It’s The Beer Talking

Author: Ian Clayton

It’s The Beer Talking

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Tags: Signed Copy, Ian Clayton Books, Coalfield Culture

Winner of The British Guild of Beer Writers Award for Best Writer about Pubs

Where do we go to meet old friends? What is our first port of call when we want to show new mates something that speaks about our identity? The pub of course, or better still our local.

Author Ian Clayton embarked on a lifelong love affair with local pubs in the middle of the 1970s. He has raised a glass in neighbourhood bars around the world for more than forty years. His stories are intertwined with quests to find perfect pints and peoples’ palaces and about joining in with the joy he finds in the unique gathering place we call the public house.

He moves across the generations and boundaries to take a glimpse at what makes the pub tick. Humorous and poignant by turns, It’s The Beer Talking tells of the laughter, the tears, the cheers, the remembering and forgetting, but most of all the camaraderie we all crave. This book will resonate with anyone who as ever uttered that immortal phrase, ‘Do you fancy a pint?’

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Roger Protz, Editor Good Beer Guide 2000-2018

You won’t read a better book about beer and pubs than this one. This is a truly wonderful book that will have you wiping away tears of laughter and gagging for a pint.

Times Literary Supplement

A beautiful, strange, dark chronicle of a lifetime spent in pubs and bars. I rather like Ian Clayton. His style is so refreshing, so sweet, and ever so slightly nutty.

Barrie Pepper, former Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers

Ian Clayton was four when he first tasted beer. That stolen mouthful from his grandad’s pint was important, it helped mark Ian’s path through life. Here he develops this well-established theme and goes further by proving that every pub has a story to tell. This book is filled with amazing characters who, along with Ian, have kept the pub alive and let the beer continue to do the talking.

Morning Advertiser

Clayton writes that his drinking career began, as many do, by nicking some of grandad’s Guinness when he was four years old. Almost 60 years later, the pub – along with his other great passion of music – has shaped his life. This memoir is joyous, hilarious and life-affirming, nostalgic and sad, and vital and optimistic. It’s rooted in West Yorkshire and evokes the role of the pub in declining mining communities as successfully as any academic social history, but draws on commonalities that everyone will recognise, wherever their local happens to be.

Norma Waterson

I read it in one sitting. It’s true, hilarious and makes you feel that the world is still a great place to live.

Pete Brown

One of the best books I’ve read about beer, pubs, friendship and humanity for an awfully long time.

David Marx Book Reviews

To be sure, It’s The Beer Talking is something of a risible visitation upon the sort of beer induced watering holes, each and every one of us has sometimes had the utmost pleasure of waking into. And then eventually stumbling out of. Ian Clayton has a knack for spinning a yarn – quite often, out of almost of nothing – and then regaling it in such a way that one is compelled to keep coming back for more … it is this capturing of colour and nuance, that sets Ian Clayton’s terrific writing apart from an ever widening menagerie of soulless (colourless) others.

Mark Seaman, Revolutions Brewery

Ian’s love and appreciation of beer, pubs and the people that frequent them is obvious. His adventures in various locals around the world are both entertaining and poignant.

Beer Buzz

Ian Clayton’s book is laced with anecdotal encounters with eclectic and eccentric characters. He’s obviously a seasoned traveller and imbiber and he certainly knows his stuff. It is witty, funny and delightfully set out, it positively talk’s beer – screams it even.

Samantha Smith, Mallinson’s Brewery Taphouse

Fermented magic. A heartfelt adventure of beer, tears and laughter. In my pub I often hear the line 'You couldn’t write it'. Ian just has.

Ed’s Pint

This is no lightweight style guide but a serious piece of writing. Ian is a fine writer who paints a vivid picture of working-class life in the North of England as reflected through the prism of the pub.

What’s Brewing

An amusing collection of stories, anecdotes and memories, all washed down with copious amounts of cask beer. As part of the endless search to find the perfect pub with the perfect pint, it’s well worth a read.

What's The Beer Book About

What's The Beer Book About

Ian Clayton outlines his idea behind his memoir It's The Beer Talking

Haxey Hood

An extract from It's The Beer Talking. Ian Clayton recalls a day out at the Haxey Hood, an ancient form of pub folklore that takes place on the twelth day of Christmas.

