Volume 95, Issue 14

Tuesday, September 25, 2001
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Randy's revolution not to be televised

Everyone loves beer! Why not read a book about it?

Everyone loves beer! Why not read a book about it?

Notes on a Beermat
Nicholas Pashley
Polar Bear Press

There are those who spend years, even decades, with their noses plunged in the middle of countless moldy books, trying to discover something yet unexplored by humanity.

Nicholas Pashley, the author of Notes on a Beermat, is one such explorer. Instead of the lofty pursuits of academia, Pashley had his nose buried in a pint glass.

Notes on a Beermat is a book 30 years in the making and the commitment shows. At 203 pages, it's an impressive volume of stories, facts and history of pub life – an essential reference work for any barfly.

Pashley has a great eye for detail and his descriptions of places and people imbue in the reader a feeling they're actually there. When he describes pubs, he never fails to capture the mood of the room with its smoky air, dark wood walls and various pieces of British paraphernalia.

Pashley's writing conveys so many ideas in such simple terms. Unlike most authors, he uses very few large and pretentious words. Rather, Pashley is casual and keeps things understandable. All of which makes Notes on a Beermat an absolute pleasure to read.

Although the book explores topics like how to choose a pub, how to find the perfect pint and the different types of waitresses, the book explores historical and cultural aspects as well.

The author, born in England but living in Canada for thirty-five years, often points out the differences between European, British and North American drinking cultures.

He writes, "One reason that Europeans are most mature about drinking – or so we are told – is that they're exposed to it from infancy and don't regard it as some forbidden fruit. Yet it is the English who are feared across Europe for their out-of-control drinking, and not just the football supporters either."

Pashley recalls the day he had his first draft beer. It was in 1965 when he was passing by a crowd gathered at Varsity Arena in Toronto. The crowd was being addressed by John Diefenbaker in his "last hurrah" as Tory leader.

The author met a man inside and they began to debate politics. They then decided to head to a nearby pub and continue their discussion over a pint or two. Pashley describes himself and his first beer as "a match made in heaven."

"I like the taste of good beer, and I like the way it feels in my mouth. I like the way you can feel the first swallow of the day slide down the gullet. I wish every day could be the first time again – you never forget the first time – and that old John Diefenbaker was back again, ranting in a losing cause at Varsity arena."

It's no understatement that Nicholas Pashley loves beer.

His passion for the amber brew carries into his book that's written with wit, energy and style. It's a credible and creditable work, written by a man with obvious intelligence. Which begs the question: if this man has spent the last 30 years of his life sipping beer in pubs, does beer really kill brain cells?

The world may never know.

–Colin Butler

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Copyright The Gazette 2001