Author reveals the challenges of brewing beer in a new tome

How the French got my goat! Author reveals the challenges of brewing beer in a new tome – including the day he joined the search for the village mayor’s farm animal

  • Tommy Barnes moved to a village in the Loire valley to become a microbrewer
  • Shares challenges of his career in a follow-up to earlier book, Beer In The Loire
  • Recounts joining search for a goat just when he was starting brewing process

MEMOIR 

TROUBLE BREWING IN THE LOIRE 

by Tommy Barnes (Muswell Press £12.99, 234 pp)

What does the future hold when you didn’t quite make it as a stand-up comedian and you’ve just been made redundant as a graphic designer? Six years ago Tommy Barnes decided to move to a small village in the Loire valley to become a microbrewer.

That’s right, in a part of France that is renowned the world over for its wines, he decided to make beer.

He bought a small brewery from a man in Wales, as you do, and set it up in a scruffy, cobwebbed outbuilding at the home he shared with his wife, Rose, small son, Albert, and a menagerie of animals that wouldn’t look out of place in a particularly eccentric episode of All Creatures Great And Small.

Tommy Barnes, who moved to a small village in the Loire valley to become a microbrewer six years ago has penned a book about the challenges of his profession (file image)

Trouble Brewing In The Loire is the follow-up to an earlier book, A Beer In The Loire. As you might guess from the title, Tommy’s new career is not going entirely well. Luckily, as we know from Clarkson’s Farm, chaos and failure are nearly always more entertaining than success.

Even Tommy’s rare successes are chaotic. He decides to make a new, ruddy-coloured beer, Sang de Braslou (Braslou is his home village). He starts the brewing process, but then gets a call from the village mayor to say that Twinkle, the family’s miniature goat, has escaped and taken refuge in the mairie.

Tommy, the mayor, and the mayor’s secretary attempt to catch Twinkle, helped by a growing crowd. Eventually there are 15 people pursuing one small goat, who is eventually cornered in a neighbour’s garage. By some miracle, Tommy gets home just in time to start the next part of the brewing process.

There is a steady but small trade in Braslou beer at local markets, but Tommy begins to struggle financially. His bottle supplier is threatening to send the bailiffs in, and as if that weren’t enough his beer begins to taste sour.

TROUBLE BREWING IN THE LOIRE by Tommy Barnes (Muswell Press £12.99, 234 pp)

On the advice of a neighbouring micro-brewer, he improves his cleaning regime (all his neighbours, even rival brewers, are a wonderful advertisement for Anglo-French relations) and there is such an improvement that hypermarkets and a local hotel begin to take interest.

And then comes Le Containment, which is French for lockdown.

Tommy starts a home delivery service and gets some help from the government, but the family — who now have a baby daughter — are really struggling.

It is at this point that the book becomes a little darker. Tommy begins to feel that his ramshackle brewery, so unlike the neat and tidy operation of his friend, Benoit, is a reflection of his personality. ‘It was sad and broken and ashamed of itself and there was no care to it,’ he says. ‘No order. No care taken. No love given to it.’

It is Rose who eventually puts the family out of its misery. She says she’s had enough of struggling in the Loire, and wants to move to Cornwall to be near her parents.

On the upside, it should be much easier to sell beer in Cornwall. And if it’s not, well, at least there should be enough material for a third book.

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