Martin decided he wanted to go to see the Haxey Hood game. This is an ancient form of village pub folklore that takes place every January on the twelfth day of Christmas, or as Martin would have it, old Christmas day. Haxey Hood is a kind of rugby match that involves hundreds of villagers from Haxey and nearby Westwoodside struggling across open fields with a leather-coated cylinder, trying to get it back to their favourite pub. Once the landlord or landlady of the pub touches the cylinder the game is over. It can take up to four hours to complete the game and by that time there is mud all over, more than a few cuts and bruises and the odd broken bone. Local folklore says that the game has been taking place since the middle ages. In 1359, so the story goes, Lady de Mowbray, the wife of the John de Mowbray, Baron of Axholme, was out riding when her silk hood blew off as she came over the brow of the hill between the two villages. Some field labourers chased the hood as it blew on the wind, until one lad caught it and returned it to the lady. So charmed was the lady by the kindness of the lads, that she is said to have donated a piece of land on condition that the chasing of the hood was re-enacted every year on the same date. It could be true, except that their are no written records to take the game back much further than Victorian times, but there certainly was a Baron and Lady de Mowbray back in the middle of the 14th century.

The year that Martin, his partner Hazel, our mate Paul and I went, the Hood was held on a Saturday. If the twelfth day of Christmas falls on a Sunday, they hold the game the day before. These days, the Hood is played between four pubs: Kings Arms, The Loco, Duke William and Carpenters Arms at Westwoodside. The idea being that the hood is delivered into the hands of the proprietor of one of those four pubs. Before the game starts there is a great procession like something out of The Wicker Man. A ‘fool’ dressed in brightly coloured strips of cloth is followed by ‘boggins’ dressed in red hunting coats and bowler hats with flowers on them. The fool then stands on a stone in front of the church and makes a speech. At the end of the speech some damp straw is set alight around him in a ritual known as ‘Smoking the Fool’ and then he encourages the crowd in a chant ‘Hoose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if a man meet a man, nok ’im doon, but doant ’ot ’im.’ After that everybody heads up to a field above the village and the game starts when the hood is thrown into the air. Before all of that though, a lot of singing and supping happens in the Duke William.

The singing is loud and raucous. The pub is overflowing. It takes Martin nearly half an hour to come back from the bar with the ale and he prides himself on his ability to catch a barmaid’s eye. We spill more beer than we sup trying to find a place to stand amongst the elbows knees and sweating bodies. The gathered crowd sing ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Drink England Dry’ and at least three versions of ‘The Farmer’s Boy’. Martin joins in with glee.

And when the lad becomes a man
The good old farmer died
And left the lad the farm he had
And his daughter for a bride
The lad that was, the farm now has
Oft smiles and thinks with joy
Of the lucky day he came that way
To be a farmer’s boy

On the last line everybody chucks what is remaining in their glasses into the air. I don’t know who gives the signal, but as one, everybody leaves the pub and makes their way up to the field beyond the church. The chief boggin throws the hood into the air and what the locals call ‘the sway’ forms. It’s like a rugby scrum involving robust men, women, boys and girls of all ages. The scrum collapses, they all stop then stand up again and off it goes once more. It’s exhausting work and very muddy. A lot of the players wear sports wear, overalls and boiler suits, but we see teenage girls in jeans and t-shirts getting stuck in as well. Of course there’s no show without punch so Martin joins in with the shoving and decides he’s on the Westwoodside team and tries to help their lads push the sway over the brow of the hill and down to the Carpenters Arms. The sway is like a whale thrashing about in the shallows, but once it gets onto the road between the two villages it gathers momentum.

On the day we were there the sway lasted over four hours, it was dark before the landlady at the Kings Arms at the other end of Haxey managed to get a grip of the hood. We enjoyed taking part in the game, it’s something that is a special part of village and pub folklore. More than that, there’s a lot of dressing up involved, a lot of singing and storytelling and, most of all, a lot of ale drinking. Martin was in his glory that day.

The pubs in Haxey are used to the mess and prepare for it days before. They move anything that might get broken out of the way and line the carpets and walls of their pubs with thick sheets of plastic. On the street outside everybody moves their parked cars. One of the locals told me that a visitor who didn’t know the routine once left his car in the way of the action. He found it the following day in a field, hundreds of yards away from where he’d parked it.

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Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss; It’s The Beer Talking, about adventures in public houses; In Search of Plainsong tells the full story of the original 1972 incarnation of the folk-rock group and their debut album In Search of Amelia Earhart. He co-wrote Iain Matthews’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes and Anne Scargill & Betty Cook's memoir Anne & Betty.

Books: Bringing It All Back Home, Song For My Father, It’s The Beer Talking, In Search of Plainsong

Co-author: Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir, Anne & Betty.

Ian’s website:

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