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Caution: Haiku May Lead to Drinking Beer With Friends


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.

Oh, my goodness gracious! Yesterday, I posted 26 of my beer haiku on this blog. As usual, I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook link said:

Haiku: Celebrating Beer in Verse, in which I offer up 26 original poems to beer. Anyone care to add their own?

The response was marvelous, as a couple of my friends jumped in to respond, and we all ended up at Sam’s Taproom (the pub/tasting room attached to our local brewery, Red Lodge Ales).

Be careful, people! Writing beer haiku can lead to laughing, drinking, witty repartee, and hugs.

I’ve edited this only slightly to remove last names, fix the order of things, and take out a few extraneous comments. Other than that, this is what appeared on my Facebook timeline immediately after last night’s blog post:

Doug:
I really like beer
No, seriously, I do.

Gary:
Doug writes a haiku
But he stops after two lines

Doug:
BAH! In the comments section, you have to hit all kinds of Shift+Enter mumbo jumbo to make it format correctly!

Doug:
Beer, mead, beer, mead, beer
One is sweet, one is bitter
I like both just fine.

Doug:
Hoppy beer is fine
Malty beer is more my style
Scottish Ale, Porter

Doug:
Beer is good alone
Beer is better with great friends
Beer is always good

Doug:
Beer beer beer beer beer
Beer beer beer beer beer beer beer
I love this here beer

Dan:
Care for a pint sir? Indubitably, I would So, Ale or Lager?

Doug:
Dan has the same formatting problems I have.

Dan:
Stupid Facebooking
Writing a poem about beer
Can’t find the shift key

Doug:
Laughing at my pals
Dan, want to go get a beer?
Come pick my ass up.

Gary:
My Thanksgiving beer
Is all Montana-made beer
I love living here

Doug:
Gary, you in town?
Dan wants to go get a beer
Sam’s Taproom sounds good.

Gary:
Sam’s Taproom sounds great
I’d love to join you bozos
But I have some work

Dan:
Went to the TR
Eating some yummy chicken
pick you up real soon

Doug:
I think from now on
I will comment in Haiku
On everyone’s wall

Dan:
Excuse sacrilege
But oh my freaking christmas
Haiku can be fun

Gary:
It is easier
to make comments in Haiku
than to write Limericks

Gary:
Oh, who needs to work?
I will join you for a pint
Shall I pick you up?

Doug:
The first to arrive
With him shall I ride to Sam’s
and hoist a beer, CHEERS!

Gary:
I’m on my way now
If Dan gets there before me
Call and let me know.

Simon:
To craft an odd sort of verse,
One couldn’t think anything worse
Than fives, fives, and sevens,
about beer (good heavens!),
To me, seems downright perverse.

Adam:
I don’t understand.
What the hell is a haiku?
You people are nuts.

Jim:
God is good. Beer is great.
He gave us beer forsooth partake.
With his sun on hops doth shine.
Please back off, THIS beer is mine!

Jim:
I know…it’s a rhyme, not haiku. Gesundheit!

Haiku: Celebrating Beer in Verse


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!

INGREDIENTS

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

MAKING BEER

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?

Brettanomyces:
Beer-contaminating yeast
Now used on purpose

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

SERVING BEER

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

BEER STYLES

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

RANDOM NOTES

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!

Kilts vs. Lederhosen


I have always seemed to identify more with my father’s Scottish ancestry than my mother’s German ancestry, and I’m not sure exactly why. I have three kilts representing two different versions of my clan tartan, and a wide variety of accessories. As Oktoberfest approached this year and my wife & I decided to set up a stand selling soft Bavarian-style pretzels, I decided to get more in touch with my German side. This, of course, meant purchasing lederhosen.

Since I’ve obviously covered all of the really important subjects of our time in this blog, I decided to share with my loyal readers how I feel about these two very different outfits.

Lederhosen and Kilt

In the picture on the left, I am wearing my Clan Gunn weathered modern kilt and a Prince Charlie at a Rabbie Burns supper in 2008. I have absolutely no idea why I was holding my beer like that. I must have been making an important point.

In the right-hand picture, I am wearing my new Bavarian lederhosen at an Oktoberfest celebration. My lovely wife is sporting a traditional dirndl. I have absolutely no idea why I was not holding a beer in this picture. It was Oktoberfest, for goodness’ sake.

I think the best way to rate these two traditional outfits is an issue-by-issue comparison, summing up the points to determine the victor at the end. Let’s get down to it.

1. Cost

Kilts are really expensive. A proper traditional tartan kilt will run hundreds of dollars. By the time you add in kilt hose, ghillie shoes, flashers, sgian dubh, sporran, dirk, belt, buckle, and lace-up ghillie shirt, you’re probably at $750. Make it a Prince Charlie jacket, waistcoat, and tie, and you’re well over $1,000. You can get started with lederhosen, on the other hand, for under a hundred bucks. If you already own an appropriate button-down shirt and halfway reasonable shoes, all you have to add is some long socks and you’re golden. Sure, you can spend a lot of money on lederhosen and accoutrements, but you don’t have to.

The point goes to the lederhosen.

