Copyright © 2004 the Brewery History Society
Joseph McKenna's book about Birmingham breweries traces the history of eight centuries of brewing in the second city, setting it against the background of important contemporary national developments in the industry.
In a book of 98 pages it is not possible to cover the material in great depth, but the author provides details of the development of the trade, through the mediaeval period and into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including an eleven page section listing 150 'Retail Brewers' operating in the city from 1828. This list in itself provides a useful source for researchers interested in the growth of retail brewing, particularly as the Birmingham area was slow to embrace the importance of the tied house estate and large scale brewing.
Perhaps the most interesting chapters are numbers four, five and six which chart the rise and eventual demise of the three Birmingham brewery companies that came to dominate brewing in the city through mergers and takeovers. The book concludes with a chapter listing in alphabetical order all the brewing businesses that operated in the city between 1782 and 2002, an Appendix, Bibliography and Index and is illustrated with photographs, old advertisements, maps and images of old bottle labels. If there is one criticism, it is that the text has not been footnoted, so sources of information cannot be identified.
The book is an interesting read, making a useful contribution to the growing body of work now being published about the brewing industry.