Our last-but-one beer is from a brewery I really, really, really wish we could get in Texas, not just because they make some superb beers, but because I think they have just about the best labels I've seen on a bottle of beer. Seriously, take a look at this small selection:
The Bruery (Placentia, CA) is only three years old but already has a reputation for making top class ales, mostly of a Belgian persuasion. The name isn't just a fanciful play on words, it's a mashup of the word 'brewery' and the family name of the founder, Patrick Rue. They're busy little bees too. Their main page on Beer Advocate lists 153 different beers. That's just about one new beer every week. They've also moved into the high-end deli business with a shop called Bruery Provisions which specialises in beer (of course, and not just their own), wine, cheese, charcuterie and other fine foods. It's a good job that place isn't within easy distance of my paycheque and my expanding waistline.
Today's beer, 4 Calling Birds... well, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you the reference. Who doesn't know that song? They're working their way through the verses and have already released Partridge in a Pear Tree (Christmas 2008), 2 Turtle Doves (2009) and 3 French Hens (2010), all of which are Belgian style ales and brewed to be cellared so that by the time they get to 12 Drummers Drumming you can have a 12-year vertical tasting. If you're lucky enough to have all twelve, make sure you've got plenty of friends to share them with because they all come in 750ml bottles and have ABVs in the low double figures. That's going to be some tasting! Stone Brewing have done the same kind of thing with their Vertical Epic series which is almost at its conclusion (if we're still here this time next year of course).
At this point I'm going to be, well, kind of the grammar Nazi, I guess. You see, the name of the beer is wrong. The correct line is "Four colly birds," not "calling birds."Colly birds are European blackbirds, the same kind of bird that got baked in a pie (four and twenty of them), and which Paul McCartney sang about ("Blackbird singing in the dead of night"). And yes they really do sing in the middle of the night, or perhaps they just kick off before the rest of the dawn chorus. Either way, they have one of the most beautiful of all birdsongs. Check out the video here (embedding disabled).
Move over Mr Nightingale.
Each Christmas, a handful of (mostly news media) organisations try to work out the cost of all the items in the song, or commission someone to do it for them. One of the most well known is put together by a company called PNC Wealth Management, and this year, for the first time (based on buying all of the items every day they're included, not just one time only), it topped $100,000. Now, it's pretty easy to figure out the cost of 40 gold rings (five multiplied by the eight verses those are mentioned in), but how in heaven's name do you work out the cost of, for instance, eight maids a-milking or eleven lords a-leaping? Quite cleverly, it turns out. The maids are considered to be unskilled labourers earning national minimum wage and the lords are performers from a local dance company.
The precise origin of the song is unknown, but some have put forward a theory that it has religious overtones, each one of the gifts suggesting a link with a biblical character or concept such as the eight beatitudes, the ten commandments, the four gospels etc. That reminds me of something. If only I could remember what it is...