Happy Burns Night

scotland
Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:

Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.

Silenvs-john-barleycorn

John Barleycorn

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Here’s an analysis of the poem, and below is a video of the Scottish St. Andrews Society of Greater St. Louis‘ Burns Night in 2011 and the recitation of John Barleycorn by an Allan Stewart.

And although it has little to do with Burns Night, I still love the version sung by the band Traffic, with frontman Steve Winwood, which appeared on their 1970 album John Barleycorn Must Die.

Beer & Women By Anonymous

women
Today is the birthday of the late Alan Eames, one of the first Americans who wrote extensively about beer, especially in a serious way, mining history and culture for his topics. I never met Alan, though I talked to him on the phone a few times. When he passed away a few years ago, my friend Pete Slosberg bought his library, and donated much of it to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, for their library. When Pete and his wife moved to San Francisco, he gave me several boxes from the library, mostly old newsletters, press releases and other miscellaneous stuff, including the poem below.

By coincidence, today is also the day when many people celebrate the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s birthday around 384 B.C.E. Nobody’s sure of the exact date that Aristotle was born, and I’m not even sure why today is used by so many sources, but it’s as good a day as any, I suppose. Anyway, I was browsing through boxes of Alan’s papers and found a Xeroxed copy of a 17th century poem from one of Eames’ books, “A Beer Drinker’s Companion,” from 1986, which also mentions Aristotle. The author is unknown, but it seemed appropriate because of the connection between Alan Eames and Aristotle and their mutual birthday today. Enjoy.

Beer and Women

While I’m at the tavern quaffing,
  Well disposed for t’other quart,
Come’s my wife to spoil my laughing,
  Telling me ’tis time to part:
Words I knew, were unavailing,
  Yet I sternly answered, No!
‘Till from motives more prevailing,
  Sitting down she treads my toe:
Such kind tokens to my thinking,
  Most emphatically prove
That the joys that flow from drinking,
  Are averse to those of love.
Farewell friends and t’other bottle,
  Since I can no longer stay,
Love more learn’d than Aristotle,
  Has, to move me, found the way.

Four Score and Seven Beers Ago

repeal-day
Today, of course, is the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, a.k.a. Repeal Day. Below is the original resolution from Congress, signed the following day.

21st_Amendment_Pg1of1_AC

You may recall that earlier this year was also the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. So I was goofing around this morning and modified Lincoln’s famous speech as a toast to the end of prohibition, which I titled “Four Score and Seven Beers Ago.” A score, to save you from checking Dictionary.com is 20 years, which is how long ago the 21st Amendment was ratified. Enjoy.

Four score and seven beers ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, the end of prohibition, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are entitled to a beer.

Now we are engaged in a great social war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met in a great brewery of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of this kettle, as a final resting place for the malt who here gave its life that that beer might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should toast this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this beer. The brave malt, hops and yeast, who fermented here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add more hops or filter it. The world will little note, nor long remember what beer we drank here, but it can never forget what they brewed here. It is for us the drinkers, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished beer which they who brewed here have thus far made with noble hops. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task of drinking more beer — that from these honored beers we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of hops — that we here highly resolve that these bottles shall not have been emptied in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom to drink beer — and that this beer of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Don’t read too much into it, again I was just goofing around with the words. I suppose it could be used as a toast if you were at a brewery, but otherwise, it’s just a little spoof, nothing more.

prohibition-ends

So join me in bridging time and drinking a toast to prohibition’s end, 80 years later, and, of course, stay wet, my friends. Happy Repeal Day.

stay-wet

Lines Written On The Barley Corn

john-barleycorn
Here’s another interesting piece of history, an 1867 woodcut illustration of a farmer and a donkey carrying a bundle of barley corn, with a version of the John Barleycorn song engraved below. This one was printed in Dublin. There were countless versions of the English folksong, and its actual origin unknown. The version written by Scottish poet Robert Burns is probably the most well-known, though it was written around 1782, when it had been around for at least several centuries. It’s also been recorded by numerous bands, including a popular version by the English band Traffic. And finally, I wrote an overview of John Barleycorn a few years ago that includes the Burns poem.

