The love affairs between famous writers and their booze is well known.  

Hemingway had a thing for the Mojito, Fitzgerald adored his gin, Chandler was a gimlet man, Dylan Thomas loved his whiskey (way too much), and Carson McCullers drank a daily thermos of hot tea and sherry she fondly called “sonnie boy” (Hemingway and Bailey 2006) — but what of beer?

Charles Bukowski enjoying a beerThe relationship between writers and their beer(s) is less well known. Bukowski was obviously inspired by beer — it is featured in his poetry:

I don’t know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things 
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after 
splits with women…
(from Love is a Mad Dog from Hell)

and in his novels (see Ham on Rye 1982 for his take on “a good beer shi*).

According to Hemingway and Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers (a wonderful book filled with drink recipes and tidbits about the drinking habits of some of our best American writers, as well as excerpts from their work), Carson McCullers started each morning at Yaddo (the famous writers’ colony) with a beer before she moved on to her “sonnie boy” and later in the evening to cocktails.  Too bad McCullers didn’t have a Founders Breakfast Stout from which to draw her morning inspiration.    

We also have some wonderful quotes from which to draw conclusions about the role alcohol (whether it be beer or booze) played for some writers:

“A man does not exist until he is drunk.” ~Hemingway

“Civilization begins with distillation.” ~Faulkner

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” ~Fitzgerald

“Why do I drink? So that I can write poetry.” ~Jim Morrison

And this beer reference from “A Drinking Companion” by Kelly Boler:

“In an effort to cut back on his drinking Fitzgerald briefly limited himself to only one glass of beer–thirty times a day”.

That just made me laugh.

One quote I had not heard before:

“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.”  ~Anne Sexton

anne sextonIf you haven’t read Anne Sexton (notorious for her drinking) it is dark, soul wrenching stuff.  Here is an excerpt from one of her pieces:

“…When I moved in with a bathing suit and tea bags
the ocean rumbled like a train backing up
and at each window secrets came in
like gas.  My mother, that departed soul,
sat in my Eames chair and reproached me
for losing her keys to the old cottage…”

Alcohol has fueled many of the literary masterpieces we have come to love and revere and I look forward to the influence Craft Beer will have on the literary masterpieces of our future.

Imagine what Pliny the Elder might inspire or Wilco Tango Foxtrot or War Hammer in the imagination of some contemporary or future writer.  

I think I’ll have a beer and ponder the possibilities.

I end this literary beer-booze post with an excerpt from Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye”:

“I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar — that’s wonderful.”

Hoppy Endings!