Shakesbeer Festival

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!” -William Shakespeare
Renaissance Festivals are horrible places. I mean don’t get me wrong I do love giant turkey legs, out of shape dudes jousting, and ridiculously dangerous wooden swords (that would be the source of and solution to numerous childhood sibling melees). But for the most part, they are dusty, uncomfortable, expensive, and just plain ridiculous. In fact my best memory of the fair came at the expense of an ex-drama club looking dude who was evidently paid to heckle guests. To one portly patron, he crowed something annoyingly similar to “My Lord, please be aware there be only limited swine neigh. If it please my lord, refrain from feasting on ALL the sausage of the land. The kingdom thanks thee.” The big guy just looked and him and said, “Yeah, well, you work at a renaissance festival, dipshit”. The crash of the man’s self esteem sounded like a broadsword splintering a shield.
Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout is a beer that works at a renaissance festival. It heckles its audience. It’s dressed up, over the top, a little showy, and ultimately a bit much. But it’s having a great time doing all that!  Creamy, chewy, rich, big, boozy, brash, burnt. Yeah, its getting paid minimum wage to be clad in tights and speak like a doofus, but who cares? It’s probably going off after work, getting drunk, and making out with the buxom beer wench from the ye olde Coors Light tent.
I really wanted this beer to be Fairport Convention’s Lief and Liege. I wanted Sandy Denny’s silkiness, Richard Thompson’s inventive chops, and a sharp brooding presence throughout. But really , the better match for this one is Steeleye Span’s Below The Salt (which is by no means a bad thing). The beer is a little bit more medieval flavored than of the renaissance…a little bit more rough around the edges….a little bit more battleaxe than paintbrush. Just like SS’s fine record chocked full of drumless acapellas, gaudy yet pretty folky aesthetics, and electrified traditionals, it is over the top, but a heck of a lot of fun to drink to when you are feeling unapologetically anachronistic or just in need of something brawny to top off your souvenir plastic flagon.
A great beer and a great record….for the right mood or right situation. Right before your Shakespeare Appreciation college class. Right after sitting through a local high school performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Or perfect to make your renaissance festival days go much smoother. Hang in there…just a few hours until your peasant wench gets off work.

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