Monty Python star Terry Jones, who died in January, had a love affair with beer – and he helped make it as well as drink it . In 1977 he founded with Peter Austin the Penrhos Brewery in Herefordshire, writes Roger Protz
It was one of the early micro-breweries and it encouraged Austin – known as the father of micro-brewing – to go on and build plants in many parts of Britain and then the United States, Europe and even China. His best-known British brewery is Ringwood in Hampshire.
I recall going to Penhros on a bitterly cold Saturday in the depths of winter and sampling a delicious beer called Jones’s First Brew. That same year Terry officially opened the Great British Beer Festival at Alexandra Palace in North London. He was hilarious. He said while wine tasters like to sniff, sample and spit, for beer drinkers it all depended on how the drink hit your boots.
To prove the point, he proceeded to pour several pints of beer over his head. When he’d finished, he was drying himself and changing his shirt when two photographers from national newspapers, carrying cumbersome plate cameras, came over and one said to Terry: “ ‘Ere, Tel, we didn’t catch that – would you mind doing it again?” The great trooper that he was, he then doused himself in beer for a second time.
Terry said that while the Penrhos brewery didn’t survive for long it did inspire others to follow in its tracks. Among them was David Bruce who launched his chain of Firkin brew pubs complete with terrible puns as well as cask ale. Even Terry must have winced at the slogan of the Phoenix & Firkin in Denmark Hill near to his home in South London: “If he nicks my beer, I’ll firkin punch him!”
In 2003 Terry contributed a fine piece for the 30th edition of the Good Beer Guide called “My Love Affair with Beer”. “Beer, for me, is more than something I like drinking. It’s a litmus of civilisation. If the society is making good beer, then it’s a healthy society.”
In 2014, when the Pythons reformed for a short run of stage sketches in London, I contacted Terry and told him a small brewery in Yorkshire, Little Valley, brewed a beer called Python IPA. He was delighted and said he would order a crate for the dressing room.
As he said in his GBG piece: “Real ale is a civilised drink. Keg beer is a dead parrot.”
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