Yesterday I went on a research trip to Manchester’s Brew Dog Bar. Actually, if I’m honest, I didn’t anticipate that this was going to be a research trip, but upon arrival, according to my usual custom, I squinted at the blackboard for a name I’ve never seen before (I always forget that I need my glasses for beer selection), and spotted “Vagabond Pilsner.”
If this name isn’t a reference to Blake, it should be; his poem “The Little Vagabond” contrasts the cold church with the “healthy & pleasant & warm” ale-house.
Brew Dog’s philosophy is quite Blakean in many respects. It is a craft brewery which has its genesis in the dissatisfaction of the founders with industrially brewed beer, echoing Blake’s rebellion against the industrial revolution and the commercialisation of the art market in his time. And just as Blake expresses his ideas with prophetic zeal, so Brew Dog professes to have a “mission…to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are” (source: Brew Dog’s website). Also, like Blake, Brew Dog are not afraid to be controversial, although I think they risk being (unashamedly) gimmicky, which I would like to think Blake was not (though some have suggested that Blake cultivated an über-eccentric persona).
I know of another Blakean beer, Bombardier’s “Burning Gold” which takes its name from one of Blake’s most famous verses, calling itself “a tribute to all that is celebrated in English beer.” Maybe there are more Blakean brews out there — notes on a postcard please — what I would really like is to find one with a Blakean crown cork to add to my collection (which might almost trump my ongoing search for one with an “NB” monogram).