Q and A

Jane Peyton, Beer Sommelier | Q&A

Jane Peyton, Beer Sommelier | Q&A
Originally Posted on May 11, 2016

Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
Today’s post features Jane Peyton. Beer sommelier, writer and author, she’s taken time out of her busy schedule to talk to us, amongst other things, about Beer Day Britain.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do   Jane Peyton – beer sommelier, writer, author of several non-fiction books including ‘Beer o’ Clock’ and ‘Drink:  A Tippler’s Miscellany’. I am also the founder and Principal of the School of Booze – an events business specialising in beer, cider and wine tasting activities.

When did your love affair with beer begin and what inspired you to pursue your line of work?   I am from Yorkshire where there are many breweries and pubs.  From my earliest memory of seeing beer, in a pub, on the TV, I was intrigued how it was poured, how it looked in the glass, how it affected people.  When I tasted it for the first time at a young age I was instantly smitten and have been ever since.  Having been a beer drinker for all my drinking life, when I came to the point in my career that I wanted to start my own business I wanted to ensure I was doing something that I really enjoyed and that made people happy.  Now I am so lucky to have a job that I enjoy so much and what I do is spreads fun and conviviality.

Tell us about Beer Day Britain. How did it come about and what do you hope to achieve with it?   Beer Day Britain is the UK’s National Beer Day.  For years people in the beer industry had been saying that the country needed a national beer day but nobody did anything about it.  In 2014 I won the title of Britain’s Beer Sommelier of the Year and because my profile in the beer industry increased it gave me some leverage in talking to the different organisations in the beer industry and suggesting that we have a national beer day on June 15th. All the different groups in the beer industry, such as CAMRA, Society of Independent Brewers, British Beer & Pub Association got behind Beer Day Britain and helped to get the word out to beer drinkers.
I chose the date of June 15th because it is the same date as the anniversary of Magna Carta.  Ale is mention in Clause 35 of the Great Charter and so I thought this was the perfect way of giving more credibility to beer amongst the general public. Beer Day Britain happened for the first time in 2015 which was also the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta.  There was huge interest from around the world about Magna Carta and with Beer Day Britain being on the same day this helped enormously with media interest – not least with a national newspaper devoting its headline and front page and a page inside to Beer Day Britain. The beer advocacy organisation ‘There’s A Beer For That’ was the key partner in 2015 and their publicity and social media agencies were indispensable in raising awareness of the day and gaining so much media coverage. They are doing the same for Beer Day Britain 2016 so hopefully even more people will celebrate with beer on June 15th.
The aims of Beer Day Britain are to:
-To encourage people to drink beer and join the national party.
-To raise the profile of beer as Britain’s national drink and along with pubs, a major contributor to the economy and not least to the happiness of the nation.
-To make people proud of Britain’s amazing current brewing scene and heritage as the world’s brewing powerhouse and it’s role in spreading the love and knowledge of beer to all of earth’s hemispheres.
The focus of the day is the National Cheers To Beer.  People can do the cheers at whatever time suits them, but the main time is 7pm.  People are asked to raise a glass and say Cheers To Beer and if they use social media to post a message or photo using the hashtag is #CheersToBeer.
As beer is the most convivial of all drinks, I have co-written a song for people to sing wherever they drink beer.  I have co-written an anthem to beer called Cheers to Beer and people can download it (with lyrics, vocal score, karaoke backing track, telephone ringtone) to sing whenever they want but especially during the National Cheers to Beer.  Singing is good for the health and singing in company is even better for mental and physical health!  The song is available for download from

There was a time that the only involvement women had in the beer industry was in the tacky and sexist advertising many breweries employed. What do you think was the turning point, when it was finally understood that women enjoyed beer too?   I don’t believe there was a turning point as such and unfortunately, though the tacky sexist marketing is not as prevalent now, there are still too many breweries who indulge in this type of marketing.  They must not realise it is bad for business because not only does it alienate 51% of the population – women who do not buy their products, but there are countless men who despise that type of marketing.  Some of those men are amongst the best known beer influencers in the world and they boycott brewers that use sexist marketing.  Yes there are more high profile women in the beer world now – people such as Annabel Smith who is one of the country’s leading beer educators and trainers as well as being a beer sommelier and one of the most eloquent ambassadors for beer – male or female – there is.  Jessica Mason, a writer known professionally as the ‘Drinks Maven’ and who has a business of the same name is a passionate advocate for beer and effective communicator about it.  Like anything in life, we need role models and so the more women there are who drink beer and work in the beer industry, the more women will consider that beer is a drink for them and a career for them too.
It seems so peculiar that in 2016 there are men (and some women) who believe that beer is the domain of males and that women could not possibly like it and should not be drinking it.  Nobody claims that about tea or orange juice, wine or cider so why beer?  It’s so ironic given that of all food and drink, beer has more female elements than any other.  Women were the original brewers of beer (beer was food that was made in the home for the whole family – children included – to drink.  For thousands of years women were the primary brewers of beer.  All the major deities of beer are female, all the major deities of wine are male.  In brewing, it is the female part of the hop plant that is used in brewing – the male part stays in the field.  Hops are the second highest source of plant based oestrogen (female hormone) in the plant kingdom (soya is number one).  Yeast, which gives us alcohol, is female – there are no male yeasts.
The current British Brewer of the Year is a female – Jenn Merrick of BeaverTown Brewery – she follows another top brewer called Sara Barton of Brewster’s Brewing Company.  Sara was the first female to be awarded the Brewer of the Year accolade (2012).  Georgina Young is the Brewing Manager at Fuller’s – she is in charge of day-to-day brewing.  Emma Gilleland has been described as the most powerful person in British brewing in her guise as Director of the Supply Chain at Marston’s where she was formerly the head brewer.
Very slowly the dinosaur attitudes to women and beer are disappearing in Britain and craft beer has been very influential in changing those outmoded attitudes.