Lines-Written-On-Barley-Corn-trimmed

Beer In Art #163: Joseph De Bray’s In Praise of Herring

art-beer
Today’s work of art is by the Dutch artist Joseph de Bray, who’s more famous as the son of Salomon de Bray, also a painter, and for essentially just one work of art, his In Praise of Herring, which is also known as Eulogy to a Herring and Still-Life in Praise of the Pickled Herring. It was completed in 1656.

Joseph_de_Bray_-_Still-Life

The painting also includes a poem, also titled In Praise of Herring by Jacob Westerbaen, who was de Bray’s brother-in-law. Unfortunately, I was also unable to find the full text of the poem, either. Say what you will about pickled herring — and I’m certainly not a fan — but if you’re going to pair it with a beverage, you can bet it’s going to be beer.

The Web Gallery of Art has this to say about the artist and his painting:

Fish still-lifes developed as a category during the seventeenth century — not an astonishing phenomenon when we recall that fishing, particularly for herring and cod, was a mainstay of the Dutch economy. A notable exponent of the type is Abraham van Beyeren. As the Dutch love for flowers, their love for seafood is proverbial. The Haarlemer Joseph de Bray, son of Salomon and brother of Jan, celebrated this taste in his picture, dated 1656, dedicated to the apotheosis of the pickled herring.

Resting behind the large, succulent herring and other objects in the painting’s foreground, there is an elaborate tablet, draped with a festoon of herrings and requisite onions, inscribed with a poem by the Remonstrant preacher and poet Jacob Westerbaen: ‘In praise of the Pickled Herring’ published in 1633. After telling of the herring’s delight to the eye, palette, and its other qualities, Westerbaen adds that consumption of it ‘Will make you apt to piss/And you will not fail/(With pardon) to shit/And ceaselessly fart…’ – proof, if it is needed, that plain profane messages are as likely embodied in Dutch paintings as spiritual ones. The painting was evidently a success. In the following year he painted another, somewhat larger still-life, now in Aachen, dedicated to the same subject. It includes the text of Westerbaen’s verse dedicated to the pickled herring, and a brief passage from his poem ‘Cupido’ on the page of an open folio accompanied by an ample display of herrings and onions.

And another source said the following:

Joseph de Bray came from a family of Haarlem painters which included the highly respected Salomon de Bray (his father) and Jan de Bray (his brother). Joseph is known for this curious still life in which the different elements — the jug, the glass of beer, the fish, the bread, the butter and the onions — are organized in a U-shape. In the centre of the composition is a manuscript where one can read a poem by Doctor Jakob Westerbaen, singing the praises of a salted and smoked herring!

To learn more about Joseph de Bray, sadly, there’s not much. There isn’t even a Wikipedia page in English for him, it instead forwards to his father’s page where Joseph is mentioned. There is, however, a short German page for him, and that translates as follows:

Son of the painter Salomon de Bray and brother of Dirck, Jacob and Jan de Bray. He was certainly younger than his brother, Jan, and older than his brother Dirck. Probably trained by his father, he specialized mainly on still life. In 1664, he died of the plague.

The earliest known evidence of his artistry is a small drawing of an Arcadian landscape dated 14th February 1650, classified because of the uncertain lines as an early work. There are only a handful of works that can be ascribed with certainty. The most famous depiction is “Still Life with a poem on the pickled herring” that has survived in several handwritten copies. Recently appeared on the international art market is another picture which is tentatively attributed to him. Besides the few oil paintings, there are some drawings, which are also brought in touch with him.

There’s not much else, beyond this article, Painting Family: The De Brays, about his family.

