Gonzo Imperial Porter, Hops of Wrath, Whale’s Tale Pale Ale — the craft beer boom has brewed quite a few playful, pun-tastic literary beers. Naturally, there’s also a Tumblr dedicated matching good beers with good books. But we’d like to push things a little further, pairing a few of our favorite beers with the authors they seem to embody. These are 10 beers and 10 authors that’ll leave you swimming:
1. Troegs Nugget Nectar: Karen Russell
This nectar of the gods will almost fool you into thinking it’s an imperial IPA when it first hits your palate, but it’s sweeter, more malty amber ale roots shine through as it mellows out on you tongue. You’ll get a smooth aroma of grapefruit, pineapple, citrus and even a bit of pine along with that caramelized sweetness. It’s off beat and addictive. When you’re pining for a literary equivalent, ogle Russell’s skill for abstracting language. The Florida native has a way with the surreal, transforming verbs through association (“We went knuckling along the wooden floor …”). Like Russell, we accept Nugget Nectar exactly as it is, and don’t care to box it into a genre. Both also woo us every time.
2. ‘t Gaverhopke Extra: Raymond Carver
Boozy and dark, with a few lighter, sweet notes, this beer goes down easy. Most of its fruity notes are rooted in notes of prune, cherries and raisins, so it’s a great beer for those who like a more tart sweetness. It’s a great pairing with Carver’s bittersweet prose, which are often so smooth, you’ll find yourself reading story after story without realizing how much time has passed. Once you’ve reached the bottom of the bottle of this 12 percent beer, you’ll likely be on level — or on the floor — with Carver’s hard-drinking characters.
3. Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter: Laura van den Berg
This brew is dark and heavy, with hints of chestnuts and coffee — a smoky mix that fills the air as you pour. It’s a porter that’s mysterious, yet approachable. Through its smoke, it lets you in on all of its secrets, no matter how subtle. It’s a great counterpart to van den Berg’s prose, especially her latest collection, The Isle of Youth, in which the characters are always on the edge of disaster or just nearly escaping it, slowly being exposed to the murky truths they’ve been avoiding. Like Captain Lawrence’s Smoked Porter, there’s nothing heavy-handed about this darkness. There’s a beautiful casualness in the face of strange events, which makes you feel like you’re experiencing nothing short of magic.
4. Dale’s Pale Ale: J. D. Salinger
Dale’s Pale Ale is a bathtub homebrew recipe that speaks to most people fairly casually, but there’s something extraordinary in it. It’s earned its likeability from smooth, consistent flavor and an infamous hop-kick of sweet citrus. Think of that kick as all those wonderful “goddamns” from Catcher in the Rye. The beer’s a perfect balance of malty sweetness and hop, and even looks perfect, with a pour like pure, hazy gold. In the craft beer cannon, it’s the inevitable picking up of Franny and Zooey or Catcher, but it’ll likely to be something you discover on your own, rather than required reading.
5. Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout: Z. Z. Packer
After reading Packer’s gorgeous debut story collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, you may need a drink to numb those flashbacks to not fitting in during high school. If you’re ambitious enough to read the collection in one sitting, we’d pair it with Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout. This Japanese ale is a fine homage to the title of Packer’s debut collection, and its accents of cocoa, coffee and dark roasted malt will send you boozing smoothly. You may even feel as though you were sitting down with Packer herself for storytime, one cup of boozy espresso after the next. You might find coffee grounds in the bottle, which is a surprise some may consider a flaw, but we take it as a sign of authenticity.
6. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace: Jonathan Lethem
Brooklyn born and bred, Lethem is the perfect literary soulmate to Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace. This saison, Belgian-style beer is uniquely crafted away from its typical barnyard-funk with the addition of a Japanese hop, adding a unique lemon zest and lemongrass aroma to the brew. This champagne-like beer celebrates a blend of cultures, as well as the blending of beers — a great pairing with Lethem’s diverse, genre-bending novels. Two sons to make Brooklyn proud.
7. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale: Gary Shteyngart
Lagunitas is known and loved for its phenomenally hoppy ales. Their beers are fun, easy on the palate, and the cheeky Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is no exception — plus, it’s the kind of romping phrase you cross your fingers will make it into Shteyngart’s next book trailer. Every sip of this beer begins with a bitterness that quickly dissipates into sweet notes of citrus and pine, calling back to Shteyngart’s skill of making readers laugh out loud like crazy people. Wondering what that “little sumpin’ sumpin’” is that makes these two so lovable? For Lagunitas’ ale, it’s the wild yeast that creates its unique flavor; for Shteyngart, it’s his ability to bear it all. We love the two — little sumpin’ and Little Failure — shamelessly.
8. Founder’s Dirty Bastard: Charles Bukowski
Brewed with seven-varieties of malt, this scotch-based ale is made from pure caramelized goodness. It’s indulgent, and perfect for a lazy day at home or, you know, for a night unwinding after a begrudging day’s work (at, say, the post office). There’s a bit of a coffee finish, a hint of dark fruit, and overall, it’s about as smooth and easy to down as Bukowski’s prose. If the man wasn’t drinking scotch or whiskey (or vodka or wine or …), he’d be sipping on this fantastic Founder’s brew.
9. Alchemist’s Heady Topper: Etgar Keret
Heady Topper is The Holy Grail of double IPAs, a perfect match for one of Israel’s greatest short story writers. This world-class beer smells like pure beer-candy and fresh pine. It will win your love with its big grapefruit flavor, hints of apricot and smooth, creamy hop finish. It’s unfiltered, so there’s no flavor sacrificed — a counterpart to Keret’s shameless and endearing mentions of comfort eating, strange sexual fantasies, murderous children and, of course, longing. As one of the most sought out and hard-to-get beers, this brew would be a great soulmate to Keret’s stories, which are always yearning.
10. Schneider Weisse Original: F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s hard not to think of the Schneider Weisse Original without imagining Fitzgerald nursing a tall glass somewhere in the South of France. The beer is fresh, clean and oh-so-European it will charm the socks off of you with its aroma of clove and nutmeg, along with a playful, subtle banana finish. Plus, it would pair really wonderfully with Fitzgerald’s cheese counterpart, La Tur.
Would the biggest literary accomplishment be to have an amazing beer named in your glory? Probably not, but it would still be pretty awesome. Have any ideas for amazing beer-and-author pairings? Share your suggestions in the comments below!
Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former cheesemonger, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese. Follow her on Twitter: @moorefreddie
(Image credits, from top: U.S. National Archive; Flickr; Goodreads; Flickr; AMSAW; Beer Advocate; FSG Originals; Flickr; The Daily Mail; Drink Again; Goodreads; Becoming the Brew; Pen USA (Mara Faye Lethem); Flickr; Goodreads; Flickr; Goodreads; Flickr; J Space; Flickr; The Big Read)
This blog post about alcohol and authors is brought to you by Nine Rabbits, the bestselling novel by Virginia Zaharieva now available from Black Balloon Publishing.
About the Book:
A restless writer's fiery enthusiasm for her family's culinary traditions defines her from childhood to passionate adulthood as she strives for a life less ordinary. Lush gardens, nostalgic meals and sensual memories are as charming as the narrator herself.
About the Author:
Virginia Zaharieva was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1959. She is a writer, psychotherapist, feminist and mother. Her novel Nine Rabbits is among the most celebrated Bulgarian books to appear over the past two decades and the first of Zaharieva's work available in English.
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