Ten Years of Books! Five Years of Beer!

Tue 5 Jul 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Michael

It has been a long strange road since the July morning in 2006 I showed up on Small Beer’s doorstep, was bustled inside and found myself crammed into a cool nook between bowed bookshelves, struggling and failing to turn down endless refills of green tea and squares of dark chocolate, making precious little headway with my stack of LCRW submissions due to the caffeine, the basket-hilted pirate letter opener meant to be wielded against envelopes, and the army of windup plastic robots and rubber Cthulus advancing on me from the bookshelves.

I fear I was not the most productive intern those first few months. I shipped books, transcribed Waldrop stories for Howard Who?, did battle with the wireless router, and composed inept ad copy for Mothers & Other Monsters. Somehow I managed not to get fired. Lucky for me I had homebrew in my corner. I think it’s safe to say after that first batch of wee heavy I could do no wrong.

Many uncountable cups of tea, paper cuts, trays of moldy lead type, pints of Bluebird Bitter and BBC River Ale under the bridge, now here it is 2011. Small Beer Press has been putting out amazing, weird books for a decade, and I’ve been “volunteering” here for half of that. All those nice photos of books posed with beer bottles? I took those. I made this website, and this one. Three Messages and a Warning drops in December, featuring my workman’s translations of Karen Chacek’s “The Hour of the Fireflies” and Garbiela Damián Miravete’s “Future Nereid”.

And now I am asked to brew a beer for the SBP tenth anniversary! It shall be my magnum opus. Kevin Huizenga (Peapod Classics, LCRW 16 & 23) did the above awesome artwork. (Ed.: also available on some t-shirts)

A crowd-pleasing pale ale has been requested for the occasion. Here goes.

SBP 10th Anniversary Pale Ale

This is influenced by the recent rash of very satisfying American pale ales I’ve had lately made with Belgian-style malts—Pretty Things Jack d’Or, Ithaca Cold Front and untold others lost to the fog of war. And also influenced a little bit by the Gruit Quest, because I can’t get it out of my head. Yarrow just smells so delicious.

The sugars:

  • 4 gallons water
  • 4.5 lbs light dry malt extract
  • 2 lbs UK 2-row malt
  • 4.5 oz 60L crystal malt
  • 4 oz caramel amber malt
  • 5 oz Belgian aromatic malt
  • 1 oz flaked oats
  • 4 oz corn sugar for bottling

3 qt mash at 156° F for 90 minutes
2.5 gallon sparge

The greens:

  • 1/2 oz Magnum hop pellets (13% alpha acid) 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz Willamette hop pellets (4.8% alpha acid) 30 minute boil
  • 1/2 oz Kent Goldings hop pellets (5% alpha acid) 15 minute boil
  • 4 grams dried yarrow flower added at end of boil
  • 1/2 tsp carrageen added at end of boil
  • 1/2 oz Kent Goldings 5% alpha in secondary

dry English ale yeast

Original gravity was 1.051, final gravity 1.013. Bottled June 12, 2011.

I have tasted some, a tiny bit ahead of schedule, because I’m impatient. It has a wonderful herbal nose, a pleasing, earthy, medium hop bitterness, some candy/malty sweetness and a deep amber color. I think you’ll like it.

As for a fiction pairing . . . may I recommend Joan Aiken’s wonderful short story, “The Sale of Midsummer”, from the her new collection The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories? It’s a wonderful, giddy, sad story that stirs up nostalgia for idyllic summers past and warrants a sun hat and something tasty to sip on.


If the recipes and ruminations above look like gibberish to you, please refer to a good homebrew how-to book such as The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, or have a look into the Literary Beer back catalog. There’s a much more in-depth step-by-step brewing process in the Honey Porter entry, and more about bottling at Bottling Your Homebrew. Good luck.