Pairing Brews and Books

As I say on the About page for this site, there are few greater pleasures than having a great book in one hand and a fantastic pint of beer in the other.  I don’t know why, then, it’s taken me so long to do a post pairing specific books with specific beers – especially since it’s something I’ve been doing on Twitter for quite some time now.  It’s doubly embarrassing that quite a few folks have beaten me to it.

There’s plenty of room for all of us, of course!  Here’s a couple of my favorite books from the last year, paired with some absolutely astounding and unique beers.  The reasons for the pairing vary some – some are pretty obvious (like pairing The Oxford Project with a beer brewed up the road), and some are a little more conceptual (putting the BrewDog Atlantic IPA with an Indian mystery).  All are two great tastes that taste great together.

ridiculous-racepangaeaDogfish PangaeaThe Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran
The Beer; A strong ale brewed with ingredients from every continent on Earth.
The Book; Two guys race around the world in opposite directions. The only rule? No planes.

This one is a pretty obvious fit. Steve and Vali decided they needed to race around the world and see who could make it back to LA first. Hijinks ensue. The adventure leads the guys to twenty-four countries on five continents, and includes graffiti gangs, jetpacks, Swedish girls and Russian seamen. When you’re chuckling at the globetrotting authors, the Dogfish Head Pangaea is the perfect beer to sip. Ingredients from all seven continents take you around the world with the travelers, and the strength of the beer makes an already hilarious book even better.

magicians1utopiasSamuel Adams UtopiasThe Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Beer; The world’s strongest beer. A 27% ABV ale aged in scotch, cognac and port barrels.
The Book; Most popularly described as Harry Potter: The College Years, Grossman’s Magicians follows a group of magicians during their alcohol- and drug-fueled college years.
Quentin and the other main characters of The Magicians lead an absolutely hedonistic college existence. While I don’t recall anyone sipping on beer at the fictional Brakebills academy, scotch, cognac and port all definitely make appearances – so a beer aged in barrels that held those spirits makes a lot of sense. I blew through The Magicians in less than a weekend, and a beer as strong as the Utopias should be able to last you the whole book since it’s only a sipper.

oxford-projectmillstreamMillstream Schild Brau AmberThe Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom
The Beer; A traditional Vienna-style lager, and the flagship brew of Iowa’s Millstream Brewing (est 1984).
The Book; A collection of stories and photographs of the residents of Oxford, IA, who were interviewed in 1984 and again in 2004.
Peter Feldstein set up his studio in Oxford, IA in 1984, only a year before Millstream Brewing opened up some twenty miles down the road in Amana.  Odds are that quite a few of the subjects of The Oxford Project have enjoyed Millstream’s flagship beer, so it only makes sense that you’d down a Schild Brau while checking out this awesome book.

missing-servantatlanticBrewdog Atlantic IPAThe Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
The Beer; A traditional English IPA brewed from a 150 year old recipe, then aged for two months on a ship on the Atlantic Ocean.
The Book; Vish Puri, a private investigator in modern India, investigates a murder using traditional and contemporary investigative techniques.
Makes sense, right?  Pair a beer brewed in an old style by a contemporary brewery with a book about a PI in an India balanced between the ancient and modern world.  BrewDog has made a beer exactly in the style of the ones that used to be sent to India by the Brits, so it’s a great match to enjoy one or two (but probably one, due to the cost) while you’re reading the first book of Hall’s new series.

locallocal1Whatever the local beer isLocal by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
The Beer; There are more than 1,400 small craft breweries operating in the United States today. Support your local brewers!
The Book; A collection of twelve stories taking place in different cities in North America. We experience the stories through the character of Megan, a twenty-something girl floating between adolescence and adulthood.
Author Brian Wood has said that the original intent of Local was to focus on each city as a character, rather than solely on the traveling Megan.  While she became the focal point of the comic as it developed, Kelly still put a ton of energy into making each city look and feel real.  As you read Megan’s coming-of-age story, celebrate the unique character of your own city by enjoying one of your local brews.

What are some of your favorite books from the last year?  What beers would you pair them with, and why?


7 responses to “Pairing Brews and Books

  1. Great post Josh. I love the idea of pairing books with beers. I really want to try Utopias some day. And I definitely dug Local. Great stuff.

  2. I love this. I have never had a beer and read a book at the same time, and clearly I am missing out! The only thing I can say is that THE BEST OF EVERYTHING truly is best enjoyed with scotch.

    What would you pair with THE GONE-AWAY WORLD?

    Also, have you tried Southern Tier’s Pumpking yet? It is the most bizarre and delicious beer I’ve ever had. If you’re coming to Brooklyn anytime soon, it’s currently on draft at the bar down the street from WORD:

  3. @Chris- I’m really glad you liked Local. Great, great stuff. Utopias is pretty ridiculous at $120+ a bottle, but if you ever have a chance to go to the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston they usually have free samples on the first night of the event.

    @Bookavore- Oooooh, GONE-AWAY WORLD is a tough one. I definitely drank a lot of different brews while I plowed through that book. Considering the end-of-the-worldiness of the book, I’d say that either the Unibroue La Fin Du Monde (or “End of the World” in English) or the Stone Ruination IPA would be appropriate.

    I. LOVE. Pumking. It’s a total bummer that ST doesn’t distribute here in Maine, because I would pick it up regularly – it’s one of the best pumpkin brews on the market along with the Dogfish Punkin. Very cool that it’s on draft nearby! If you ever have a chance to try the brewery’s Mokah, it is outta sight.

  4. Reading your blog often makes me feel guilty about not reading enough books. Alas, maybe if I started pairing my beers with books instead of food I would 1. be more well read and 2. not as fat.

    Sigh. And then there is the fact that the internet consumes my attention as well. I find myself spending entirely way too much time reading blogs, websites and on facebook and twitter. You have inspired me, though, to go in search of a book and take many an hour or two of each day to sit and read and sip on a beer.

    Most of the books I do read are wine, beer and food related. So they do not count. One of my favorite books that I’ve read in recent past is “WICKED” by Gregory Maguire. The book is complex, dark, political and addresses very taboo topics. I would pair it with Russian River Consecration — a brown ale fermented with wild yeast and aged in Cabernet barrels. Consecration is 10% abv … which in itself is wicked since it sneaks up on your fast. It is incredibly sour and, like the Wicked Witch of the West, only a few people can truly appreciate her inner beauty.

    That is the best I can do … PS: if you ever want some West Coast beers … you know who to call 🙂

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