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Oktoberfest Library

By Marsha Bryant

“Beer does not resemble wine so much as it resembles music.”
– Garrett Oliver


October’s upon us once more!
But before you head out to the bar
To assuage your Fall thirst,
Hit the library first
So you won’t imbibe brew that’s subpar.

Lolita may trip down the tongue,
But fine beer takes a path more far-flung.
From the bite of the hops
To the back-finish drops
Of the malt, beer’s delights must be sung!

A poetics of beer I’ll intone.
For our civilization has grown
From Egyptians’ first zythos (1)
And ancient beer mythos
To hops from American zones.

In The Oxford Companion to Beer (2)
You’ll find gleanings from all hemispheres.
From the A&BVs
To the E&SBs,
You’ll parse beers from the dark to the clear.

The Companion will greatly enhance
Readers’ hoppy historical sense.
You’ll find Grossman (3) and Guinness,(4)
Gambrinus (5) and Ramses,(6)
And Luitpold, Bavarian Prince.(7)

And if you would brew it yourself,
Bamforth’s Beer (8) should belong on your shelf.
For economists, Marxists,
And others who hark its
World market, see Swinnen himself.(9)

Conversation goes better with beers.
Tis the talk in the pubs that endears
Them to drinkers of bitter
Who turn from their Twitter
To thoughts laid too deeply for tears.
While you relish your pints topped with foam,
Your beer talk could enrich bar and home.
With this Oxford tome trio,
You’ll parse brews with brio–
A bona fide beer gastronome.


(1) Classical Greek writers’ term for Egyptian barley beer, derived from “to foam.”
(2) The Oxford Companion to Beer, ed. Garrett Oliver. Foreword by Tom Colicchio. Oxford, 2012.
(3) Ken Grossman, founder, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
(4) Arthur Guinness, founder, Arthur Guinness & Sons.
(5) Jan Gambrinus, legendary King of Beer and Patron Saint of Brewers.
(6) Ramses II (19th Dynasty), Pharaoh and brewer.
(7) Luitpold, Prince of Bavaria and CEO of König Ludwig GmbH & Co.
(8) Charles Bamforth, Beer: Tap Into the Art and Science of Brewing. 3rd. ed., Oxford, 2009.
(9) Johan F. M. Swinnen, ed. The Economics of Beer. Oxford, 2011.

This poem originally appeared on the Massachusetts Review blog.

Garrett Oliver, editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer, is the Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. He has won many awards for his beers, is a frequent judge for international beer competitions, and has made numerous radio and television appearances as a spokesperson for craft brewing.

The Oxford Companion to Beer is the first major reference work to investigate the history and vast scope of beer, featuring more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world’s most prominent beer experts. It is first place winner of the 2012 Gourmand Award for Best in the World in the Beer category, winner of the 2011 André Simon Book Award in the Drinks Category, and shortlisted in Food and Travel for Book of the Year in the Drinks Category. View previous Oxford Companion to Beer blog posts and videos.

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