The craft beer movement seems to be going from strength to strength. Why do you think brewing has been such a great success in recent years?   It’s a great time to be a beer drinker isn’t it!  There are some incredible beers out there and such excitement and dynamism in the brewing and beer drinking world. The success is down to a number of factors.  The influence of the American Craft Beer Revolution cannot be under-estimated because its ‘no rules, let’s experiment, let’s not be constrained by what we can put into beer or the styles we brew’ attitude has spread around the world.  In the case of Britain it happened at a time when many people were more conscious of the provenance of their food and drink, food miles, buying local, knowing the producer of food & drink, an appreciation for better food and drink, demanding more flavoursome food & drink, wanting to support smaller businesses.  The credit crunch that started in 2008 had the effect of loss of confidence in large corporations, not trusting ‘the big man’, and going back to basics.  Brewing beer in a kitchen or in a small brewery is done on a human scale.  All these factors, plus there are some incredible brewers with imagination, inventiveness and a desire to make the best beer they can, means that we now have the most dynamic brewing scene we’ve ever known. Social media has been a major factor in spreading beer love.  But as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and without really great beers the craft brewing scene would not have prevailed.

Many breweries are experimenting with adding unusual flavours to their beers. Are there any you think work well together and are there any you would like to try? Right from the earliest days of brewing the women were adding herbs, spices, roots, fruits – anything to hand that would enhance the flavour, and is some cases act as medicine.    I always describe brewing as ‘like cooking but with bigger vessels and more washing up’ because the brewer is creating a recipe and thinking about what ingredients work well together.  I have been fortunate to have brewed several beers with Brewster’s Brewing Company and my favourite beer with extra ingredients is ‘Britannia’s Brew’ – the official beer of Beer Day Britain.  It contains botanicals to represent the four home nations – rose petals, heather flowers, seaweed and flax seeds.  It contains English malts and hops and is delicious!
When Sophie de Ronde was head brewer at Brentwood Brewery she brewed After 8 which was a mint Imperial Stout.  I thought that worked brilliantly.  She also brewed Clockwork Orange, a very dark malty beer with added orange to give it a real zest.  I really liked that one.
Gunnamatta Tea Leaf IPA by Yeastie Boys (from New Zealand, but now brewed in Britain) has Earl Grey tea added to it and is spectacular.
I wish someone would brew a beer that contained vegetables (seriously) so we could drink our 5 a day! Fermented food is more nutritious than non-fermented food so we would get enhanced nutrition that way.

What advice would you give to someone new to the world of beer and wanting to learn about the different styles?   Buy my book ‘Beer o Clock’!  It explains all the different styles of beer, what foods to match with them, what glassware is best to drink them out of.   Or they could go to the ‘There’s a Beer For That’ website.  That website is a useful resource for anyone who wants to know about beer – whether they are new to beer, or already knowledgeable.

What do you think makes a great beer?   Great beers are made by people who care about beer and about using the best ingredients. To me a beer should be balanced so all the ingredients are in harmony.  Many beers now are so skewed towards the hops that they end up overwhelming the senses and all tasting the same.  I love hops but beer can be made without them.  It cannot be made without malt.  My plea to brewers is don’t ignore the malt – we want to taste it!  That’s why I rate beers from Brewster’s Brewing Company so highly – the beers are always balanced and despite the brewery favouring vibrantly hoppy beers, you can always taste the malts.  They make beautiful beers.

If you had to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world?   It’s so hard to choose because it depends on mood, the weather, the company.  But these three are ones I come back to again and again. In no order of preference they are:

Brown Ale by Barrel & Sellers.  This is a small brewery in Suffolk and they make such drinkable, quality, unshowy beers from English malts and hops. They are one of only two breweries in the UK to use Imperial pint (568ml) bottles.  Beers of Europe – please will you start stocking their beers?

IPA by Brewster’s Brewing Company. It is like being rewarded by marmalade and marmalade is one of my favourite flavours.

Duchesse de Bourgogne by Verhaeghe. A tangy sour Red Flanders Ale that resembles Balsamic vinegar and is a beer I regularly dream about.

What was your first drink and where were you when you had it?   A tiny glass of cider at home on Christmas Day when I was about 6 years old.  My parents allowed us to have a small sample on this day only with our Christmas Dinner. Even now that meal is not complete without cider.

What drink can you no longer face having had one too many?   Tequila.

What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk?   Eaten a kebab.  I’m a vegetarian.

What is the best part of your job?   Being paid to drink beer. I can’t believe how fortunate I am!

Thank you to Jane for chatting to us. You can find out more about Beer Day Britain by visiting the website.