Commendationes Tabernae II: Cervisiae Lupinae

This feature will now have a Latin title.  Why?  Because Latin is cool!  At any rate, I had hoped that this feature would be weekly, but it is harder to sense a legitimate connection between booze and books than I thought.  Of course, the connection can be obvious, like if a book features a certain alcoholic beverage prominently.  (E.g. James Bond novels and vodka martinis)  But, usually I’m going for something more subtle and relying upon gut feeling.

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For example, one beer which won’t be recommended below is North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner, which recalls the manga Chrono Crusade to mind.  Chrono Crusade is a Japanese comic set in America with Model 1911 toting nuns fighting supernatural battles against rebel demons and other things that go bump in the night.  The Scrimshaw reminds me of this book because it is an Americanized version of a foreign beer in the same way as Chrono Crusade is a Japanese version of America.  The beer’s creaminess evokes the diary farms of Wisconsin–where much of the manga’s action takes place, its brewer is based in California–whither our heroes journey, and the many scenes occurring around a wharf and other areas of blue-collar labor remind me that pilsners are beloved of the working class.

However, you won’t see me recommending manga here!  I have Medieval Otaku for that.  Interestingly, the three beer and book combinations this week are all related to wolves in some way.  May you find time to enjoy both the literature and the ale!

Founders Centennial IPA

1) Founders’ Centennial IPA

This beer features some well integrated flavors.  Melded with the malt backbone of the beer are the hops which lend it sweet grapefruit and piney bitterness.  My friend disliked the piney aftertaste, but I thought the flavors balanced better than most American IPAs.  Its fine balance makes me almost think of it as an English IPA.

What work of literature does this beer bring to mind?  None other than The Sight by David Clement-Davies.  This happens to be one of the most tragic books I’ve ever read, made even more so by how endearing the characters were.  Our main characters happen to be wolves living during a turbulent time in the Middle Ages.  This is probably one of the best YA novels ever produced.  So, the piney flavor of the IPA reminds me of the tragedy, the sweet malt and grapefruit hops of the likable characters, and the well balanced flavors of the book’s solid storytelling.  Yet, to tell you the truth, I forgot what the main plot of the story was.  I’ll have to revisit it someday!

The Sight

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2) Victory Brewing’s Winter Cheers

This is a very unusual beer: a wheat ale made for the winter months!  Most winter ales fall among the winter warmer, porter, or stout range.  Winter Cheers makes up for its lack of malt by having a full and voluptuous body.  The banana and clove flavors taste very vibrant on the palate–almost as vibrant as the Belgian ale called Duval.  At the same time, I can’t help but compare it to Weihenstephaner, a very famous wheat ale produced originally in a German abbey.

Another picture of the same beer

Another picture of the same beer

And so, this beer reminds me of Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura.  (Yes, I won’t recommend comics here, but light novels are another animal!)  Holo starts out as a goddess famed for producing great harvests of wheat.  Yet, around the time of the first novel, a new monotheistic religion with parallels to the Catholic Church has gained ascendancy, which causes the villagers to cease to believe in Holo.  She decides to leave the village and enlists the aid of the travelling merchant Craft Lawrence so that she may return to her snowy homeland of Yoitsu.  This story features several action scenes and much intrigue.  When things get too rough, Holo can transform into a giant wolf when she drinks blood or nibbles on a little wheat.

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How does the beer remind me of that besides the obvious parallel of wheat beer and a wheat goddess?  That this wheat ale is made for winter reminds me that the final destination of the novel is the northern region of Yoitsu.  The fact that paganism proceeds from the father of lies, the devil (Duval in Belgian), and that both paganism and the devil are opposed by the God’s Church–prominent members of which live in abbeys–remind me of how this beer’s viscosity is somewhere between Duval and Weihenstephaner.  Holo herself is a very vibrant and unique character, as Winter Cheers is a vibrant and unique beer.

