While the special pleasures of drinking a beer have undergone something of a renaissance in the past ten years in America, what with all the awesome microbreweries popping up left and right, there remains among many a staunch and unjustified prejudice against the world’s oldest liquor. In short, wine is still the go-to beverage for fine dining, and for many, the mark of sophistication and refinement. And while we certainly don’t begrudge a glass of pinot or chardonnay, why all the prejudice? Beer goes great with food–especially fine food–and also with books. In order to make headway against overcoming beer’s unjust vulgar reputation with some folks, we proudly present a new ongoing series of beer-book pairings, hopefully lending a little weight to our favorite beverage’s literary caché. It’s Spring Break Week at Biblioklept International Headquarters, and what better way to celebrate the season than with our crisp homemade shandies paired with Gabriel García Márquez’ s Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Shandies are made simply by mixing beer with ginger ale, ginger beer, or, preferably, lemonade. Our recipe for shandies is pretty basic. We recommend starting with a lager–Tecate, Red Stripe, or even Corona will do fine (we’re featuring Red Stripe at the BIH this week). You can certainly use an ale, but ales tend to have richer, sharper, and more complex flavors, and they tend to be not as smooth as lagers. (We suppose you could make shandies with a porter or stout or a lambic ale, but this seems kinda sorta reprehensible). Next, you’ll need either an imperial pint glass (20 oz.) or an American pint glass (16 oz.). Pour your lager into the glass, then add your lemonade in desired ratio (we prefer to fill an imperial pint glass, creating roughly a 3 to 2 ratio of beer to lemonade. Oh yeah, we’re lazy and use store bought lemonade (Minute Maid sugar free), but we’ve made our own in the past. Making your own lemonade is easy, and if you don’t know how to do it you probably are too dimwitted to be reading these words right now). Final step: stir, drink, enjoy.
We’ve chosen shandies for their crisp lightness. They’re the perfect early afternoon drink, cool and refreshing, preferably enjoyed on porches or hammocks (we don’t really recommend them for indoors or at night). We’ve paired them with a fresh little jewel of a book, Gabriel García Márquez’ s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Chronicle is a murder/love story with about a million little twists, the biggest twist being that there is no twist: we know from the first sentences exactly what will happen. Still, García Márquez’ s kaleidescopic reconstruction of the day of the murder is thoroughly engrossing, bewildering, and un-put-downable. The book’s rhetoric is hardly as morbid as its subject matter–it’s great hammock/beach reading, and its crisp lightness belies its complex flavors. Like a shandy, it slowly, subtly intoxicates you. It’s also pretty short, about 130 pages, and despite its infinite digressions, its the sort of book that you read in just one or two sittings.
Of course, maybe you’ve read Chronicle but you’re still dying to drink some shandies on your porch with a good book, and you want Biblioklept to give you a literary excuse. Well, here’s another option: take a shot at another book of infinite digressions, Laurence Sterne’s 1759 (anti-)novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The fun of pairing a shandy with Shandy will be doubled in Sterne’s love of wordplay in the text. And sure, there’s no way you’ll finish it, but it’s not that sort of book anyway–it doesn’t finish its self! Pick it up at random, flip around, marvel at its weirdness, at the very idea that the first post-modern novel could somehow come before the modern novel. Then get up, make another shandy, and pick up again elsewhere. Fun stuff.