Prerequisites – A Course Catalog of Beers

October 12, 2017

By Miles Liebtag, October 12, 2017

As much of the eastern seabord experiences an unexpected and sweltering Indian summer, the new academic year is back in full swing, and campuses are once again glutted with students and faculty. A failed academic and former hard drinkin’ student myself, I’ve put my two English degrees to good use to provide you with a slate of beers sure to pair marvelously with your fall semester class schedule.

So let’s get right to it; happy hour starts at like… three? 

Just remember kids: there’s no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto. 

—> Freshman Composition: Firestone Walker Pivo Pils

In a way, first year composition courses are meant to lay the building blocks for the rest of a student’s collegiate career: if you don’t know how to communicate effectively in writing, you’re probably going to have a really shitty time in college (not to speak of life in general). Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils is in many ways the epitome of the basics of beer: a flavorful, balanced pilsner that can go round-for-round with many of the best European examples. In a world of mediocre-to-bad American craft pilsners, Pivo elevates the game through quality of ingredients and precise execution. Step away from the sugary stouts and milky IPAs for a moment, and hone your palate on the beauty of simplicity. And when it comes to writing that essay (or beer recipe), make sure you have a thesis statement. Can’t stress that enough. 

—> Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Notch Infinite Jest 

Custom hath made it in Notch a property of easiness. As that melancholic Danish prince lamented on poor Yorick’s skull, so too may we lament the estimable Notch Brewery’s pitiably small distribution footprint: a Massachusetts favorite for years, Notch’s beers do not venture beyond the Bay State. Alas and alack, for they are flavorful, quaffable, and redoubtable. Infinite Jest, while ostensibly a Hamlet reference, of course does double duty as a wink to David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus (and, let’s be honest, only good novel). Infinite Jest the beer is an American pale wheat with Equinox, Mosaic and Citra hops, despite its beguilingly low alcohol by volume (4.3%), the tandem of its complexity and drinkability will have you shortly in your cups, lamenting that you were once a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast. 

Love Buzz’s bottle text in particular would be right at home in an intro creative writing workshop.”

—> Literary Theory: Hill Farmstead Madness and Civilization 

Remember that dick in your philosophy class who was insufferably smug, improbably good looking, and infuriatingly right most of the time? Yeah, that was me. Just kidding! That’s this beer: it’s from a brewery so famous and sought after that even the cargo shorts-wearingest, Pliny t-shirt havinest suburban dads know about it.

You’ll probably never get to have it – I’ve never had it, either! It’s gone through 9 (10?) iterations as of this summer and is typically a blend of a bunch of imperial stouts, conditioned on various adjuncts, etc., etc. You know the drill. Shaun Hill makes some of the best beer in the country and names it after works by Nietzsche, Whitman, and, in this case, noted fan of hallucinogenic drugs and promulgator of some of critical theory’s most widely misunderstood and misused ideas: Michel Foucault!

Madness and Civilization, as a work, charts the evolution of the meaning of insanity through the history of Western civilization post-Renaissance, and strives to unpack how changing cultural, political, and social rhetorics concerning madness and deviance undergird and reinforce power structures and institutions that have material interest in the “othering” of the insane. Not sure what it has to say about the kind of mental illness that would make someone pay upwards of $70 for a single bottle of beer, but this is one I only pretended to read in grad school. 

 —> Intro to Creative Writing: Anchorage Love Buzz

Lots of beers have incredible and incredibly bad marketing copy. What I think of as “flavor text” (due to a large chunk of my youth spent playing Magic: the Gathering) adorns most craft beer packaging in some form or another; sometime’s it’s very descriptive and product-focused; sometime’s it’s completely irrelevant, rambling, and subliterate; sometimes, it’s just completely fucking bizarre.

Anchorage Brewing, in Alaska, falls into the last category. Love Buzz’s bottle text in particular would be right at home in an intro creative writing workshop. For anyone who’s ever struggled to make sense of pages of overwrought, flowery prose written by a twenty year old Buddhist, the following should seem vaguely familiar:

"A feeling overcomes, deriving of a most curious perplexity. A rich desire awakens to explore the contents of such delicate loveliness. Upon a deep connection with rounded lips, a bitter sweet complexity enters the soul… and so begins an amorous affair.

