Garrett Oliver is the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and the author of The Oxford Companion to Beer. He's also a bit of a literary egghead and a voracious reader, so we recently asked him about books that deserve to be read with a pint.
Amazon: What beers would go best with the following books?
- Moby Dick: "Bass Ratcliff Ale 1869, because it is the oldest beer that's been tasted recently. It's big, beautiful, powerful, old, awe-inspiring, and you cannot get your hands on it. "
- Frankenstein: "Magic Hat #9, because animating a pale ale by using apricot extract seems morally wrong; just because you can do it, that doesn't mean you should."
- The Call of the Wild: "Hansen's Gueuze, because it is among the best of the lambics, Belgium's wild-fermented beers, which have no laboratory yeast added. It's sharp, funky and represents a type of beer nearly as old as human civilization."
- The Devil in the White City: "Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, because Chicago's Goose Island brewery is named after an island in the Chicago River that was pretty seedy, got dredged away, and then was essentially re-built as artificial land elsewhere in the river. And at 13% alcohol, if you drink too much of it, you might not be seen again."
- Seabiscuit: "Kentucky Ale, because it's from Kentucky, and no one ever expected that it was going to end up winning awards."
- Fight Club: "Brooklyn Black Ops, because according to the label, Black Ops doesn't exist. The first rule of Black Ops is that you don't talk about Black Ops."
Oliver: British "real ale" shows up as a virtual supporting character in the Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter; I always enjoyed that. But my favorite has to be this piece from Thomas Hardy's Trumpet Major, where one of the character describes his beloved strong Dorchester Ale: "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." Now that's a beer!
Amazon: Is there any scene in a book where you thought: this scene needs a beer, or someone drinking a beer?
Oliver: I have read all of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, usually while on the beach in Mexico or Italy. And I've always been struck by the fact that Bond doesn't seem to drink beer. One wonders if he rejects it because he's taken on the trappings of the British upper classes, even though he himself is probably an orphan of working-class parents. Anyway, after vanquishing a bunch of international criminals through great physical exertion and skillful use of firearms, I really don't think that I'd reach for a martini. James Bond really needed a good pint.
Finally, my first homebrewed beer was called BLAST, and was named after Wyndham Lewis' literary journal of the early 1900s. Today, Brooklyn Brewery makes a beer by the same name.