The beer, an India pale ale, was brewed in honor of Portland, Ore., bookseller Michael Powell who, according to a brewery press release, was inspired to take up his profession after finding a first edition of Melville’s seminal work in a box of books he’d purchased.
Presumably, the pages dissolved (or were filtered out) prior to fermentation, before they could impart any of that moldering paper flavor typical of badly oxidized beer. The commemorative 22-ounce bottles were being marketed only in the Portland area, but you can purchase a bottle online.
Closer to home, Peabody Heights Brewery in Baltimore fired up its kettles on Nov. 20 and expected to have the first of its Edgar Allan Poe-themed brews on the market by December, according to partner Hollis Albert III. Raven Beer (an amber lager) and Tell Tale Heart Ale will hit the shelves first, in kegs and six-packs, followed by Pendulum Pilsner in January and The Cask (a doppelbock) in February. (The latter was originally set to be named Cask of Amontillado, but the federal Tax and Trade Bureau nixed that label on the grounds that customers might actually be hoodwinked into believing the bottle contains amontillado.) Initially, distribution will be limited to the Baltimore area, gradually expanding throughout Maryland and into the District.
Preceding all of these, however, was Denver Public Libation, a hoppy ale brewed by Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Co. to mark the opening of that city’s new library in the mid-1990s. The brewery enlisted a number of well-known authors to pen original works, which were printed on the labels of this commemorative release.
Among these was Kurt Vonnegut, whose maternal grandfather had been a brewmaster. Vonnegut contributed a 160-word tale titled “Merlin,” detailing the unfortunate events that ensue when the master wizard casts a spell that equips the Knights of the Round Table with Thompson submachine guns. To the best of my knowledge, this short story has not been collected in any Vonnegut anthology.
Kitsock’s Beer column appears twice a month in Food.