Yesterday evening I partnered with The Homestead Atlanta and Eventide Brewing to host May’s Curiosity Club, where I did a rare books and beer pairing. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was really engaged. Like a lot of the rare book events I do, I like to talk for a little bit to give people an overview and then let them come up and look at the books and ask questions (which is always more fun than just listening to a lecture).
For the pairing, I used Eventide’s four flagship brews as the starting point. I grabbed their tasting notes, and started to think about how those might relate to rare books. One of the big things I emphasize is that the book is a technology, and one that has developed considerably over time. If we look at the book as a physical object as well as a transmitter of written knowledge, we can see that development (not only is this approach really useful, but since many patrons haven’t thought of the book as a technology before it also is a lot of fun to watch them discover a new way of thinking about books for the first time!)
I started by pairing books with brews based on their physical aspects (you can see that in the little graphic below: We used a slightly fancier version on the handouts we brought to the event, thanks to my colleagues on our Communications team who have actual graphic design skills). I organized them chronologically, so that I could talk about the history of the book and the impact of technological advancements.
Once I started writing up my notes, I realized another way that the books and beers could be paired, which is accessibility. It didn’t really fit on the handouts, but I emphasized it in the presentation. One of the big things I try to get people to think about is the intersection between technological innovation and access.
The beer and book pairings I did were largely based on this: So, for example, a 19th century book was made more quickly and inexpensively than its predecessors and therefore cost less, making it so more people could print books and more people could own books (there are also whole discussions of literacy rates, amateur presses, and more we could throw in here, but I decided to not overwhelm everyone so left those out). Since this was the most accessible option, I paired it with the IPA, which here in the US is a style of beer you can find pretty much anywhere when you go out.
On the other hand, I paired medieval manuscripts (which are WAY more costly and time-intensive) with kolsch, which is somewhat less common in American bars and restaurants.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out Curiosity Club, or any of the other great things Eventide and Homestead are up to, I highly, highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what other workshops they have in store this year, and to get to work with them again!
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