Elizabeth Browning has just reminded me of a period in my youth that I’d forgotten about.
Her famous poem – How Do I Love Thee (Sonnet 43) – was part of my poetry book sex that I was to study for my GCSE English Literature examination. There was numerous poems in the book and only a select few would actually be included in the examination.
In the end though, I wasn’t required to study Browning’s poem for one simple factor: it was considered too “girly.”
Yes, our GCSE English classes were split into gender specific groups; the only subject to do so aside from P.E. Somebody made the decision that, to keep young adults interested in literature, they should be made to read “gender suitable” words. For Shakespeare, we ever-so-manly boys studied Merchant of Venice, whilst the girl group studied Romeo and Juliet. For a book, we did To Kill a Mockingbird; a book considered too masculine for the girls as they read Wuthering Heights. And in our poetry lessons, whilst we looked at the likes of Wilfred Owen, Sonnet 43 was only studied by the all female class.
At a time when schools were constantly being informed that boys were under-performing, perhaps this seemed like the only feasible response. I’d like to think that nowadays that wouldn’t occur and that boys are free to enjoy Elizabeth Browning’s Sonnet 43 as much as anybody else.
Speaking of enjoying Sonnet 43, here is a beer from the brewery from little Coxhoe near Durham. It becomes a first for this Beer Advent Calendar in that it is the first to be drunk and reviewed from cask. Yes, it is another time I wasn't home to pick up a Christmas themed beer, so this little number in the local fitted the bill perfectly. It's a Spiced Pear and Brandy Porter which is equally exciting and terrifying. Big kudos to the brewery though for trying something so different and festive at this time of year; exactly the brewing thought I want to see.
"Who here, would ever understand, that the pumpkin king with the skeleton grin, would tire of his crown? If they only understood..."
Sonnet 43 - #32 Create Those Moments: Spiced Pear and Brandy Porter 4.2%
This pours a very muddy, murky, cider-esque, pond water brown. It comes up a bit flat when it's settled and looks like Copella at this point. It smells like a bowl of Christmas pot pourri; cloves, nutmeg, aniseed... you name it. The first sip is a little sharp, acidic and thin. There's a facial grimace. Then you take a couple of more sips and you understand. It's like cinnamon apple pie in the taste. Those apple-like (pear) winter spiced, bready flavours make this like a beautiful dessert. Then there's sweet booziness to the finish. The body is thin, but this beer actually works because of that. It swills around the mouth in tempting style with the flavours never becoming too over-powering or too much because of the body. The feeling of warmth in your throat from such a low ABV beer is brilliant, yet it's remarkably accessible. It feels more like a winter cider, rather than a beer, but a festive spiced session beer is alright by me.
Mince Pie Pairing Rating: N/A - this damn pub...
Best paired with: Candles burning low, lots of mistletoe, lots of snow and ice, everywhere we go...