2. Comfort

Kilts are very … freeing. Lederhosen can bind. They’re made of leather, after all. For general walking around, the kilt wins. No question. On the other hand, when wearing lederhosen you don’t have to worry about your clothes when you sit, squat, climb a ladder, or do the keg-toss at Oktoberfest. That’s a big advantage.

Nonetheless, this point goes to the kilt.

3. Bathroom breaks

The point goes to the kilt. This should not require any explanation.

4. The ladies

Women don’t tend to ask what’s under your lederhosen. Nor do they try to peek and find out. You might consider this either an advantage or a disadvantage. When you add in the fact that women at German events wear dirndls, it makes the decision pretty obvious, though. Dirndls are clearly the sexiest indigenous native garb on the planet.

St. Pauli Girl beer label

You might argue that it’s easier to pick up girls in a kilt. This will depend entirely on where you are and how you look in the outfit. Since this isn’t exactly a scientific comparison, I’ll go ahead and quote the Wikipedia article on lederhosen:

“Lederhosen have remained regionally popular and are popularly associated with virility and brawn.”

Virility and brawn! Got that? I’m going to give this one to the lederhosen.

5. Authenticity

Both outfits are authentic garb of their native countries, and neither has a history as long as folks would like you to think they do (see my “History of the Kilt” post).

I’m going to have to call this one a tie.

6. Hats

Hats are entirely optional both with a kilt and with lederhosen. The hat I’m wearing in the picture above may not look all that German, but shortly after the picture was taken, I added a feather and a beer bottle cap to the hatband. My fedora immediately became an authentic Bavarian hat. So there.

Another tie.

7. Pronunciation

I’ve heard quite a few people struggle to pronounce “lederhosen.” I’ve never heard anyone mispronounce “kilt.”

Pretty minor issue. Half a point to the kilt.

Conclusion

This was a tough contest, but the kilt won by a half a point. And it’s a good thing, too, because I need to go convince my wife that I need a new pair of kilt hose and a new buckle. I’ve been eying this awesome new sporran, too…

Rodeos, beer, and cancer


Eight years ago today, I competed in the wild horse race at the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo. At the time, I was between chemotherapy treatments for a life-threatening case of large B-cell lymphoma. It was, shall I say, an interesting time in my life, which I wrote a newspaper article about three years ago [update: the article is now here on my blog]. The oncologist had informed me that the treatment (CHOP chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibodies) had about a 50% chance of success in cases like mine.

Gary in the Wild Horse Race

I didn’t win anything. But I set my sights on being there that weekend, doing my part, and walking away under my own power. It meant a lot to me, and I still wear the buckle I bought myself to commemorate that event almost every day. They say fighting cancer is all about your attitude. Perhaps they’re right.

The whole experience of having cancer in 2003 changed my point of view on what’s important in life. Family and friends count for a lot more than money and possessions. Enjoying life is paramount. I’ve become less concerned about what others think of me, and my attitude these days is generally “live and let live.”

That is probably what upsets me so much about legislators hurting people who could have used help instead (see my post about the changes in Montana’s medical marijuana laws), or vicious personal attacks during political campaigns. Unfortunately, many diseases still carry social stigmas with them (e.g., AIDS), and it seems like most of the attention — and money — goes to just a few hip diseases. I see more posters, ribbons, news articles, bumper stickers, and talk shows about breast cancer than all other types of cancer combined. Ever see a fundraiser for non-Hodgkins large B-cell lymphoma?

My other bout with cancer happened just last year, and it was one of those that you don’t generally discuss in polite company. Prostate cancer is one of the “icky” diseases. Your average man on the street doesn’t really know what his prostate gland does, and if he’s heard anything at all about treating prostate cancer, he’s probably heard about the dangers of impotency and incontinence as possible side-effects. I know that scared the heck out of me when I was diagnosed.

Now, I have received my second “all-clear,” leaving the current score at Gary: 2, Cancer: 0. Although I wouldn’t call either experience enjoyable, the side effects have been minimal and my life can continue as normal. But not as it was before.

Pints for ProstatesIn our little town of 2,300, our “Pints for Prostates” fundraiser pulled in over $1,200, and over 50 people showed up to have a great time, hear my quick talk about prostate cancer, and leave with some discount coupons for PSA tests at the hospital. That made me feel pretty good, and I’m hoping to do even better next year.

Although I like to think of myself as a generally easy-going kind of guy, I have a lot less tolerance for intolerance these days, and virtually no tolerance for incompetence. It’s a good thing I haven’t set my sites on public office, because I’m too darned blunt for it. Legislators from Federal level to city level are passing laws that don’t address the problem they were purported to solve. We’re spending billions of dollars interfering with other countries when we aren’t doing an adequate job of fixing problems at home. Our health care system is badly broken, and legislators are working overtime to fight attempts to fix it rather than working together for a solution.

Ah, well, I’m rambling. I’ll go back to my regularly-scheduled posts with a focus next week. I hope you all enjoy your Independence Day weekend!

New and upcoming magazine articles


Acres USA May 2011 coverJust in case you’re keeping track, these are my latest three magazine articles.

  • “Easy Keepers” (Corriente cattle) in the May issue of Acres U.S.A. (out now)
  • “History of Kilts” in the September issue of Renaissance
  • “Internet Caption Delivery” in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Court Reporting
    (the publication of the National Court Reporters Association)
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