This month's iteration of The Session is hosted by the venerable Stan Hieronymous, whose latest book I am currently reading as it happens. His theme for this chilly December day is:
If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?A challenging theme for sure, more so because I have a general aversion to the concept of the beer dinner (how many more times do I have to read of innovative pairings like chocolate and stout for dessert?). So I am ditching the beer dinner part of his theme, sorry Stan, and focussing on four people that I would invite to dinner with the inestimable Mrs V and I....
Unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, or have been living under a rock since the Pliocene, you will know that I lived a large chunk of my live in the Czech Republic. I love Czech food, Czech booze, Czech people, etc, etc, and no one person embodies the Czech Republic more to me than Václav Havel. Playwright, philosopher, politician, and above all dissident, Havel understood what it was to suffer for his beliefs, denied the ability to go to a university with a humanities program due to his bourgeois background, imprisoned several times for his views opposing the Communist Party during the post Prague Spring era, one of the founders of Charter 77, and if details in the magnificent biography 'Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts' are to be believed, a raconteur extraordinaire. I imagine dinner with Havel, fuelled with beer - Havel would take visiting dignitaries to the pub - would be an evening to remember, especially if that beer fuel were Kout na Šumavě's magnificent 10° pale lager.
I've lived in the US now for seven and a half years, and being the kind of person I am, with the interests I have, I have taken great delight in reading about the Founding Fathers. It is difficult in central Virginia to get away from the Founding Fathers, after all, three of the first five Presidents were from the Charlottesville area and my house is pretty much equidistant between Jefferson's Monticello and Madison's Montpelier. My favourite Founding Father though is Benjamin Franklin. From reading about his, and there is no other way to put this, unbelievable life (seriously, if someone wrote the life of Benjamin Franklin it would be mocked for being unrealistic), here is a guy interested in pretty much everything, an unparalleled intellect, and seemingly not jammed so far up his own arse as to be a bore. As for the beer to serve with our growing band on luminary visitors, a good cask of Fuller's London Porter would do the trick here.
When I was at college, studying to be a minister of religion, my favourite subject was hermeneutics, and it was through that subject that I developed a lasting love of language and its functions. I find things like semantics, semiotics, linguistics, philology, and etymology endlessly fascinating. So my third guest to arrive at my dinner table should come as no surprise, Umberto Eco. I love Eco's novels, in particular The Name of the Rose, as much as his essays and writings on literary criticism, and the thought of getting to sit down with him and just talk books, words, language, and symbols would be enough to make me smile broadly whilst skipping around the kitchen. For a mind such as this, the beer to be served would have to be complex, layered, polyvalent you might say, a good strong ale....North Coast Old Stock Ale, perhaps left in the cellar for several years, which reminds me that I have a bottle from 2010 floating around somewhere.
Rounding out my guests at the Feast of Four is Scotland's finest comedian, Billy Connolly. In common with the other guests, here's a guy with an incredible range of interests and knowledge, and a wonderful way of looking at the world. I imagine he would be the anchor that would stop the other three drifting off into the intellectual ether. The fourth beer that would be making an appearance at the feast would be probably my favourite beer on the planet, and I am sorry for the shameless self promotion, Three Notch'd Bitter 42.
So there we have it, the guests and the beer, but what of the feast itself? What would Mrs V and I lay on for our guests....
- Starter - French onion soup
- Main course - Mallaig langoustines and chips
- Pudding - Sticky toffee pudding and custard
- Cheese, fruit, oatcakes, coffee
Hopefully the following morning we would wake with raging hangovers, happily distended bellies, and an inclination to do it all again