A few words now, on a subject whose nearness and dearness to my heart has increased by miles covered in leaps and bounds over the past few years: beer in all its exhilarating glory. On the best of days and on the worst, a good beer served at the proper temperature is an elixir with comforting properties that border on the mystical. This philosophy is a state of grace that it took me many years and no small share of time spent informing my palate about wines and beverages to grasp and appreciate.
September 7th being National Beers Lover’s Day, today seemed an apt occasion to seek and share further thoughts on the subject. The following seven quotable passages were penned by notable literary figures whose affection for beer and its place in the world is made obvious in their writing.
“Genial and gladdening is the power of good ale, the true and proper drink of Englishmen. He is not deserving of the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale.”
— George Borrow, Lavengro
“There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says ‘Good people drink good beer.’ Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer. Think about it.”
— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
“When the lager lout says that beer is an old man’s drink, the reply is to ask if they have ever thought of growing up.”
— Chris Thompson, Beware the Barmaid’s Smile!: The New Vulgarity in our pub Culture
“I tell you, Mr. Okada, a cold beer at the end of the day is the best thing life has to offer. Some choosy people say that a too cold beer doesn’t taste good, but I couldn’t disagree more. The first beer should be so cold you can’t even taste it. The second one should be a little less chilled, but I want that first one to be like ice. I want it to be so cold my temples throb with pain. This is my own personal preference of course.”
— Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
“Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies,
Come to life and fade away:
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.”
– Edgar Allan Poe
“It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the most illustrious county families it was not despised. Anybody brought up for being drunk and disorderly in the streets of its natal borough, had only to prove that he was a stranger to the place and its liquor to be honourably dismissed by the magistrates, as one overtaken in a fault that no man could guard against who entered the town unawares.”
— Thomas Hardy, The Trumpet Major
“Terence O’Ryan heard him and straightway brought him a crystal cup full of the foaming ebon ale which the noble twin brothers Bungiveagh and Bungardilaun brew ever in their divine alevats, cunning as the sons of deathless Leda. For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night or day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat.”
— James Joyce, Ulysses