Porter has magnificent chocolate and coffee flavours – it's great with tiramisu. But snobbery means it's an uphill battle to convince people of all that. Wine was the drink of people of high status for 5,000 years and the wine industry, with its good PR, has maintained that reputation.

There's a connection between brewing and witch-hunting Most medieval brewers were women, as beer was brewed in the home. You needed a big cauldron to boil it, and once it started to ferment, a big, bubbling frothiness would grow before your eyes – people thought it was magic. If you're using cereals such as malt, you're going to have rats, so you'll need a cat. And you'd tell people you had ale to sell by erecting an "ale stake" outside, which was a long piece of wood with twigs at the end, like a broom. So, many women accused of witchcraft were brewers – it was just misogyny; and it's possible that this is how the witch motifs came about.

Judgement by social media is the new mob Any woman who goes on Question Time, or is in the public eye and has an opinion on Twitter, seems to get death or rape threats. The disgusting online abuse of [TV historian] Mary Beard is one example. It's the way the world is now, and it's horrible.

Pubs are a national treasure They are good for our social health, as they are so convivial: beers in a pub make people happy. I love that stale-beer smell, too. One of my favourite pubs is The Blackfriar, in the City, in London. It has a spectacular Art Nouveau interior, a good range of hand-pumped real ales and welcoming staff.

Don't patronise a woman and assume she wants to drink wine And if she orders beer, don't assume she'll want a pale, tasteless fruit beer: she might want an Imperial Russian stout, which tastes like treacle. I'm always trying to persuade more women to drink beer. A recent survey found that women might consider drinking beer if it wasn't served only in a pint glass. When I have dinner parties, I pour out my ale into champagne flutes or brandy glasses.

I wish I could have gone for a drink with Jane Austen Maybe for a spruce beer, which she brewed herself. She was funny, droll, and we could have a natter about who Mr Darcy really was, because apparently he might have been based on a real person in her life.

'Writing is rewriting' I'm a writer as well as a beer sommelier, and it's one of the best bits of advice I've received. It was from a friend of mine, Gail Willumsen, who is an Emmy-winning documentary film maker and writer. When I started writing professionally, she'd say to me, "Never be content with what you have done – once you've written a first draft and got it down, then the real enjoyment begins." Now I think like that about the rest of my life: you can always do a better job.

I love riding around London in my free time I ride my bicycle across town, absorbing the urban landscape as I go. I did it last night, passing by the Albert Memorial, in Kensington Gardens, which looks stunning.

Jane Peyton, 43, is a 'booze historian' and author, Her books include 'Beer o' Clock' and 'School of Booze'. Peyton is also an ambassador for glass-packaging community Friends of Glass (friendsofglass.com)

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