Trouble Brewing in the Loire – Tommy Barnes

TROUBLE BREWING IN THE LOIRE: I did it! It’s taken me two and a half months, but I finally read all of Tommy Barnes’ new book. And since the novel slash memoir is set when Tommy’s second child was born through to around Bam Bam‘s current age, I’m sure he can appreciate why it’s taken me so long.

The length of time it’s taken me to read in no way reflects on the quality of the story. It is an amusing tale of Tommy and his family’s life in the Loir. He’s brewing beer and trying to make a new life. This is the second of Tommy’s books and I’m afraid I haven’t read the first one (cheapskate) but I understand that was shortlisted for a coveted Fortnum & Mason award. Trouble Brewing is a rickety rollercoaster ride through Tommy’s experiences of brewing well, brewing badly and selling beer to the French. All this whilst trying to manage an unwieldy collection of small children and various animals.

Trouble Brewing in the Loire

The Evening Standard describes Tommy as an anti-hero of homebrewers. I found it easy to warm to him and the various twists and turns he experienced. Some problems of his own making he candidly describes. Other times you will root for him as the victim of circumstance. He battles through French open-air markets, the trials of selling to the on-trade and finally the experience of Le Confinement – the Coronavirus lockdown.

Tribulations of an English Brewer

The book is full of humour. Perhaps not quite laugh-out-loud moments. However, I certainly indulged in the occasional uncontained snort as I read about poorly designed roundabouts and beer-neutral breweries. Not to mention escaping goats and the possible reincarnation of the spirit of The People’s Princess.

Yes, it does get quite surreal at times. But these flights of fantasy are tempered with a nice selection of recipes. Not the ones from the Chatsworth Bakehouse at the back of the book, lovely as they are. Tommy’s hilarious descriptions of how his various beers are brewed really make the book for me.

You don’t have to be into beer to enjoy this book. A rudimentary knowledge of brewing will certainly make reading this book a little funnier. Tommy’s experiences certainly hit home with me. The marketing meetings around the breakfast table with his wife and two small children certainly cut pretty close to the bone. Reading the book provides entertainment of the sort that cannot be attained by watching any number of terrible Escape to the Chateau style programmes that you wish to mention. In that it is entertaining.

This book was gifted to me. I’m afraid no one can control what comes out on the keyboard when I write these things.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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