Kerrie Joy has an invitation for you. She’d like you to join her in the spaces in between people, in between history and current events, in between life before the pandemic and what will follow. She wants to walk around with you in the big open areas between Black and white, between what is fair and what isn’t.
But to bring you into that space, you have to have a beer.
On Friday, The Word | A Storytelling Sanctuary and Fiction Beer Company will debut an unusual project called Poetic Ales, in which the poems of Joy, Deborah Jang and Franklin Cruz will appear on the sides of three different canned beers. Like the goal of the Word, Fiction's new cans are intended “to promote voices from underserved communities and diverse backgrounds” and “to honor the stories of those who have faced adversity and injustice.”
The original poems all respond to the theme of “the in between,” which "reflects this middling period of the pandemic and this time of conscious awakening on equity issues,” according to Ryan and Christa Kilpatrick, a pair of book lovers who founded Fiction Beer Company in 2014 and name all of their beers after characters from their favorite stories. Christa met the Word’s founder, Viniyanka Prasad, two years ago at a bookstore event, and the organization has held several readings at the brewery since then, as the idea for the collaboration percolated.
“The pandemic actually sort of gave us this possibility,” Prasad explains. Although Fiction canned some of its beer before, it has had to package just about everything (as have most other small breweries) over the last year since many customers have been taking their beer to go instead of drinking in taprooms.
"That is one of the neat things about connecting with people who aren't necessarily going out and looking to find poetry," Prasad adds. "Going back to the ideas of equity and inclusion — maybe that person wasn't expecting to find a poem by a BIPOC poet on a can, but maybe they will be moved by it. It's hard to amplify your words and get them circulated — poetry is this incredibly succinct form of saying all the things we are feeling — so when you're sitting there with your beer, maybe that is the exact right moment to let the words affect you."
Of course, craft beer isn't usually seen as an overly diverse space, but that is part of the fun, says Joy, who teaches poetry workshops and is also an activist, TEDx speaker and spoken-word performer. "I thought it would be a cool way to challenge people to talk about something different and spark a conversation. It's good to insert some challenging ideas and questions that maybe we should ponder as a people.
"And why not do it when your guard is down a little bit?" she continues.
Maybe you could even call a brewery one of those in-between spaces that the poets are writing about. "The in-between — I feel like I have been in that space a lot recently," Joy continues.
For example, the pandemic has given people more opportunities to spend time with their families at home or to check in more with them, "but it has also meant pain and death." From the perspective of "brown and black communities," a summer of protest woke some people up and "completely shattered other people's ideas of what American is," Joy says. "It's a nuanced space, where we have been for a while. I'm inviting people into that space, inviting them to have that conversation with themselves about whether what we are doing is working, and if not, when will we activate our innate power to do something different?"
Here is her poem:
Not quite reborn, varied in truths.
We emerge a little foggy, daylight subdued.
I had hoped we’d all make it, although we’re still in pursuit.
Rose-colored glasses now blue, that’s just the mood.
Yet our hopes still awaken, rooted in deja vu.
And our visions start living, premonitions in full view.
We can write them off as dreams, or we can make them real too.
We can hear the new world breathe, just give her a reboot.
It might be subtle, but she’s talking to you.
It might be scary, but that’s just the proof,
That it’s worth trying, or it would never faze you.
So, maybe, it’s just my imagination,
But I think we’re writing phase two.
Poetry, especially poems by people of color, has of course enjoyed increased popularity in recent weeks, after National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman made jaws drop at the inauguration of President Biden with her spoken-word poem. But the project at Fiction Beer was in the works before that, Prasad says. "Krista has been excited by our program, and she has given us space to amplify our message."
The three beers are available today on draft and to go — packaged in four-packs or in a special limited-edition gift set, with all three cans and a custom glass. Here are the descriptions of the three beers:
Small Gestures of Vibes
Southern Hemisphere New England Style IPA
Poetry by Franklin Cruz
Our newest Hazy IPA comes from the southern hemisphere. We used a unique blend of hops sourced from Australia and New Zealand including: Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, and Wai’iti. Bursting with ripe tropical fruit character and featuring notes of gooseberry, lime, guava, and kiwi. Light and airy on the pallet and a smooth finish. A truly juicy hop experience.
Molé Milk Stout:
Poetry by Kerrie Joy
Dark brown, nearly opaque but not quite. This robust milk stout was brewed to accentuate the toasted characteristics of barley. Using a blend of grains including 4 types of malted barley, we have layered in notes of chocolate, caramel, and coffee. Building on our malt base, we added copious amounts of cacao, lactose and an array of locally sourced Mexican chili peppers and spices. The peppers add a subtle savory spice—pairing beautifully with the sweet cocoa, creamy lactose and spice medley. Smooth, decadent, and exotic.
Cure Your Ales
Elderberry Fruited Ale:
Poetry by Deborah Jang
Rich purple and red hues immediately capture your attention. Our rustic golden beer base features old world malts. These malts create a subtle spicy earth aroma followed by hints of crisp cracker. Complementing these characteristics is the delicate tangy tartness of the elderberries. Hallertau Mittlefrueh hops accentuate the earthy notes of the malt bill and add their classic herbal, floral and spice notes. The Sorachi Ace hop addition adds a hint of lemon on the finish. Balanced, bright, and complex in flavor.
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