Talking (And Drinking) Like A Pirate

jolly_roger
As today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I thought I’d share this version of the Pirate Alphabet, which seems to be more about beer than piracy.

piraat

THE PIRATE ALPHABET

A — The favorite word of Canadian pirates, ey?
B — B stands for Beer!
C — Da ting we sails da boat on
D — Das beer! German pirates
E — ‘e needs a beer
F — ‘f only I had a beer
G — Gee, I wish I had a beer
H — H’aightch and everone one of us should have a beer
I — I wish I had a beer
J — The guy who sells us beer
K — Jay’s wife, she’s a looker!
L — Da place where bad pirates goes when dey dies!
M — ’em folks needs beers
N — ‘nother beer
O — Oh I wish I had a beer
P — (*long pause*) Self-explanatree!
Q — A French word meaning ‘line for beer’
R — A pirate’s favorite word, Arrrh!
S — What you fall on when you drink too much beer
T — Why we beat the British
U — You should have a beer
V — Vikings! Swedish pirates
W — You and you should have a beer
X — Jay’s former wife, she no longer sells us beer
Y — Why not have a beer
Z — Ze beer! French pirates

Indianapolis Man Wins “Brew Your Cask Off” Contest

all-about-beer
A couple of weeks ago, All About Beer magazine conducted a contest, to win a trip to the “Brew Your Cask Off” beer festival hosted by Georgia’s SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia on March 5, 2011.

The winner had to write an essay explaining what type of cask they’d brew, in 300 words or less. The winner, Matt Robinson, from Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote a poem which won him and a friend a trip to SweetWater Brewery’s cask festival.

From the press release:

Matt will also be a honorary judge for the cask ale competition and be a server for a cask made from his hilarious and precise poem.

Without a doubt one of the most unusual, and clever beer events, SweetWater Brewery’s Brew Your Cask Off features 80 different cask ales made by a full range of celebrities and not so celebrities, including dignitaries from the beer media, non-profits and retailers from the metro Atlanta beer community. All About Beer Magazine publisher Daniel Bradford participated in making a cask named Adam’s All About Beer Ale, after the SweetWater brewer who guided the actual cask ale production. The cask ale festival features a judging of all the casks with the winner getting serious bragging rights, including being brewed by SweetWater Brewery, and the loser getting the much coveted, and highly decorated golden toilet seat.

Matt Robinson will join a collection of very talented palates as a honorary judge helping chose the best cask of the festival. During the festival itself, Matt will have the pleasure of presenting a cask made from the numerous clues he provided in his winning poem.

Runners up included second place finisher Steve Forbes who wrote a passionate sensory entry. Third place went to Michael Iris who described how his hound found an unusual cache of berries that would have made a wonderful cask. Both of these entries and the other finishers can be found at All About Beer.

The winning entry is below. Enjoy.

aab-cask-off

What Cask Should An American Brew? by Matt Robinson

What cask should an American Brew?
But nothing less than around 55 I-Be-Yous!
I would add subtle flavor with East Kents
Perhaps more for hop compliment
Throw in some fuggles and American C’s
Many will say it’s the knees of bees!
Powerful flavor will be most divine
Even with a gravity around one-thousand nine
The grain bill is full of Golden Promise Malt
This great American session cask has no fault
The hydrometer reading will need to state
Around 3.55% alcohol by weight
This may sound like an English creation
With bold American style is my summation
Lovibond sounds nice somewhere near ten
Many hours with our cask we will all spend!
Wyeast numbered Nineteen Forty-Five
Will make our cask come alive!
Gravity-fed like our English brethren
Cask beer please take hold for American beer drinking heaven
Deep in the south in town called Atlanta
Our cask brings so much joy we call it Santa!
All the people will come and stand
To sing play us a song you’re the piano man!

Food Hates You, Too

tomato
Every Sunday I take the kids to the library. I’m a voracious reader, and I’m grateful to an aunt, and to some extent my mother, for instilling in me that passion for books and literature. So it’s very important to me that I try to do the same for my own kids, and so far they both love books. Last Sunday, my daughter Alice picked out a book called Food Hates You, Too and Other Poems by Robert Weinstock.

food-hates-1

The cover alone was reason enough, but some of the poems are pretty funny. My kids are also following in my food phobic footsteps and are very picky eaters. I’m better now — not exactly cured — but my Mom would be spinning in her grave if she knew all the foods I’ve eaten since I moved out of her house.

