Which Poet, Which Beer?

This week I’m reposting some old favorites. “Which Poet, Which Beer” first appeared in February 2014.

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I’m staring at the flight of beers that John has placed in front of me. On the left I find Real Ale Brewing Company’s Phoenixx Double ESB. Next to it rests Ranger Creek’s Saison Oscura, followed by Revolver Brewing’s High Brass Golden Ale, and finally, Southern Tier Brewing’s Creme Brulee Stout. I sip the Phoenixx ESB, and am delighted to find it just as I remembered: dry, but sweet, without being overly bitter. Rich, deceptive, caramely odor, amber color. Overtones, hidden layers. I immediately think of Cole Swensen and her book Try, my real introduction to her work, how she reflects tone and imagery, perception and language, intricately weaving them into patterns, into narrative bits to be experienced and savored. “There’s a world out there that isn’t there,” the Phoenixx, evidently a fan of Cole Swensen, whispers.

I linger over the last sip of the ESB, and move on to the Saison Oscura, which quite frankly, surprises me. And that’s good. My preferences edge towards the bitter, and most of the saisons I’ve tried have finished a tad fruity and sweet for my palate. Not so with Ranger Creek’s rendition. Its beguiling light body, with notes of pepper and spice, end with just the right note of bitterness. But which poet, which book would I pair with this dark saison? Someone who juggles the lyrical with harsh realism, whose voice blends and releases the bitter, the forsaken, in distilled snippets of striking clarity. Ah, yes. I have just the book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and the line:

“The whole world tastes like salt,

crows overhead shout, Gone, gone
gone. She can’t help me any more.
I’ll have to walk.

It’s much more difficult to pair the Revolver Brewing High Brass Golden Ale with a favorite poet, because, sadly, I find it lacking. It’s light in the mouth, and, to take Gertrude’s quote totally out of context, there is no there there. If I’m to choose a blonde ale, I’d much prefer Real Ale Brewing’s Fireman’s #4. But waste not, want not. I down it, and consider which poet would not only transcend this disappointment, but also hand it a one-way ticket to, perhaps, Stein’s lost Oakland? Easy. G.C. Waldrep, whose Goldbeater’s Skin sets its barbed hooks into my flesh each time I open it. And for this particular occasion, I find no poem more appropriately titled than “What Begins Bitterly Becomes Another Love Poem,” in which he writes:

We stood without shadows on asphalt at midday.
What we call patience is only fire again, compressed.

And fire should accompany Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. A crackling fire fending off the icy, shingle-ripping wind, with Miles Davis echoing in the background, an exquisite meal resting comfortably in the belly, and the pleasure of knowing that the book you’re about to dip into is an endless well.
Quite simply, it’s a liquid dessert. Light coffee, a tad chocolatey, with big vanilla. Medium body, sweet. Smells like creme brulee. Tastes like it. But it’s beer. It tells the truth, but tells it slant! And who better to accompany this frothy delight than Emily Dickinson?

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise…

Onward to the next flight, and more truth. More poetry. More beer. More surprise!
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25 thoughts on “Which Poet, Which Beer?

  1. Pingback: Which Poet, Which Beer? | richwrapper

  2. Not just poetry. Seems like Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Everything that Rises Must Converge” might be particularly suited for a frothy beer pairing (never mind Ms. O’Connor’s Catholicism). What do you recommend, Bob, for the reader of your own poems, say one from your recent chapbook? [Please FF to answer after the holidays; hope y’all have a great one!]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes. Good literature and good beer! I would recommend Stone/Baird/Ishii Green Tea IPA to accompany the chapbook as a whole. It’s bright, hoppy, and yes, the green tea flavor is evident. East meets west!

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  3. Nice. And thanks for the nudge. I’m rather fond of Southern Tier (a pleasant reminder of my Western New York roots), and I haven’t had the Creme Brulee Stout in a while, so grabbed a bottle after reading this yesterday. It will make for a nice relaxing sip and read after T-day dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I might end up being a beer connoisseur… if it weren’t for Asahi Super Dry being the best beer ever! You spend a few years living in Kansai (Hanshin) you can never go back. Asahi Super Dry and Osaka-style takoyaki? Pure Heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Takoyaki is breaded octopus balls, also known as kindama or “samurai testicles.” They are served with mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes. There is also a brown sauce they put on them which I don’t remember the name of. Many Asian fusion restaurants serve takoyaki with mayo and various kinds of mustard which also can be good. What really makes the takoyaki amazing is the pairing with Asahi Super Dry. Japanese beers are always paired and you can know where you are in Japan by simply asking the locals what beer they drink. Kyotonians almost always drink Kirin with yakitori, and Osakans drink Asahi Super Dry with takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Osakans too are very genki, and are the life of the party types, so Osaka food is very lively and much less subtle than Kyoryori, which is refined and elegant. Personally, I ate a lot of shojin-ryori, as I spent a lot of time in the temples doing research for my dissertation. But once back home in Amagasaki it was non-stop zarusoba and takoyaki! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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