The 15th of June is Beer Day Britain, and as the name suggests, it’s a celebration of all things beer and a great reason to pour a pint. But what you might not know is Beer Day Britain is the brainchild of Brighton-based Jane Peyton, the principal of the School of Booze. Jane worked as a producer of TV documentaries for National Geographic and lived in California for nine years, working as a journalist and copywriter before founding the School of Booze in 2008. Now also a consultant for new drinks and glassware, podcaster, a marshal for the steward volunteers at the Covid vaccination centre, and a member of her Chamber of Commerce, Peyton started with beer and chocolate pairings.
Food and drink journalist, Kevin Pilley, caught up with Jane recently to find out more about the hopes and hops that inspire her.
A moment to remember
“I instigated the first national beer day because there wasn’t one. Which was surprising given the influence beer has had on the nation and its importance to the economy … The day is to celebrate beer of all kinds and culminates at 7 pm on June 15th with the nation simultaneously raising their glasses and saying ‘Cheers to beer’!
As a child, I always wanted to be a teacher. Little did I know I would become a drinks educator with a specialist subject of alcoholic drinks! But while filming in Mongolia I remember drinking mare’s milk with nomads. Everyone became connected. That memory stayed with me. How beer unites. Although I never imagined I’d end up an international beer and cider judge, beer historian and writer and pub guide!
At the time, no other event businesses were offering beer or cider tasting in the way that I did. The registered trademark of School of Booze is ‘Think While You Drink’ and that was the intention, for people to think about what they were drinking, the aroma, flavour, texture, and drinking experience. I also wanted people to think about how magical an alcoholic drink is.”
The first person Jane saw drinking beer was Enid Sharples on Coronation Street and she also remembers her first pint, “Then, when I had my first sip in the Royal Oak in Skipton I felt like I had been given membership to a very good social club and life. Beer drinkers were happy and always having a good time. I still feel that way.”
In 2014 Jane became Britain’s first accredited beer sommelier and four years later, the first cider sommelier. She can blind-taste and identify beers and ciders from their nose, malts, and yeasts. She has also hosted the world’s largest-ever beer tasting in Battersea Park. For her beer work and drinks advocacy, Jane was awarded the Outstanding Individual Achievement in Beer from the Beer & Cider Marketing Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group. She is also the author of nine non-fiction books including ‘The Philosophy of Beer’, and ‘Drink: A Tippler’s Miscellany’.
The Magna Carta said it should be so
Picking up the story, Jane explains, “Beer Day Britain celebrates beer from mainstream lager to limited-edition craft beer and everything in between no matter where it is brewed. June 15th is significant because that is also the date Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. The great charter mentions ale in Article 35. ‘Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn’. The first Beer Britain Day was on the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.”
A beer for every occasion
“There are over 150 styles of beer.” she continues. “There’s a beer for everything and so many special beers for fine dining although snobbery means it’s an uphill battle to convince people of all that. But when I have dinner parties, I pour out ale into champagne flutes or brandy glasses. There are beers made with champagne yeast and finished like champagne.”
Women and witchcraft
“Beer is still marketed in a very blokey way which puts a lot of women off. It does annoy me because women were the original brewers at least 10,000 years ago. Even in Medieval times, most brewers were women, as beer was brewed in the home. In fact, many women accused of witchcraft were brewers. I’m always trying to persuade more women to drink beer.”
“I can’t say what my favourite is because it depends on the weather, my mood, the seasons, whether I am drinking in a pub or elsewhere, what the occasion is, and the country I am drinking the beer in. Try Virago IPA from Brewster’s Brewing Company as an aperitif. For rich, meaty dishes, and even desserts, Fuller’s London Porter has magnificent chocolate and coffee flavours – it’s great with tiramisu. But in Brighton, I do like The Prince Albert and the Hand in Hand and when it comes to breweries, from Sussex, I really enjoy Burning Sky in Lewes.”
Jane hopes Beer Day Britain will unite the country in an appreciation of British beer, hand-pulled, real or otherwise. She hopes people will put their arms around each other on the big day and have a knees-up.
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