It’s an English Special Bitter.
One might think that’s a unique mood caused by the loss of a favorite (or should I say favourite?) football club, or talking about the mess that is Brexit. Or maybe it’s the phrase one uses to describe Johnny Rotten’s permanent state of mind.
But, one would be mistaken.
An English Special Bitter is a beer. A very good beer, but not something one finds very often in the U.S.A., and particularly not in the frozen, buried tundra of Southern Minnesota. Until now, that is. Until today.
O yea, O yea, let it be known, from the hamlet of Randolph to the quaint village of Dundas, by order of the Brewmaster, Sir Randy Clay, first of his name, creator of the spirit, and protector of the brew, Imminent Brewing is now offering an English Special Bitter, to be known from this day forth as the Tavern Drum Ale. This beer is so delightful, so flavorful, so full of myrth and frivolity it could only be named by The Bard himself.
(The Bard, by the way, is William Shakespeare. Try to keep up.)
This beer is so good and so authentic, you’ll think you’re sitting in a place called the Leaky Canoe or the Spiteful Pigeon somewhere outside of Nottingham, and not in Downtown Northfield.
Craftbeer.com describes an ESB like this: “ESB stands for ‘extra special bitter.’ This style is known for its balance and the interplay between malt and hop bitterness. English pale ales display earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. Medium-to-high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma should be evident. The yeast strains used in these beers lend a fruitiness to their aromatics and flavor... The residual malt and defining sweetness of this richly flavored, full-bodied bitter is medium to medium-high.”
Okay, so first of all, I replaced the word “extra” with “English,” because, for our purposes, it fits the description better. Also, while Tavern Drum probably fits best under the heading of “Pale Ale,” with it’s bitter-forward flavor and an ABV of 5%, it’s not all that pale. It’s a lovely shade of nut brown. Other than that, the above description is pretty spot-on.
As for the name, it comes from Shakespeare’s history play, Henry IV, Part I. The character of Falstaff is sitting in a tavern and… wait. This is better explained by our resident anglophile and Shakespearean expert, Mr. Derek Meyers…
“The prince (Harry, soon to be Henry V) has just made amends with his father, King Henry IV, for his un-princely behavior. This included shenanigans and drinking too much in taverns around London with his friend Jack Falstaff (a fictional character). Harry has been asked by his father to raise an army to help quell an uprising in the north. Harry asks Falstaff to assemble a group of infantry and meet him the next day. Now, a word about Falstaff. He is very much the comedic center of the play and in some ways its most interesting character. He's a liar, thief, a laggard, an amazing story-teller and he eats and drinks far too much. In sum, he is a bad influence on Harry and, eventually, Harry will see through Falstaff and disown him. This scene could be taken as the first step of that. Harry is becoming more responsible and Falstaff doesn't welcome the change. When he says, ‘O, I could wish this tavern were my drum,’ he's basically saying I wish I could lead my troops from here, this tavern.
“So, you might take the quote as one of cowardice. I think you could also take it in the larger context as the beginning of a change, signaling something better in Harry and his leadership. You might also consider it a call towards peace, i.e., rather than run off to war, let us remain in this tavern and settle our differences civilly, perhaps over a pint. You might also just consider it a witty bit of dialogue from a pretty all right author. Really, interpret it how you may and read the play if you want more context (it's one of my favorites)!”
The Falstaff quote is on one of the panels on our big tavern table. Therefore we claim the connection and the right to attach it to one of our beers.
Really, I think what Derek is saying is that, in the Tavern Drum Ale, we offer you beer and culture all in one unassuming pint glass. That fits in with our vision for Imminent Brewing rather nicely, actually. We’re a place to gather, drink a pint or two, exchange ideas, and create a culture of peace, civility and wit.
If it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for us.e