So the titular poem Food Hates You, Too is a pretty funny concept about how some of the food we don’t like might hate us, too.

The opening stanza:

If everyone hates different foods,
Then couldn’t it be true
That creamed chipped beef dislikes Gertrude,
And liver gags on Lou.

And here’s the final two quatrains:

If cotton candy, apple pie,
And french fries looked at you
And said, “Gross! Blecchh! Nope, I won’t try.
I’ll never like it. Ew!

I’m sure you’d say, “Hey! That’s no fair!
Give me a chance! You should
Just try me. Pretty please? I swear!!
With sugar on top …? I’m good!”

food-hates-4

There are maybe two dozen fun poems for kids in the book, most of them about food. The Cheese Sonnet is great and so is a short one about two pieces of Toast named Ned and Fred. But I’ll leave you with a final poem entitled Doughnuts.

I go nuts for doughnuts,
All tingles from Pringles
And swoony from bacon,
If I’m not mistaken.

Indeed I do.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Beer Poems

top-10
Today is St. Columba’s Day. He’s a patron saint of poets, so I thought I’ll pull out some of my favorite poems with beer in them. I’m excluding limericks (since we’ve done them already) and haikus since Beer Haiku Daily pretty has them covered. So for my 18th Top 10 list I present the Top 10 beer poems, although, like before, the rankings are pretty much meaningless. These are just my ten favorite poems that are about beer or drinking. I sort of prefer number 1 to number 5 or 7, but not to the degree of some of the previous lists. They’re all winners. But, of course, I’d love to hear your choices. Anyway, here’s List #18:
 

Top 10 Beer Poems
 

10-25 Beer, by Charles Bukowski,
from Love is A Mad Dog From Hell (1920-1994)

I don’t know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things
to get better
I don’t know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after
splits with women—
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
“what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!”

the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows it’s bad for the figure.

while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horny cowboys.

well, there’s beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle fall through the wet bottom
of the paper sack
rolling
clanking
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.

beer
rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.

09-25 The Tavern, by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273)

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

We have a huge barrel of beer, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
We glow and in the evening we glow again.

They say there’s no future for us. They’re right.
Which is fine with us.

08-25 A Glass of Beer, by David O’Bruadair (1625-1698)

The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer;
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.

That parboiled ape, with the toughest jaw you will see
On virtue’s path, and a voice that would rasp the dead,
Came roaring and raging the minute she looked at me,
And threw me out of the house on the back of my head!

If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;
But she, with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange.

07-25 Beer, by George Arnold (1834-1865)

HERE,
With my beer
I sit,
While golden moments flit:

Alas!
They pass
Unheeded by:
And, as they fly,
I,
Being dry,
Sit, idly sipping here
My beer.

O, finer far
Than fame, or riches, are
The graceful smoke-wreathes of this cigar!
Why
Should I
Weep, wail, or sigh?
What if luck has passed me by?
What if my hopes are dead,—
My pleasures fled?
Have I not still
My fill
Of right good cheer,—
Cigars and beer

Go, whining youth,
Forsooth!
Go, weep and wail,
Sigh and grow pale,
   Weave melancholy rhymes
   On the old times,
Whose joys like shadowy ghosts appear,
But leave me to my beer!
   Gold is dross,—
   Love is loss,—
So, if I gulp my sorrows down,
Or see them drown
In foamy draughts of old nut-brown,
Then do wear the crown,
   Without the cross!

06-25 The Empty Bottle, by William Aytoun (1813-1865)

Ah, liberty! how like thou art
To this large bottle lying here,
Which yesterday from foreign mart,
Came filled with potent English beer!

A touch of steel — a hand — a gush —
A pop that sounded far and near —
A wild emotion — liquid rush —
And I had drunk that English beer!

And what remains? — An empty shell!
A lifeless form both sad and queer,
A temple where no god doth dwell —
The simple memory of beer!

