Haiku: Celebrating Beer in Verse

Gary Robson with beer

I confess. I’m cheating. I originally wrote this as a column for the Local Rag in November of 2009. The Local Rag is shifting over to a new website, and only keeping the really local stuff, so I decided to intercept this column and run it on my own blog. My column there was called “The Beer Snob,” an idea that came about because of another column in that paper entitled “The Cheapskate Wine Snob,” written by my friend Randy Tracy. As I wrote in my first column:

It may make sense for the “wine snob” to be a cheapskate, but when the price of a really good beer is usually less than twice the price of a crummy cheap beer, it doesn’t pay to be cheap.

Gary Robson with beer
This is the author picture that used to run with my “Beer Snob” columns. That’s a Scottish Ale I’m tasting.

People have been writing poems about beer as long as there has been beer to write poems about. One of the oldest written recipes was found on a set of stone tablets that were inscribed almost 4,000 years ago. The recipe is in the form of a poem called the Hymn to Ninkasi, and it is a recipe for making beer (Ninkasi was the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer).

In late October, a poet named David Ash came to Red Lodge Books to read his poems and sign his books. He has a dozen books of haiku, including Haiku for Chocolate Lovers, Haiku for Coffee Lovers, Haiku for Tea Lovers, and Haiku for Wine Lovers. He did not, alas, have anything for beer lovers.

In my own modest fashion, I’ve decided to express my thoughts on beer this month in haiku, to fill the glaring gap left by Mr. Ash. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines with a fixed number of syllables in each line, forming a 5-7-5 pattern.

Here, then, is my personal commentary on beer, in Haiku form. Enjoy!


Aromatic vines
Sticky buds dry in the sun
Hops add aroma

Harvest the barley
Germinate, dry, and roast it
Malt! For scotch or beer

Small organisms
Turn sugar to alcohol
The yeast makes the beer

How do you unlock
Flavors of malt, hops, and yeast?
Water is the key

Yeast carbonates beer
So can big CO2 tanks
I prefer the yeast


Mash, sparge, decoction
Sounds like serious science
But beer is still art

The hydrometer:
Answering brewers’ question:
How much alcohol?

The fermentation:
The best part of beer-making
Don’t you love the smell?

Beer-contaminating yeast
Now used on purpose

To filter, or not?
A brewers’ tough dilemma
Just not the hefe!


Some like it ice-cold
Brits like it a tad warmer
I just like good beer

Mugs, steins, and glasses
Flutes, tulips, snifters, and pints
Each one affects taste

Have a yard of ale!
It’s a really cool glass, but
A real pain to clean

What size of serving?
A bigger glass saves money
A small glass stays cold

In bottles, in cans
By the pitcher, by the glass
Just keep it coming


Made for sailing ships
High alcohol; lots of hops
Robust I.P.A.

Remove some barley
Add wheat and change strain of yeast
Presto! Hefeweizen

Deep, rich, dark color
Plenty of flavor to spare
Stout: Meal in a glass

Crisp, frothy Coors Light
Not much taste or aroma
Is it really beer?

Lots and lots of malt
Heavy, sweet, aged a long time
That’s a barleywine

Top-fermenting ale,
Bottom-fermenting lager:
I’ll drink either one

Berries in wheat beer,
Rich chocolate in your stout
Fun ingredients

A long, hot workday
Time to unwind and cool off
I’ll have a pilsner


Since this is Haiku
I should mention Asahi,
Sapporo, Kirin

The people of Budweis
Have lost the name Budweiser
To Anheuser-Busch

Haiku for coffee,
tea, wine, cats, dogs, but not beer?
For shame, Mr. Ash!

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