Stone Brewing's 13th Anniversary Ale: Scenes from a Beer-Book Sampling Night with the VanderMeers

 (Ann VanderMeer, fiction editor for Weird Tales, preparing to sample books and beer...)

Regular readers of Omnivoracious may remember that last year we asked writers from Arianna Huffington to Michael Chabon what beer would go best with their current book. The two-part feature was a huge hit, linked to throughout the blogosphere. Now, we’ve gone a step further, spurred on by Stone Brewing Co. sending us a bottle of their special “13th Anniversary Ale—Our Hoppiest Beer Ever.” Stone produces some of the best beer in the world, their Arrogant Bastard Ale being among my favorites.

My wife Ann and I could’ve just drunk the beer and reported back, but we thought it’d be much more interesting to combine our love of books and beer, by sampling the beer while reading selections from some new and forthcoming releases. The idea was somewhat sparked by Muriel Barbery’s amazing The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which contains this passage:

"I place the fruit and the book on the Formica table, and as I pick up the former to taste it, I also start on the latter. If each resists the powerful onslaught of the other, if the cherry plum fails to make me doubt the text and if the text is unable to spoil the fruit, then I know I am in the presence of a worthwhile and, why not say it, exceptional undertaking, for there are very few works that have not dissolved--proven both ridiculous and complacent--into the extraordinary succulence of the little golden plums."

 (Stone-cold brewers Mitch Steele, John Egan,and Tom Garcia.)

A great beer has a similar effect--the physical world can provide a stern rebuke to the world of the mind. Still, it should be noted that there’s also the matter of the correct match: a great beer will fail a great book it wasn’t intended for, and with 4.5 pounds of hops per barrel we knew going in that the Stone 13th Anniversary Ale wouldn’t complement every reading. There’s also the patent unfairness of sampling a book versus a beer. You cannot learn all there is to know about a book from a sampling, but a few mouthfuls of beer give you as much intel as you’ll ever need about its pedigree and its intent. (All of the books looked really interesting.)

There’re also the changes to the reader’s mind that occur as a result of imbibing beer that no number of plums can replicate; thus, the experiment changed asour evening progressed, as may be evident from certain elements in the progression of photographs.

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Comments (4)

I do love those trade-size paperbacks very much. Might have to pick that up.

Posted by: ClubPenguinCheats | Monday March 28, 2011 at 11:13 PM

I'm totally tracking down a bottle of that! I wonder if it goes well with Julian Comstock...

Posted by: Steven Klotz | Friday July 24, 2009 at 10:36 AM

What a genius idea. I'm going to ask my publisher if we can do that, too (read manuscripts w/ beer). Think of all the books that would accidentally get purchased!! (Editor: "Wait .. I bought this?")

And love the costumes! Can we get video next time with fumbling of books and beer, thanks.

Posted by: Dot | Thursday July 16, 2009 at 11:26 AM

It's so cool to see Emma Bull's Bone Dance back in print!( with shiny new cover art as well ) ... and I do love those trade-size paperbacks very much. Might have to pick that up.

Posted by: Michael Wooley | Thursday July 16, 2009 at 9:53 AM

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