05-25 Get Drunk!, by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Always be drunk.
That’s it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time’s horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On beer, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock
will answer you:
“Time to get drunk!
Don’t be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On beer, virtue, poetry, whatever!”

04-25 From The Hour Before Dawn, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

A great lad with a beery face
Had tucked himself away beside
A ladle and a tub of beer,
And snored, no phantom by his look.
So with a laugh at his own fear
He crawled into that pleasant nook.
‘Night grows uneasy near the dawn
Till even I sleep light; but who
Has tired of his own company?
What one of Maeve’s nine brawling sons
Sick of his grave has wakened me?
But let him keep his grave for once
That I may find the sleep I have lost.’
What care I if you sleep or wake?
But I’ll have no man call me ghost.’
Say what you please, but from daybreak
I’ll sleep another century.’
And I will talk before I sleep
And drink before I talk.’
And he
Had dipped the wooden ladle deep
Into the sleeper’s tub of beer
Had not the sleeper started up.
Before you have dipped it in the beer
I dragged from Goban’s mountain-top
I’ll have assurance that you are able
To value beer; no half-legged fool
Shall dip his nose into my ladle
Merely for stumbling on this hole
In the bad hour before the dawn.’
Why beer is only beer.’

03-25 Lines on Ale (1848), by Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances;
I am drinking ale today.

02-25 Excerpted from Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff, poem LXII in
A Shropshire Lad (1896), by A.E. Housman (1859-1936)

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

01-25 John Barleycorn, by Robert Burns (1834-1865)*
[This version is from 1782]

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel arm’d wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.

His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy;
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

* John Barleycorn exists in many forms, and a number of them I prefer over Burns’ version, but his is the only one I know of done by a true poet. The poem has also been turned into a song recorded by many, many artists, including Traffic, Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull, among others. I also have a children’s book of the story with wonderful woodcuts by artist Mary Azarian. You can read more about the history of this poem and story at my John Barleycorn page.

 

As usual, it was pretty hard to keep the list to ten, and a great many wonderful poems didn’t make the cut. Here’s a few more that almost made it:

From The Old Stone Cross, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

A statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote.
A journalist invents his lies, and rams them down your throat.
So stay at home and drink your beer and let the neighbors vote.

Old Irish Tale, author unknown

Some Guinness was spilt on the barroom floor
When the pub was shut for the night.
When out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse
And stood in the pale moonlight.

He lapped up the frothy foam from the floor
Then back on his haunches he sat.
And all night long, you could hear the mouse roar,
“Bring on the goddamn cat!”

Doh, Re, Me, by Homer Simpson

Dough, the stuff that buys me beer.
Ray, the guy who brings me beer.
Me, the guy who drinks the beer.
Far, a long way to get beer.
So, I’ll have another beer.
La, I’ll have another beer.
Tea, no thanks I’m having beer.
That will bring us back to…
(reaching the crescendo of his toast,
Homer looks into his beer mug,
which is empty) …DOH!!!

Beers, a spoof of Joyce Kilmer’s Trees (1886-1918)

I THINK that I shall never hear
A poem lovely as a beer.
A brew that’s best straight from a tap
With golden hue and snowy cap;
The liquid bread I drink all day,
Until my memory melts away;
A beer that’s made with summer malt
Too little hops its only fault;
Upon whose brow the yeast has lain;
In water clear as falling rain.
Poems are made by fools I fear,
But only wort can make a beer.

Here’s the original poem:

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Epic Poems

And way too long, but quite wonderful is the Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala and it’s hard not to mention the Hymn To Ninkasi, which really deserves to be included.

Send me your favorite beer poems by posting it or a link to it in a comment.

Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Beer Limericks

top-10
Today is National Limerick Day, which commemorates the birthday of Edward Lear. Lear wrote the Book of Nonsense, one of the earliest collections of limerick poetry and with it and later works he’s the person who probably did more to popularize the form than anyone else. Here’s one by Lear where he mentions beer.

There was an Old Man with an owl,
Who continued to bother and howl;
He sate on a rail,
And imbibed bitter ale,
Which refreshed that Old Man and his owl.

