Books and booze: a look at literary beer pairings

A few months ago I visited OEC Brewing in Oxford, where I was introduced to Albus, a sour white ale brewed with chamomile, ginger root, and lemon balm.

Such yellow. Many lemon. Much Albus. Wow.

Such yellow. Many lemon. Much Albus. Wow.

I enjoy a good sour beer, and the lemony Albus fit the bill. But what was more important to me than taste was the name: Albus, as in Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, beloved late Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I don't know if OEC named the beer after Albus, but I wouldn't be surprised. They are "the eccentric brewers," after all.

Anyway, I posted the above photo to Facebook waxing poetic about Dumbledore and a friend pointed out to me that OEC's Albus reflects Dumbledore's love for lemon drops/sherbert lemon (if you read the UK versions of the Harry Potter books).

How fitting.

That got me thinking: Every craft beer has a story. Sometimes those stories align with our favorite literary characters. So here are a few brew/book pairings I came up with. There are so many more to come up with, so maybe "Literary Beer Pairings" will become a series. Enjoy!

Route of All Evil, Two RoadsLord Voldemort ("Harry Potter" series) 

Route of All Evil, from left, is the fourth beer in this Two Roads flight.

Route of All Evil, from left, is the fourth beer in this Two Roads flight.

The Route of All Evil is clearly Lord Voldemort as a beer. The Black Ale is dark and bold – not unlike the Muggle-hating wizard who attempted to destroy the Wizarding world order not once, but twice. But there's a complexity to the Route of All Evil with its hints of mocha, molasses, and dark chocolate. While Voldemort is truly evil, there was an underlying intricacy to his character – he was born into a lie of a relationship, was never loved, and was never able to himself love or understand what it means to care about other people.

Choptank'd, The Brewer's ArtSamwise Gamgee ("The Lord of the Rings") 

The Brewers Art's Choptank'd, a summer saison.

Choptank'd is sweet, like Sam.

Sweet, sweet Sam. He stood unwaveringly by Frodo's side as they made the very difficult journey to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring of Power. Sam was always optimistic about returning to the Shire, which I imagine had honeysuckle sprouting all over the place. Choptank'd's brightness and tastes of honeysuckle made me think of Sam and his ability to remain hopeful despite days of darkness.

Ginga Ninja, Black Hog Brewing Co.Katniss Everdeen ("The Hunger Games") 

Ginga Ninja is in there somewhere... I think it's the top left corner.

Ginga Ninja is in there somewhere... I think it's the top left corner.

Katniss Everdeen may not be a redhead, but Black Hog Brewing Co.'s Ginga Ninja reflects the personality of Panem's girl on fire. A strong, red IPA brewed with ginger that finishes with a bite – that's Katniss. She's a fiery, confident, complex warrior who leaves no stone unturned and isn't afraid to bite back for what's right.

Boston Lager, Sam Adams – Atticus Finch ("To Kill a Mockingbird")

Sam Adam's flagship beer, the Boston Lager. Photo by Lynn F/Flickr CC.

Sam Adam's flagship beer, the Boston Lager. Photo by Lynn F/Flickr CC.

When I think of Atticus Finch, I think of a stoic, handsome man with morals; who is witty, just, and honest. He stands for what I feel the word "flagship" would translate to in the literary world: simply, one of the premier characters ever brought to life with the written word. Sam Adams' Boston Lager is one of the most beloved flagship craft beers in the nation. Like Atticus, the Boston Lager is straightforward. It's taste is smooth, with no surprises, like even-tempered Atticus. It is dependable. It is always available when you need it, just like the wisdom dispensed by Mr. Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Road Jam, Two RoadsCarrie Bradshaw ("Sex and the City")


Road Jam is that gloriously purple beer up front.

Yes, "Sex and the City" was a book before it became the best $200 my parents spent on a complete DVD collection as a Christmas gift for their beloved daughter. No, Miss Cosmopolitan herself Carrie Bradshaw would never be caught dead drinking beer. But when drink Road Jam, I think of Carrie Bradshaw. First, Road Jam is a fabulous beer for its color (purple!) and fabulous is synonymous with Carrie Bradshaw. Second, Road Jam's accents of raspberry and lemongrass taste like summer in all its glory, which I equate to a summer rooftop party in New York City. Very Carrie.

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