Heightened awareness envelopes the senses as the grandeur of such bold character develops. Caramel beauty exhibits itself, sprawling its full body widely upward, bubbling with excitement. Tantalizing effects of peppery bitterness grasps the tongue. Enchantment takes hold as a blanket of citrus slowly unfolds. As in any noteworthy love story, a subtle fruity sweetness of a rose emerges to the finish. A warm contentment grazes over, signifying a united marriage of balance and pleasure.

Fortitude has revealed itself to those who have encountered such an enriching experience. An experience so delectable, so defining, so unequivocal. An experience that is Love's Buzz. “

It’s also sour. NUFF SAID. Pour yourself a healthy snifter of any one of Anchorage’s incomparable mixed fermentation ales while you soldier through another turgid short story that doubles as a thinly-veiled cry for help. And when it comes time to workshop your own piece, consider that one of alcohol’s most historically prized effects is the lowering of one’s inhibitions – why not tool up first? 

Beer is both art and craft, magic and science.”

—> Marketing 101: Rhinegeist Truth

If you are a student of marketing, then you should consider this IPA from Ohio’s biggest, baddest, most breakout successful brewery… ever? Not so much the liquid inside, but the can itself. Those bold stripes – the fearful symmetry – the little stylized specter: if you could crack the branding code to the extent that this Cincinatti-based brewery has, well, let’s just say you could probably afford health insurance.

Truth is a fine IPA – I mean, it’s perfectly okay: 7.2%, fairly citrusy, sometimes piney, sometimes grassy, medium bodied, moderate-to-high bitterness, fairly balanced. But its okayness is belied by its staggering, incredible success. It is one of the best-selling beers in Ohio, perhaps the best selling craft beer in a can. It feels, anecdotally anyway, like seven out of every ten bars in the state has it on tap.

Why this beer? Why this brand? Again, if I could answer that one for you, I’d be too busy nipping down to Barneys for more monocle polish. Study this one long and hard, oh student of business: the bold stripe reigns

—> Exercise Science: Stiegl Radler 

Oh, so you’re in exercise science? Gooootcha. Well, y’know, not everybody’s going to compose Beethoven’s Fifth. When you’re not playing Madden or trudging through the snow in athletic shorts and socks with sandals, you’re probably going to be running around a lot, right? Like, you’ve got a soccer practicum, maybe? You’re probably at least playing some softball? Stiegl Radler is your friend here.

Actually, radlers generally: they’re arguably the only beer style named after an exercise: cycling! “Radler” means “cyclist” in German, as these were traditionally low alcohol beer cocktails served to thirsty cycling enthusiasts in summertime Bavaria. Typically a blend of pilsner and either fruit juice or fruit soda, radlers are eminently refreshing, meant to slake one’s thirst while keeping one’s wits sharp enough to pass a test on ball throwing. While historically radlers tended to often feature lemonade or lemon soda in the blend, Stiegl Grapefruit Radler is my personal favorite, as it’s a little less sweet and a possessed of a little more tart citrus than some others. Plus, dude, the can like TOTALLY does not look like a beer to a cop, haha, yeah bro that’s right.

→ Intro to Cellular Biology: Crooked Stave St. Bretta

Beer is both art and craft, magic and science. For some people, however, like Crooked Stave’s Chad Yakobson, it’s mostly science: Yakobson’s mixed fermentation sour and wild ales are all pretty much revered for their complexity and depth, but this Colorado brewer’s stock-in-trade are beers fermented primarily or entirely with Brettanomyces, a “wild” yeast responsible for all manner of funky, fruity, rustic and unusual aromas and flavors. Yakobson is both a Brett fermentation master and pioneer; his master’s thesis on Brettanomyces fermentations arguably radically changed the American brewing landscape and inspired a plethora of imitators.

You don’t need a background in biology (or, in my case, even a basic grasp of fermentation science) in order to enjoy the fruits of Yakobson’s labor, however: St. Bretta is a 100% Brettanomyces fermented witbier with a funky, slightly tart character. Fermented and aged in oak, St. Bretta also changes with the seasons, so during fall semester you can enjoy it with pomelo fruit, and over winter break sample its darker, cold-weather iteration.


Thanks to Remo Remoquillo for the header illustration.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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