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

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#8 Tolkien

Tolkien: I dont think anyone reading this would dispute the placement of Tolkien in the top ten. I know that M. Otaku will likely argue against his placement below the likes of Clarke and Wells. I believe that he is so adamant that Tolkien be higher because he agrees with Tolkien. M. Otaku agrees with Tolkien’s worldview, with Tolkien’s Christianity, and especially with his Catholicism. But I believe that while all the best novelists wrote in English 😉 M. Otaku seems to believe that all the best novelist must agree with him. I personally find that (unfortunately) some excellent novelists are not Christian, not even in mindset. But that does not rob them of their ability nor weaken the strength of their canon of novels. So, I will defend Wells and Clarke later, for now I will write briefly to explain why Tolkien is in the top ten, which novels are the real gems, and why he doesn’t rank higher for all the excellent philosophy and important conversations his characters have.

OK, I lied, I wont take much time to explain why he fits the top ten category. Anyone who writes such incredible novels as the lord of the rings, that even after being tortured and somewhat disfigured by a screenwriter comes out to be such incredible movies that everyone reading this has seen, undoubtedly has a place in any top ten list.

But, that said, his best novels are not the ones that he wrote to invent worlds to accompany the languages he made up. Not the ones that everyone know. Actually, his best are the ones that have nothing to do with middle-earth. There is a simple beauty to ‘Smith of Wooton Major’ that is, not absent, but dimmer in the LOTR trilogy proper. That and there is a high tragedy about the Silmarillion that falters in LOTR. In fact, even ‘The Hobbit’ does better on this score.

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Yes, I am complaining about the fact that every major character lives in LOTR, even though they should, by rights, die. (No, I am not really counting Boromir, Denethor, Theoden, or Saruman…) I believe that this happens because Tolkien loved them too much and kept them around. To me, this is almost like keeping them around as undead. Also, having Frodo and Sam being rescued by Gandalf lowers Gandalf to a Deus ex Machina. No great battles were ever fought where everyone lives, something that Tolkien knew horribly well. In this he has done an injustice to his characters that he does not do in The Hobbit or the Silmarillion. Doing this minimizes the sacrifices of the people who actually did die (now I sound like all this really happened…) and makes all the individuals feel a bit like expendable riff-raff in retrospect.

The other reason I have put Tolkien so low was that, without the three LOTR, which he wanted to be one book, you have to scrounge for more novels that might elevate Tolkien further up. The Sillmarillion? Well, not really a novel, more like a collection of loosely related short stories… The Hobbit, yes. Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, though fantastic, both fit into a book the size of ‘The Dawn Treader’ so yes, the other part of my argument  is the scarcity of novels.

Smith

Now, if we consider ‘The Lay of the Children of Húrin’ ‘ The Lay of Leithian’ (both unfinished) and all the assorted poetry in all his writings, I believe we could put Tolkien in the top 5 English poets. (Donne, Chesterton and (duh) Shakespeare would beat him, but Chesterton only by a hair.)

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(Lastly, I think Tolkien would be horrified to hear of his novels being mutilated into straight up allegory… sorry M. Otaku when we make it through the list, we need to start in on these disagreements we have, they could be lots of fun…)