On Books, Beer and Blogs: A Chat with Brian from ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’

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I had a little chit-chat with Brian from Melbourne Pub Culture on things that should be chatted about: books, beer and blogs! ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’ is a blog dedicated to the pub-scene in Melbourne. The site boasts venue reviews, great photos, interviews, historical background on some of the city’s oldest establishments and of course – the lowdown on what’s hot on tap! If you are interested in Melbourne, pubs, architecture, history or finding a nice beer garden to spend the remaining summer days, check out www.melbournepubculture.com.

Hi Brian, thanks for taking a moment to chat about some of your favourite things: blogs, beer and books. Tell me, what inspired you to start your blog ‘Melbourne Pub Culture’?

I guess there were three things:

1. Firstly, I think that a good session at one of Melbourne’s amazing, historic pubs with a bunch of friends is pretty much the best way to spend some free time. I’m a really social person and pubs just seem to promote socialising. They’ve been meeting places for the people of Melbourne for over 160 years. I find that history really fascinating.

2. I may have a slight blog addiction. I really don’t want to know how many hours a week I spend on Google Reader (this is a Google service that brings together all your blog subscriptions in the one place). I read blogs on all kinds of topics from health and fitness to architecture and design, even street art. After spending so much time reading other people’s blogs I started to think it would be really cool to have my own. I haven’t really had a creative outlet in years and I think I’ve really missed that. Thus my blog was born.

3. My partner Brooke’s encouragement. She helped me get started, edits my posts and she’s good at talking to people she doesn’t know, which has come in really useful when talking to pub owners.

You are passionate about beer and pubs, I happen to know you are also an avid reader – what is your favourite place to sit with a brew and a book?

Brian sits with a beer in one hand and book in the other

Brian from melbournepubculture.com at home with brew and book in hand.

Oh, good question! Some pubs are quite good for reading in that you can find a cosy corner that isn’t too loud and park yourself there for hours on end. Others are a bit more rowdy, making it difficult to focus on the pages in front of you. The first place that comes to mind for reading is The North Fitzroy Star in the back streets of Fitzroy. Or else if it’s a warm and sunny day the beer garden at The Standard, also in Fitzroy. However, I’m still looking for that perfect pub to read during winter. A pub with a couch by an open fireplace.. that would be perfect.

A bookish birdie told me that you read the short list for the Man Booker Prize each year. Where did that tradition begin and what’s been your most memorable read?

I’d say about seven or maybe eight years ago? I’d noticed that a lot of books I’d been getting into were short-listed for the Booker. I mentioned this to a mate of mine and he ran with it and organised a whole bunch of us to try and read the short list (six books). We then got together the night before the winner was announced and each voted for our favourite. We’ve been doing it ever since.

As for my most memorable Booker read, I can’t name just one! I really liked Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood were amazing too.

In your opinion, which beveridge would best compliment the following authors:

Jane Austen: Hmmm. Something ye olde. Something English, something a little bit formal and posh…maybe an Abbot Ale or Old Speckled Hen?

Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway used to drink. A lot. I’ve heard that as a young reporter he used to drink cheap beer and even cheaper wine. So I’d probably match Hemingway with a cheap domestic beer. Perhaps something I used to drink as a broke student, such as Carlton Draught.

David Mitchell: He started out writing edgy, quirky, postmodern, dreamy novels, but his style has developed over time and he now writes more traditional, but nonetheless engaging, novels. I’d maybe go with Taxi pilsner from 2 Brothers Brewing. They have quirky beer labels and tap heads and their Taxi is one of my favourite beers. It would go perfectly with Dave, one of my favourite authors.

Charles Dickens: Dickens’ novels tend to deal with quite dark subject matters. I’m thinking you would want to read him with an equally dark beer. There is hope in his writing though, so maybe something with a sweet edge. How about a Chimay Blue… brewed by Trappist monks.

Oscar Wilde: I’m thinking something a little bit fruity, I’m thinking something a little bit different, I’m thinking a brilliant beer that you just can’t put down. Matso’s Mango beer from Broome WA would be perfect.

OK, the inevitable question: You find yourself alone, trapped in a deserted brewery. You can take one book – what would it be and why?

I’d struggle with the whole “one book” thing. Can I take my Kindle and call that one book? I guess I would have to go with…no, no, I can’t leave out…oh, but I must…if forced to take only one book it would have to be To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. It’s a little cliché to say that it’s my favourite book, but it just had such an impact on me when I first read it… and every time I’ve read it since for that matter.

Brian, thanks for chatting with me about books, beer and blogging! I look forward to what Melbourne Pub Culture has in store in 2012.

Prost!

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