You’ve read all the current New York Times bestsellers, but somehow never tackled the modern classics. Your summer reading assignment: Pore over these definitive works while pouring stalwart summer beer styles (preferably beachside) and hand in your report before Labor Day.
Book: Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”
Beer style: Hefeweizen
Notes: Meet Billy Pilgrim: he’s stuck in a German POW camp during WWII, has a knack for time travel and questions humanity’s capacity for free will. Exercise your own free will and travel back in time to Bavaria, circa the late 1600s—when hefeweizens were really popular—by unlocking the bready wheat and bold banana-and-clove flavors of New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat and Leibinger Seeweisse.
Book: George Orwell’s “1984”
Beer style: English summer ale
Notes: This frightening work of fiction might end up actually predicting Big Brother’s ability to spy on its citizens via cameras attached to rectangular panels. It already warned us of Newspeak (exhibit A). Don’t worry: the book says we’ll still have alcohol in the “future.” Keep your wits about you with sessionable English summer ales like the floral, citrusy and bready Newcastle Bombshell and Brooklyn Summer Ale.
Book: John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”
Beer style: Lager
Notes: This epic novel tracks families from the Civil War era, all the way to World War I. It touches on immigration, migration, family dynamics and biblical themes—it’s also really long. Stick to easy sipping beers like Bayern Dump Truck Summer Bock (biscuit, lemon and firm bitterness) or Baraboo Red Granite Lager (bready, light caramel sweetness) if you plan to get through the whole book without passing out.
Book: Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”
Beer style: Berliner weisse
Notes: The mind spins when processing the circular logic and no-win scenarios that run throughout this WWII-era novel. Pop open a few Berliner weisses (here’s one): The style’s win-win combination of funky and refreshing, sour and sessionable characteristics will stimulate the brain, even if it’s just to work through another hilarious logical exercise in futility.
Book: Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Beer style: Fruit beer
Notes: Most of Twain’s work, including this book, treads the line between whimsical adventure and sharp-tongued critique: The same can be said for drinking fruit beers. Both Magic Hat Elder Betty (a light hefe base with subtle elderberry notes) and Old Dominion Cherry Blossom Lager (bready notes with bright cherry) fall in the former camp—and like Twain’s yarns, they’re a fun ride from beginning to end.
Book: Earnest Hemmingway’s “A Moveable Feast”
Beer style: Specialty American wheat
Notes: Samuel Adams Summer Ale, an American wheat brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise; and Mother’s Sandy, a Belgian wheat with citrusy American hops, both blend U.S. character with Continental Europe. So does Hemmingway, when he embeds himself with American intellects and writers like Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald while living in Paris in this classic Lost Generation memoir.