A Confederacy of Dunkels

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. The following post is in response to Session 95, which asks: “What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?”

There’s a document on my desktop titled “A Confederacy of Dunkels.” And while the title is just a joke, it does contain the first chapter of a beer-inspired novel I hope to one day write.

The title, you might have picked up on, was inspired by “A Confederacy of Dunces,” which I read for the first time this past year. This farcical work of fiction focuses on one Ignatius J. Reilly, a pompous, pretentious and out-of-touch slob of a man who lives with his mother in New Orleans. If you haven’t read it, do so: it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever had the joy or reading.

During one part of the novel, Reilly gets a job at the Levy Pants factory. He somehow manages to impress his boss despite showing up late and doing practically no work at all. This provided a little seed of an idea: what if a newcomer to the craft beer industry proceeded to shoot up the ranks of the craft beer cognoscenti?

The main character as I envision him will be a guy from the South who eschews craft beer and instead drinks one of the many ubiquitous mass-market lagers out there. Let’s just call him Tim. Tim is forced to taste craft beer for the first time when he visits an out-of-town brewery with friends and family after attending a wake for his uncle, whom he soon discovers was a well-known homsession beer bloggingebrewer and beer personality in the area.

Of course, his uncle’s friends are shocked that the man’s nephew would be so vehemently opposed to the drink he loved. After Tim makes fun of the fancy beers at the brewery, the bartender proposes a challenge: try a flight, tell me what you taste.

Tim takes the challenge. He finds many of the beers vile, yet he nails the descriptions. A pumpkin beer calls to mind “chewin’ on a stick of Big Red,” IPAs taste like licking a pine tree, and a saison reminds him of an old musty barn. The bartender is shocked.

The next day, he’s called back to the brewery to pick up a binder brimming with his uncle’s homebrew recipes and beer tasting notes. The same bartender from the night before mentions that they’re leading Cicerone classes, and that he should consider taking them. He also notes that the brewery is looking to hire someone to wash kegs and clean out the mash tuns. It’s low-level work, but Tim is a landscaper back home, and the winter is his off-season anyway. He can stay in his uncle’s house while they’re trying to sell it, and spend more time with other friends and family in the process. Why not?

We’re fast entering TL;DR mode, so I’ll spare you more details. But the novel will basically focus on Tim’s rise in the beer industry, from someone tasting craft beer for the first time, to learning the history, to brewing it, to becoming something of a prodigy at a craft brewery, to being courted by the big guys and eventually joining their ranks. A naive and skeptical character like Tim would be the perfect mouthpiece to poke fun at all aspects of the beer industry — but don’t worry, there will be plenty of praise as well.

Though I’ve often read The Session, I’ve yet to contribute. It’s this bad habit of mine to have something on the backburner that I just keep putting off and putting off, until the idea is but a distant dot in my rearview mirror. Well, no more. It’s a new year, and so today I’m throwing out the idea in hopes sharing it inspires me to actually write the thing. I don’t know if there’s a market for a book like this, but it’s something I think I could have fun with. Would you read it?