Cozying into an overstuffed armchair with a book is pleasant. Paired with an appropriate beer, the experience can’t be beat. Beer’s epicurean complexity compliments the reading experience.
Take John Grisham’s baseball novel Calico Joe, an All-American tale triangulating: a rookie legend named Joe Castle; a pitcher dispassionately committed to baseball’s code of ethics; his son Paul, trapped between his hero and his father. It claims to be a book about forgiveness, though Paul never forgives the pitcher– his father Warren Tracy.
Pair this read with Coor’s Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Lager- a once banned beer, defiant as Grisham’s main characters. A Coors employee stumbled upon this recipe in their archives; the company styled the bottle in the old way, with a ring around the neck. Like Grisham’s novel, the beer is well balanced and pleasantly bitter. Together, the story and the beer come alive.
Vanessa Davis Griggs penned a relationship novel titled “Forever Soul Ties”, that is not particularly complex. Narrator Butterfly’s children live a fairy tale existence, while their mother faces the reality of an empty nest and a cheating husband. Despite temptation, the woman manages to maintain her old time religion and her self-respect.
Paired with Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout, a B+ beer “dark in character, not in spirit”, the smooth creamy nature of both story and beer leave readers satisfied. “Bittersweet on the tongue, and the sweetness hangs there nicely right up until the bittering hops make their presence known…,” The Beer Belly oould have been reviewing either the stout or Griggs’ novel.
The final paired read in this unusual exploration is Joanne Harris’s long anticipated sequel to Chocolat and “The Girl with No Shadow”, called “Peaches for Father Francis.” In this multi-layered novel, Vianne Rocher returns to Lansquenet as a favor to her old friend Armande. What she discovers threatens all she holds dear; her relationship with Roux; her belief in the magic of chocolate; her trust in the wind.
Any beer paired with the sensual Vianne requires a strong chocolate component and New Belgium’s “1554 Enlightened Black Ale” fits the bill. (In fact, this pairing inspired this entire column.) Illumination permeates Harris’s balanced story pitting Muslim neighbor against Christian neighbor, Muslim neighbor against Muslim neighbor, Christian neighbor against Christian neighbor–while humanizing the lot.
One might be inhaling the earthy aroma of Lansquenet’s ever-changing River Tannes rather than the brew, as both French villager and 1554’s antique recipe confront modernization.
New Belgium’s enlightened black ale is a rich, full-bodied beer with lingering after tastes that beg contemplation; Harris’s soft revolution demands equal consideration.