Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blends, Books, and Brewing

Few things are as wonderful to me, personally, as when two things I enjoy separately are given the opportunity to overlap in some fashion.  For instance, for years I described Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the best comic book television show that was never a comic.  The combination of juicy dialogue, well-crafted story arcs and commitment to continuity reminded me of nothing so much as a classic 'tights and fights' comic book, with high-school drama there to round things out and provide a tremendous allegorical structure.  Small wonder then, that when Whedon got picked to write and direct The Avengers for Marvel Studios that there was so much rejoicing amongst the geekdom.

Likewise, consider one of my favourite actual comic books: Nexus, written by Mike Baron and drawn almost exclusively by Steve 'The Dude' Rude.  Nexus is a sci-fi pastiche that blends a lot of my favourite things together in its tale of a reluctant executioner who is tasked to be the conscience of humanity among the stars, and compelled to seek out and destroy mass murderers or be destroyed himself.

Nexus is a delightful and compelling read that combines classic adventure, pathos, space opera, and political satire, all dressed up in a clean and elegant design style that mixes elements of Jack Kirby and the classic Hanna Barbera cartoon Space Ghost.  Steve Rude is a gifted artist who can convey anguish in an alien visage that makes it indistinguishable from our own, and do it with an economy of line echoing some of the greatest cartoonists to ever pick up a pen.  If you have never read Nexus, I highly recommend it, and so do Chris Claremont and Harlan Ellison, for what it's worth.

Something else I like to see combined with other elements is beer.  Sure, I like a straight up lager or stout as much as the next fellow (more, probably), but a Lime and Black Pepper Lager from Dead Frog breweries is a real treat on a hot day, and the exquisite Neapolitan ice cream stout produced by Alley Kat for Sherbrooke Liquor, Neapolean, is nothing short of brilliant when it comes to choosing the final beer of the evening.

One of Sherbrooke's other projects involves craft brewer Paddock Wood in Saskatchewan, and entails 12 beers released quarterly, each in honor of a different pantheon's beer god.  Being a significantly committed nerd, mythology and I go way back, but rarely as far as Bullfinch.  My Norse knowledge came less from Snorri Sturlison's eddas and sagas, and more from Walt Simonson's run on the Thor comics.  Most of the remainder came courtesy of the venerable Deities & Demigods sourcebook for Dungeons and Dragons. Neither was much help in identifying the first Beer Gods release, a (delicious) Baltic Porter called Ragutiene, named after a Lithuanian fermentation deity.

Comely maidens on beer labels is nothing new, but there was something both appealing and familiar in the artwork presenting Ragutiene.  At first, I was reminded of some of the Greek characters from Eric Shanower's copiously researched graphic novel of the Iliad, Age of Bronze, but some time later I came across the startling truth: the label was drawn by none other than The Dude!

It turns out Steve Rude will not only be designing the labels for all twelve Beer Gods, but they will be collected into a calendar and sold by Edmonton's Happy Harbor Comics to boot.

I also love the fact that thus far none of the deities presented have been familiar ones, prompting many a revelationary journey to Wikipedia and the like. Only the first three have been released to date, and the entire slate will take three years to get to.  Of the three, I have only tried Ragutiene, but I aim to change that directly.  Silenus is a Belgian-style Tripel, while Yasigi, despite being an African goddess, is described as a Belgian Hibiscus beer.

I believe it was coming across the artwork for obviously Japanese-inspired Siduri, above, that finally completed the circuit in my brain between Steve Rude and the Beer Gods.  I'm not sure what style it or the Norse Aegir will be, but I'm just happy to have an opportunity to combine one of my favourite beverage styles with one of my favourite artists for a couple of years yet!

I've always been more of a reader than a collector, per se, and I don't expect my well-read issues to appreciate much at all, but I have to say the idea of owning some of the original art, like that for the Egyptian goddess Hathor which Rude auctioned off on eBay in the spring, is pretty compelling.

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