Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Some might dismiss beer as nothing more than a throwaway consumer item.
"But make no mistake...
"Beer is not only ubiquitous... it is ancient.
"And it has played a far more vital role in the story of humanity that most people realise.
"Nowadays we tend to think of beer as a recreational drink... something to accompany food.
"But for untold centuries beer was food.
"Think about it. Grain, yeast, water... Beer has the same essential ingredients as bread... the stuff of life."
Which therefore means I have, in fact, a bread belly!
I absolutely loved this fascinating study of the world's favourite beverage. For indeed, one of the many facts I learnt from this carefully cultured aliquot of alcohol-based indulgence is that globally people consume more beer than coffee, wine and even coca-cola. I tell you what, have another one on me (fact, that is): beer likely takes its name from bibere, the Latin verb for 'to drink'. So as extremely knowledgeable scribes Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith attest, beer is linguistically synonymous with the very act of drinking itself!
This, then, is the historical story of what is also my own personal favourite beverage, from time immemorial to its current social and skilful resurgence in this enlightened era of craft brewing. There's a little bit of supposition involved in just how far back we can trace the beginnings of brewing, at least 9,000 years perhaps, accidental as it must have been, in part purely due to technical limitations of archaeology. But, one glorious day, the coincidental introduction of airborne yeasts into stored grain that was germinating in the sun and then processed to make gruel - proto-bread, essentially - resulted in an unexpectedly intoxicating brew. A magical happening that would have been a wondrous mystery to prehistoric people. An extremely fortuitous discovery that undoubtedly took a lot of experimentation to replicate and ultimately refine.
We then move forward through time via the Mediaeval revolution in brewing techniques right through to our modern era getting the full timeline of the development of beer, or beers, in all their myriad weird and wonderful varieties, that we have come to know and love. It's truly educational stuff, I have to say: the level of research the creators have put in is testament to their own clear love for a drop or two of the heady brew.
We also get the occasional interlude of 'Meet The Beer' that describes the specific genesis of an individual type of beer, such as the Porter, a firm favourite of long-standing customer and frantic BUFFY flicker, Leigh Hobson. It's a brew that's a touch dark for my personal tastes, preferring pale ales as I do, but I was entranced like a drunkard in his cups reading the various origin stories of some of our favourite contemporary beers.
The art is provided by Aaron McConnell, who has illustrated a couple of other works in conjunction with Jonathan Hennessy: THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION and THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION that sound rather more dry, prohibitive affairs, but I'm sure are equally exciting to the right audience.
I shall conclude with a little excerpt from the introduction of this work, which made me chuckle greatly and also neatly highlighted another parallel between fine beer and top-notch comics I have noted. That is, you can't beat a good recommendation. Particularly if you purchase comics from Page 45 and beer from the truly excellent Brew Cavern situated in Flying Horse Walk Arcade. The book begins with someone walking into a beer emporium looking to purchase some decent brews for his friends and being utterly bemused as where to start even looking, simply utterly bedazzled by the sheer array on the shelves. Fortunately for him there's an omniscient and mildly insouciant retailer, in the best possible way, only too happy to help...
"Holy...! Where do I even start? Lambic? Bitter? Kölsch? Porter?!"
"Hi. Can I help you find something?"
"Yeah. Dumb question, but... what's good?"
"Beer. Beer is good!"
There's a cheeky glint in the eyes of the pictured shopkeeper, as he adjusts his glasses before getting to work, that I've definitely seen in the eyes of a certain Stephen L. Holland as he sets out to educate, inform and lighten the wallet / purse of any newcomer into Page 45 in exchange for some quality reading material. I've also had several similar experiences with the equally informed Matt at Brew Cavern in recent months! If you need some sage advice on how to refine your drinking habits to hitherto untasted heights, whilst also cleaning you out of your supply of ready cash, he certainly is your man! Just... don't spend all your money on beer instead of comics, please.