I am always trying new ales, lagers, IPAs and seasonal beers. As a matter of fact -- and I can't believe I admitting this -- I probably spent more time "browsing" at local Decatur (GA) places like Taps, Ale Yeah and Sherlock's Wine Merchant than browsing in bookstores this year. With this mind, I decided to combine the end-of-the-year tradition of the Best Books in 2014 list with some beers of merit.
Here's a few pairings of authors and books (some have aged a few years) that I read in 2014 matched with some notable brews.
Rebecca Solnit's A Guide to Getting Lost, & River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (2003). There are certain breweries and writers I rely on when I want something good. Solnit is a San Francisco-based author I turn to when I want to insure that I am going to have something engaging without going over the top -- like a good IPA beer from such California breweries as Stone Brewing or Ballast Point (Sculpin IPA). Michael Chabon is another writer who has been equally reliable the past few years. My last year's list included the The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007), and this year I must add Chabon's novel set in Oakland, Telegraph Avenue, (2012) to my list of better books read in 2014. (Review here.)
John Banville, The Sea (2005). This was my first Banville book where the brooding sea is a major character. And his description of characters can sound like descriptions of beer -- "short and top-heavy, all shoulders and chest and big round head." Reminds me of Heavy Seas Brewery, a Baltimore Microbrewery and makers of Loose Cannon IPA, Great'er Pumpkin, and Winter Storm Category 5 Ale, which conversely sounds like a character out of Banville novel, "...a pronounced bitterness, a mix of pale and dark that give it a tawny color and bigger body."
Modris Ecksteins' Rite of Spring: The Great War and The Birth of the Modern Age (1989). I prepared for my trip to Amsterdam by practicing my Belgian beer drinking with some tutoring from the Brick Store. It made more sense than taking Dutch language lessons from Pimsleur (especially since everyone speaks English there). It is useful to learn whether to order a Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van de Keizer Blauw or Liefman's Goudenbrand and that I prefer quadrupels to tripels. I came back able to read a Belgium beer menu, albeit at a 4th grade reading level.
But I also prepped for the trip by rereading the Modris Ecksteins book. In an early itinerary I thought I might be going to the World War I battle sites at Ypres and Passchendele, so I wanted to review Ecksteins brilliant explanation and scholarship on the psychology that led to the slaughter in the trenches and paved the way to the Second World War as well.
Elmore Leonard and Simon Garfield. Sometimes you prefer a lighter fair in books. This year two Elmore Leonard crime books - Bandits (1987) and Freaky Deaky (1988) and Simon Garfield's book On the Map: A Mind Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks (2013), provided such respite. The latter book inspired my own blog mini-series entitled Maps I Love. You can't always drink the more filling beers or the ones high in alcohol content just like you can't always read heavy hitters. There is always a place for lighter fair like a Yuengling or a Kolsch from Endless River brewery in North Carolina.
And what the crappy books that I didn't finish? Though it is tempting to single out the Bud Lights, Coors Lights and Michelob Ultra of books, isn't it better to focus on the positive and ignore the books and beers that hog all the national advertising, but lack the flavor and robustness I so crave.
And check out what my daughter Bonnie made me for Christmas -- a combination of these passions. We call it "Beer Diary (Dear Beer Diary, Today I fell in love with...")
Please read responsibly.