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 Magic/realism… where beer meets the netherworld

Tommy Cooper did magic, though like many a duff brewery’s beers his tricks usually went wrong; David Copperfield also dabbles in magic, glitzed up and given the gift of the gab — if he was a brewery, he’d have tripped over himself in the rush to get to the door when Mr Anheuser-Busch knocked.

Then there is Merlin, who probably never existed but some (probably monastic) scribe, in the wake of the Romans leaving, managed to weave a magic spell that has lasted down the centuries (a bit like one of the small group of family breweries still surviving).

As you might have guessed from this preamble, this is our magic issue, though we’re aiming more towards Gabriel García Marquéz than Paul Daniels.

When we talk about magic in brewing and beer, it often comes down to the process of fermentation, when yeast in the pre-Pasteur time, as Pete Brown recollects (not from personal memory), was known as ‘godisgoode’, because nobody had a clue about where that foam on top of the fermenting beer came from — and given the grip of religion in this period there was only — thing that could explain it.

Then there is the magic and fantasy that threads its way through Belgian beer like a vein of gold in a mine overseen by the Nibelung. Our very own master of magical writing, Joe Stange, is just the person to investigate this sense of the fantastic.

We also look at ritual in beer and the myths that hold sway, while elsewhere Emma Inch has written a fantastic essay on how some pubs can be safe havens and others not.

There’s also our usual round of reviews, a bit of a q&a with masterful Czech brewer Adam Matuška, barrel-aged beer and Pilsner going under the microscope and a general sense of magical realism. Do enjoy (in the company of a magical beer, naturally).

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor