Monday, April 4, 2011

The Poetry of Hops

As a young person working in the poetry industry, I’m always surprised at how, well, old the art tends to skew. While it’s true the form does demand some experience from its composers, and having a lifetime to write about no doubt helps when putting pen to paper, even audience members and enthusiasts tend to hover in the middle ages of life. The reason that this is so mind baffling to me is that poetry is juicy. It’s about love affairs, love gone wrong, even sex (!). So often poetry—and many of my own favorite poems—harp on the passionate, adventure-filled and epic moments of our time on earth. It rarely concerns itself with listening to NPR, or gardening, knitting, or nifty ideas for how to fill your next visit from your grandkids. Though the nostalgia found in so many of the great poems does imply an older person looking back, the sources of rumination are often the concepts and themes that torture and delight the fleeting years of our youth. Why, then, don’t the young flock to it? Can we only reflect on these tortured and fast-paced eras once we’ve put them behind us?

As many of you may know April is poetry month. And in an attempt to both honor this delightful tradition and convince a younger demographic that poetry is everywhere, lurking even in the pastimes and vices that fill a typical twenty-something’s night out, I’ve decided to call attention to the poetry I marvel at every time I visit one of my favorite bars in Park Slope, The Beer Table. Known for its incredibly obscure beers with exotic and unlikely flavors, this tiny hole in the wall is a true gem. Maybe it’s just the alarmingly high alcohol content of the delicious, frothy creations they sell, but after a few sips I’m as delighted by and engrossed in the language of the menu as I am the brew. It’s not traditional poetry, but the language is every bit as playful, vivid, and image evoking as in any good poem. When trying to describe the concoctions for sale, its proprietors compare them to unlikely other taste powerhouses: tobacco, licorice, cereal, grass, earth, sugary candy, bark, smoke, and on. What’s wild is that these short summaries are often right—while beer and the oddball objects of comparison don’t naturally flow together, the parallels somehow work. I would go so far as to say this practice of matching two unlikely concepts together into a union that creates its own new, starling, and brilliant whole is also an important tenet of poetry.

So let the spirit of poetry month move you. Have a beer you most certainly have never tried anywhere else, pour over the rich language that accompanies it, and be merry. And maybe buy a book of poems while you’re at it. Until then, here are a few samples from The Beer Table’s menu to lighten your mood and bring a splash of unconventional poetry to your day. (Another perk of this place is that the menu changes daily, so this preview should in no way dissuade you from going yourself for the language—and beer—of the day.)

De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserve ‘09
Oak, deep winter, red wine, animal, elegant

De Cam Oude Lambiek ‘03
Delicate, lemon juice, mushroom, earth, subtle

Founders KBS
Ripe, wood smoke, warm bourbon, malty, vanilla, fresh coffee

Baladin Xyauyu Silver
Walnut, caramel, muscular, sweet sherry, sensual dessert

Schlenkerla Helles
Soft, thirst quenching, laced with smoke

JW Lees Harvest Ale, ‘02

Hedonistic, honey, nuts, maple sugar, figs, nectar

Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Stout

Oil, hot, syrup, massive

Oskar Blues Gordon

Floral, herbal, bitter, burnt caramel, apparent alcohol

Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueze
Cereal, hazy, light tart, lemon zest

Goose Island Madame Rose
Refreshing, subdued cherry, bubbly, sour

De Dochter van de Korenaar L’Enfant Terrible
Gueze-like, bracing, bold, wheaty

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