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.



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.


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!


The Princess and the Goblin

About two years ago, I decided to pick up Weighted and Wanting, which for me has spawned a great interest in regard to George MacDonald.  I have since read many of his poems, a play titled Within and Without, The Princess and the Goblin, and I have almost completed Hope of the Gospel.  The ways he employs Scriptural ideas and themes in his works reinvigorates my faith.  The Princess and the Goblin, upon which this article will focus, employs ideas from the Gospels and the Pslams especially: God is a loving Father (something which receives particular emphasis in all MacDonald’s works), faith is logical though above reason, and evil beings fall into the very same traps they laid for the righteous.

The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin stands as my favorite work of his thus far.  In this novel, MacDonald manages to inculcate his themes without resorting to sermons–a weakness both he and his most fervent disciple, C. S. Lewis, share even in works of fiction.  This work focuses on the adventures of Princess Irene and the nefarious plot of the goblins to conquer a human kingdom–or the sun kingdom as they call it–by subterfuge.  The fairy tale MacDonald weaves for us combines elements of mystery, fantasy, and darkness.  I would say that the novel’s best parts involve Curdie’s efforts to spy on the goblins.  Since Princess Irene and Curdie met on one fateful evening, Curdie became my favorite character.  He stands as the most courageous character next to the king himself: he sings in the face of his goblin enemies and has no qualms about risking a crossbow bolt to warn the castle of the danger imperiling them.

I mentioned that Curdie sings in the face of goblins before.  This is because goblins and their enemies are so warped that they hate anything joyful.  In this regard one sees that MacDonald based them on demons, who are similarly warped and hate the light.  The goblins have small hearts and small statures with rock hard heads.  Their hard heads must symbolize their pride and hardness of heart.  They cannot repent or μετανοειν–“to have a change of mind” as the Greek word for repentance literally means.


On the other hand, the best characters in the story are often icons pointing to beings greater than them.  For example, the king’s conduct easily brings to mind MacDonald’s understanding of God the Father, Princess Irene is an excellent example of a faithful Christian, and Curdie’s mother of the ideal Christian wife–free in that her opinions have an influence on her husband and child and free in that her service and obedience to her husband and son ennoble her.  I am sure that Irene’s great-great-grandmother also symbolizes something greater than she appears, but I am not sure what.  A soul in paradise?  The scenes with her, some of the most fantastic in the work, tend to be happy and inspiring.

Some parts of the book strike one as very slow, but MacDonald inserts enough suspense that this only causes the reader to turn pages more energetically.  The lessons regarding faith, trust, and good cheer in difficult situations are particularly worth imbibing.  Now, I must read Phantasies and Lilith–otherwise my partner on this website will chide for not trying those books again by this point!

And, another way to enjoy The Princess and the Goblin is through this excellent cartoon movie made in 1991:

Article Ideas for the Coming Weeks

Hello, dear readers!  My compatriot on this blog has unfortunately fallen ill, but I hope to give you guys a few more articles in the coming months.  When he’s ready to write again, we hope to continue our series on our favorite authors by writing an article about our criteria for selecting these authors.  Before this occurs, here are a few article ideas which having been rolling around my head.

1.  The difference between reading books and watching films for themes

2.  An epigram from Martial

3.  New Links

4.  Michel de Montaigne as the first blogger

5.  An editorial on the poetry of George MacDonald

As you can see, this won’t last very long.  Pray that the heavenly Muse gives me more inspiration or brings my comrade up to snuff!

George MacDonald at his desk.

George MacDonald at his desk.