Which Poet, Which Beer?


I’m staring at the flight of beers that Jon 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!


This last appeared on the blog in November 2015.

23 thoughts on “Which Poet, Which Beer?

  1. I started my day with something special, an annual winter tradition that is a true natural. Founder’s Breakfast Stout is one finely balanced beer. It has just the right amount of hops to add the tiniest bit of edge while tasting as smooth as a stout can get, making it my favorite among porters and stouts. And the tradition? Steak and eggs with that delicious brew. What makes this morning even more special was to open WordPress right after breakfast and finding this gem from you as I sip the last of my Breakfast Stout, interchanged with sips of fresh brewed coffee. Okaji blended with this repast is one finely balanced experience, indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m so glad you brought this one back out; I need something new to chew on and that Phoenixx — and Cole Swenson — sound like they will do the trick! Sadly a mild but annoying allergy to hops limits me to one or two beers per session, so I appreciate you doing some research for me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a superb slurp you presented my taste buds with, and I’m just back from the beach feeling thirsty and edging for a beer, and about to crack open a Carlton & United Breweries, Crown Lager, a crisp full-flavoured, a light golden colour and slightly dry to taste beer. As for a poet to accompany this grand traditional Aussie Beer, the Author should have a dry witty sense of humour, and be well rounded in his knowledge of the world, as I knowingly reach for a book of poems, by Robert Okaji, called “Every Moment A Second”, …”Such beauty should not be bound, thus I tied loose knots, Knowing you would slip free and shed my words”. Aaaah cheers friend. and a poem written while I was sitting on the sand at Bancoora Surf Beach…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.