Though it's easy to over-drink and nearly impossible to over-read, books and beer go hand in hand. And a glass or two of the right beer with the right book can rightly relax the mind and stimulate the senses, thus drawing you deeper into both crafts. As is the case when pairing food with beer, the match can produce an experience unique unto itself. But some books are better to drink with than others. Here are five great reads made better by these five accompanying ales:
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez Marquez's timeless, historical account of the fictional town of Macondo is hard to categorize, but infinitely entertaining to read. His biblical story telling is meditative, and by the end, you are spellbound. This is also the case with Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. The equally hard to define ale is named for its massive IBU's (hop measurement), but like the book, it's so much more than its name suggests. Both book and beer require revisiting to fully understand, but, given the beer's 20 percent alcohol by volume and the book's endlessly interpretive text, it's best to take some time in between. 4. Death in the Afternoon Ernest Hemingway Easily the best book ever written about a sport, Hemingway clearly writes about so much more than bullfighting. It's an animalistic book about death, bravery and beauty; and Hemingway's tough, descriptive style perfectly fits the subject matter. As does the Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing, a boldly hoppy American barleywine that's as strong as it is drinkable. It's rough around the edges, like the sport Hemingway loved, and equally as complex and sophisticated as he describes it.
3. The Razor's Edge W. Somerset Maugham The Razor's Edge is a profound study in emptiness; a window into the empty life of high society, juxtaposed with the journey of one man's search for meaning in nothingness. Maugham's style is refined, witty and thought provoking, and the perfect companion to a proper glass of JW Lees Harvest Ale. The old-school English brewery has been brewing beers since Maugham's heyday, and their limited edition barleywine is so complex and flavorful, it will leave your mind completely empty of distracting thoughts, and totally open to his soothing voice.
2. The Dharma Bums Jack Kerouac The Dharma Bums chronicles Kerouac's movement away from the carefree, Jazz fueled city lifestyle towards nature, through spirituality. Kerouac was hungry and restless for experience and essentially western bound for it. He was tender in his writing though, making his exploits especially enjoyable with a sweet, balanced IPA like Upslope Brewing's. It's the most representative style of the West, and the fairly new brewery's version is quite reminiscent of Kerouac's quest. 1. The Art of Eating M.F.K. Fisher M.F.K. Fisher's ultimate treatise on food and drink is certainly a must read for any foodie, but her insight, wisdom and overall appreciation of life is worth reading no matter what you eat. Her writing is intoxicatingly beautiful, as was she, and you're likely to fall in love with her while reading it, especially with a little liquid courage. Rochefort 10 provides as much with a precision known only to Belgian monks brewing it since the 1500's. Damn near perfect in aroma, taste and mouthfeel, it's an education on what beer could, and should be. But just like Mary Francis herself, not at all pretentious about it.
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