Too late did I realize that I should have used a straight pour. :(

Too late did I realize that I should have used a straight pour. 😦

3) Lancaster Brewery’s Winter Warmer

Here’s a proper winter warmer!  (It is also better served at room temperature–or at least not ice cold.)  High in alcohol at 8.9% ABV and strong in malt bill, this robust beer helps one relax during the winter months.  Potent dark chocolate bitterness almost suppresses the hints of apple and cherry.  That some of its proceeds go to support the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania show its connection to wolves.

The novel reminiscent of this beer hit me like a sack of bricks: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  The dark chocolate bitterness reminds me of the nihilism running through the novel.  This almost suppresses the fact that life has meaning, but that meaning is still perceptible–as the dark chocolate of the beer cannot totally efface the fruity notes.  The dark black color with a reddish hue around the edges reminds me that the book began with the black and bloody deed of murder.  This same hue can be found in Russian Imperial stouts, which forms the final connection.

C&P

Tavern Recommendations for Books, Beer, and Other Refreshments #1

By now, many of you have likely given up on seeing that article on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from me.  Don’t despair!  National Blog Posting Month is upon us, and I am reading the poem; so, it shall certainly be posted one day soon–as long as I write one post per diem, anyway.

Inside a tavern

But, a new idea popped into my head.  It’s been a while since I’ve written a beer review (over two years ago to be precise), and, though this website is dedicated to history and literature, it’s named after a pub.  I’ve determined on a way to combine the two.  When one does a beer tasting and records that it has flavors of malt, caramel, coffee, pears, tea, apple, or whatever, they are recording the flavor impressions which they receive on the tongue.  In most cases, brewers do not actually add caramel, coffee, pears, apples, or tea to their brews, but the beer still impresses one as having those flavors.  (Probably not all in the same beer.)  Other alcohols feature the same phenomenon.  Why should it not be possible for spirits, wine, or beer to somehow connect with a piece of literature?

Monk drinking wine

Suspend your disbelief, my dear readers!  Please read on and see whether there might be some truth to my assertion.  At any rate, you might discover some nice brews and interesting books.  I hope that my co-writer will soon join me on this project.  You see, beer and he do not mix well; so, he shall likely focus on wines and spirits in order to give more variety to these posts.

While the following drinks perhaps ought to be reserved until after you’ve read the works in question, I’m sure that you will enjoy talking about them over these fine craft beers.

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1) Tröeg’s JavaHead Stout

I’m a great fan of this brewery and Pennsylvania’s beers in general.  I enjoyed the hearty coffee and vanilla flavors featured in this stout.  Perhaps, I should have tried it warm in order to see if other flavors came out when tried at this temperature.  At any rate, this stout is very simple, hearty, and pleasant, which brings me to the following recommendation.

The Seaside Parish by George MacDonald

George MacDonald’s books are often down-to-earth themselves–unless we speak of his masterpieces, Phantasies and Lilith.  Like the stout, his books are simple and filling–only, they fill the soul rather than the belly.  Often, his novels feel like a long sermon, but a sermon which strikes new and interesting chords all the time.  The Seaside Parish features a simple pastor whose daughter becomes paralyzed in a riding accident.  This leads to various questions about man’s duty to God and the right way to follow the Will of God.  A simple but hearty work.

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2) Lagunitas Censored Rich Copper Ale

This is one powerful beer!  The Beer Advocate website classifies this as an American Amber/ Red Ale, but the dark fruit and tea flavors reminded me of a German altbier.  Indeed, it feels like an altbier with a twist–the twist being the loads of caramel malt added to the brew.  I need to restrain myself lest I buy a whole case of the stuff!

Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach

Most of our chivalric literature comes from England and France, but Parzival is perhaps the best of chivalric literature from Germany.  It uses figures from Arthurian legend but carries a very different flavor from other such works.  Very much like how the Censored tastes like an altbier, but has something more.  The story follows Parzival, known to most English speakers as Percival, from his early years to his attainment of knighthood and some of his adventures.  After his father’s death, Parzival’s mother attempted to keep her infant son away from knights so that he might not take up the swords and suffer the same fate as his father.  But, he runs into some knights during his late adolescence and nothing can shake Parzival from his desire to become a knight.  A fun and rather quirky tale.

Hope that you liked these recommendations!