Which Poet, Which Beer (2)


Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not  complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”

Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold

Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.

But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:

”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:

After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.

This is the nature of religion.

Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s  Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:

In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.

Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.


“Which Poets, Which Beer (2)” first appeared here in October 2015. You will be relieved to hear that I am still conducting research in these matters.

50 thoughts on “Which Poet, Which Beer (2)

  1. I love this. I’ve certainly thought of beer and poetry together (and I’ve written my fair share of poetry while beer worked its magic), but I’ve never thought to compare certain poems with certain beers. You’ve also introduced me to some new poets and reminded me why I love Charles Simic. Well done, sir.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ballast Point has a wonderful Habanero IPA that I absolutely love, and to be honest I have written quite a bit of poetry while enjoying beers!

    Beer is my muse at times! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, just back home from my birthday night out, I’d normally join you in your collective praise of the golden ale, but alas and a lack, I’ve over consumed, and not capable of having any more, oh, of, whatever I’m trying to talk about

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think this research project may run into many years Robert. I look forward to the many fine reads and poetic thoughts, like these, as you struggle through.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a brilliant idea, pairing beer with poetry. Fancying oneself as a (mediocre-to-fair)
    poet (myself), one wonders what beer one’s verse styles might be paired with. I’ll withhold any potentially biassing information about my specific tastes in beer until judgement is passed. Any thoughts? (please don’t let him pick a mediocre-to crappy beer…!)


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Which Poet, Which Beer (2) — O at the Edges – jetsetterweb

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