          — Edward Lear, Book of Nonsense #98

So for my 16th Top 10 list I present the Top 10 beer limericks, although the rankings are pretty much meaningless. These are just my ten favorite limericks that are about beer or drinking. I sort of prefer number 1 to number 5 or 7, but not to the degree of some of the previous lists. They’re all winners. But, of course, I’d love to hear your choices. Anyway, here’s List #16:
 

Top 10 Beer Limericks
 

A Girl Named Anheuser
There once was a girl named Anheuser,
who said that no man could surprise her.
But Pabst took a chance,
found the Schlitz in her pants,
and now she is sadder Budweiser.
A Salty Tear
One day my mouth felt so dry
And I thought I was about to die.
Then I saw the word “Beer”,
And one salty tear
Of happiness escaped from my eye.
Ye Olde English Ale
All hail to Ye Olde English Ale;
Ye porter, ye bitter, ye pale.
With flavours that linger,
Like old Bishop’s Finger,
They ain’t for the weak or the frail.
Deliciously Wonderful Beer by RGiskard
What is hoppy and brings us good cheer?
Not a froggy, I promise, my dear!
It’s brown, black and tan,
And can come in a can.
It’s deliciously wonderful beer!
Pity the Innkeeper’s Plight
Oh pity the innkeeper’s plight
When his customers, night after night,
Order only pale brew
And brown ale eschew —
For his dark is much worse than his lite.
You Get What You Pay For
It’s true what the say about ale,
When it has grown quite stale.
It smells like a skunk,
But still gets you drunk;
I guess that’s why this was on sale.
The Monks of Manuller
Some merry old monks of Manuller,
Found life was becoming much duller.
They brewed a fine ale
In a massive big pail,
And they found their lives were much fuller.
Slow Drowning
A brewery worker named Lee
Drowned in a vat of brewski.
I regretfully say
He’d not drowned right away;
He climbed out five time just to pee.
Hard Head Fred
A brewery worker named Fred
Had a barrel fall onto his head.
“Weren’t you hurt?” I did ask,
“Being hit by that cask?”
“I was lucky — ’twas light ale,” he said.
What Is It?
What is to our hearts so dear?
What makes the whole world cheer?
What is it we praise
In millions of ways —
Could it be a thing other than Beer?!

 

As usual, it was pretty hard to keep the list to ten, and a great many wonderful poems didn’t make the cut. Here’s a few more that almost made it:

I Drink Therefore
One day a real man of good cheer
Asked Descartes if he’d like a beer.
What the man got
Was ‘I think not';
As he watched Descartes disappear.

Osiris
What made the Egyptians revere
Osiris and claim he was peer
To the gods of the land
Was that, unlike that other band,
He’d instructed them how to make beer.

The Beer Cow
There was an old farmer named Lear,
Who possessed a fine cow that gave beer.
Budweiser or Schlitz,
Could be tapped from her teats,
And pretzels came out of the rear.

Abbey Ale by Nitelaf
Abbey ale’s what we brew here, we Trappists.
(We’re in Belgium, for all of you mappists.)
Strong and rich, full in body;
As sweet as a toddy.
I’m glad that we’re brewers, not frappists.

No Socks
A frustrated brewer named Jacques,
Drowned himself in a barrel of Bock.
Grieved his friends, “Sad, it’s true,
Though this flavor is new,
But the next batch, let’s take off his socks.”

Jack Spratt’s Wife
There was a young girl, Marie Spratt,
At work one day, fell in a vat.
Before she was dragged out
She had drunk so much stout,
That her parts that were thin, became fat.

June 2nd by Tim Alborn
As from Monday, the second of June,
When the clock in my bedroom says noon,
I will stop drinking beer
For the rest of the year
(Or until I go near a saloon).

The Foam Ranger
A young lad named Armisted Auger,
Favored copious foam on his lager.
To the barmaid he said,
“Give me plenty of head,”
So she karated his schwagger.

Send me your favorite beer limericks by posting it in a comment.

 

Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.