- Story originally published 10 September 2008
Monty Python is what Terry Jones is best known and loved for, but there's a side of his life that we don't hear much about, and a claim to fame with it.
I met Terry for the first time drinking in my local pub in Highgate, and I noticed that he liked a pint of ale. He seemed like he was a connoisseur - and as it transpired I wasn't far off. "I'm a member of CAMRA," he says.
I ask him if this is a political act or more a question of taste?
"It is a bit of both really," he explains. "But what interests me about brewing is that it's one of those things that can't survive under capitalists because if you're only interested in making money then eventually you won't brew beer any more. You would just sell spirits, or something like that."
So making beer is about love? "Making real beer is about saying 'I'm going to make something that's really good', and about saying 'I'm NOT going to make the maximum amount of money I can make'," he says.
He continues: "Brewing is an interesting test of motivation, if your motive is just to make money you won't make real beer… you have to want to make real beer."
With the major pub groups running guest ale programmes, there has been an upsurge in the small brewery business. And this is an area Terry has played a strong part in: "I have to say I claim to have started the microbrewery business."
And it all started in 1977 after the success of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
"It unexpectedly made us a lot of money," says Terry. "In those days you had to pay 84 per cent tax over a certain rate, so we either paid this over to the government or started a business. I started a magazine but I also started a brewery in Herefordshire called Penrhos. We were the first
microbrewery - a lot of people came and looked at what we were doing, and kind of learned from our mistakes. So I told Peter Austin that we were thinking of setting up a brewery, and he came and set it up for us, and after that he set up his own brewery, Ringwood.
"He started setting up small breweries for everyone - he became the godfather, the guru of the microbrewery business. But we sort of got it started."
A loyal fan
This isn't something Terry does any more, he's currently concentrating on his writing, with his latest work Evil Machines, an opera, doing well. But he still loves a pint of ale, so I ask him what his favourite is.
"I always used to be a fan of Brakspear beers. Adnams is good too, but it's better when you have it Suffolk rather than London, I don't know why, it tastes different there," he muses.
Drinking the right beer is certainly more important to Terry then what the venue's like - and here are some things publicans might like to think about. For Terry, a pub doesn't need music, it should be easy to get served at the bar as mad scrums irritate him (though he's perfectly polite, in only the way Terry Jones can be, once he gets to the bar); and most importantly he can't drink a beer that's not served at the right temperature.
So Terry, as we speak, is probably trawling some new pubs trying to find the ideal place to enjoy a tasty brew. Have a good pint of cask ready for him.