September 7 is National Beer Lovers Day! Minnesota is a great place for brewing and drinking, and to celebrate, we’re combining beer with something else this state is known for: books. Here are four pairings for your reading and imbibing pleasure!
1. Harry Potter
New Belgium Pumpkick
This pairing can work with any of the first four books in the Harry Potter series. (After that, a darker beer would work better, in my opinion—maybe something with some toasty notes of chestnut or coffee.) Pumpkick is a seasonal pumpkin ale from New Belgium Brewing that has all the classic and well-loved notes of a great pumpkin ale, with hints of fall spices like cinnamon and clove, sweet and earthy notes of pumpkin, and a tart zing of cranberry that is an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, adding depth and complexity to the flavor profile. This beer pairs well with the scenes of feasts in the Hogwarts Great Hall, trips to Hogsmeade, and cozy nights in the Burrow. I would even go so far as recommending it for this butterbeer recipe, with the disclaimer that I regretfully have not gotten to try it yet.
2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Josephsbrau Bohemian Style Lager
This book is from an author right out of our own backyard. Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a young boy who has his life is turned upside down by the arrival of a chaotic being who feeds on his town’s need for money. The young protagonist is aided by a girl whose family knows all about the ancient and chaotic being, and together they ensue in a battle to quell the chaos and send the being back to where it came from. Despite its supernatural conflict, his novel has unexpectedly cozy feelings of home and dreamlike qualities that evoke feelings of nostalgia. It pairs well with this brew, a full-bodied lager with a beautiful amber color. It is light enough to enjoy on a summer’s evening, yet its roast notes pair well with Ocean‘s homey feelings.
New Belgium Heavy Melon
Our next book takes us into the setting of a lazy summer, full of self-discovery, young love, and heartache. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides tells us the story of Calliope, later known as Cal, a young intersex person discovering their body and exploring their identity in this coming-of-age novel. We witness Cal begin to understand the complexities of what makes up a person and what it means to hopelessly yearn for another. This book, with its nostalgic feelings of young love, the dog days of summer, and adolescence, pairs best with a pale beer, ideally something with a little citrus. I picked another fine brew out of New Belgium: Heavy Melon, a great pale ale with notes of watermelon and lime. This beer is surprisingly well balanced considering the focus on fruit—the melon and lime share the flavor profile nicely. The refreshing citrus and melon notes pair well with the summer setting of this book, and the maltiness of this ale goes nicely with the bittersweet and harsh feelings of growing up and discovering your identity.
4. The Book Thief
Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen
The last book I paired was Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. This book follows the childhood of a young girl named Liesel Meminger growing up with her foster family, the Hubermanns, in Germany during the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. It goes well with this grapefruit-infused hefeweizen from Schöfferhofer, the classic, full-bodied feel of the hefeweizen mingling wonderfully with the tart, sweet grapefruit. The yeasty aroma and aftertaste feels hearty, giving a nod to the all of the hearty, rough-around-the-edges feelings of the Hubermann household. The playful citrus and banana notes of the hefeweizen work well with the playful attitude of the eccentric neighbor boy and best friend to Liesel, Rudy Steiner. The two conspire and get into mischief throughout the book, all while Rudy attempts to woo Liesel into giving him a kiss.
Each of these pairings highlights the strengths of both the book and the beer involved. If the rainy weather we’ve been having continues, it would be a perfect excuse to stay inside to read and experiment with your own favorites. If I’m being completely honest, I would probably choose a less fruity beer to pair with The Book Thief a second time around, but the Schöfferhoffer Grapefruit Hefeweizen was definitely worth a try, and it certainly won’t be my last. The only real regret I have is not saving some of the Pumpkick to make butterbeer—alas, it was just too good.