Something of a red letter day at Chez Bellebouche this afternoon. The culmination of a long long wait… my publishing debut!
I’ll start at the beginning. I’ve had an on-off relationship with making beer for years. Started my first batch as a kid using tins of malt extract as a syrup from Boots that made a vaguely beer flavoured drink. The quality of those kits and the resultant beer was never ever great but as the years have gone on I’ve progressed to making real beer.
Moving to France was the real catalyst. Where we lived in Cheshire my nearest pub had great Samuel Smiths on draught for £1.19 a pint right up until we left. Beer, real beer, in France isn’t that easy to come across (that’s changing though) and whilst we do have access to lots of great Belgian beers there are a world of beers out there which are simply not available here in France. Only solution? Make your own.
Now, on a blog in early 2009 I set out to make beer using all local ingredients. Grains from an agricultural co-operative in Loudun, hops picked from the local river. I undertook an experiment to germinate the barley, dry and kiln it and produce a range of different roasts. It was great fun and an educational experience – I was only doing something which other people have done for thousands of years but home malting is a bit of an art. No reason for anyone to really do it with the wide availability of really good quality commercial malts but nevertheless – good to undertake the trial and learn some more about brewing.
I posted that blog, linked to it from a few brewing forums I hang out on.. had 500+ hits on it after publishing and then nothing. It all went quiet. Then, out of the blue… an approach from a commissioning editor at the Oxford University Press. He wanted to use one of my images from the blog in a forthcoming book! Delighted I said yes, some emails and contracts were exchanged and then… nothing. Sit and wait. It took 15 months from the initial contact to me getting the book in my hands yesterday. So, first time for everything and I’m pleased to have a full page, full colour plate in the ‘Oxford Companion to Beer‘. It’s a weighty reference tome and a massive undertaking by the Editor in Chief. I’m thrilled to have been invited to contribute a tiny tiny little bit to the book.
So, on my brewing goes and I’ve settled into a comfort zone where I can now make pretty much any style and to a consistently high quality… so much so that when I’m out in the UK and have a pint in a pub I often think… nah.. could do much much better at home.
Still lots to learn though. There is an amazing revolution underway in the craft beer world and that explosive growth in the commercial world is underpinned by people with a passion for beer and a thirst for knowledge. It’s a very humbling thought to think I’ve been able to spread a little of the knowledge and have it in print for years to come.