A Book & A Beer – The River Why by David James Duncan

by Sean on January 12, 2018


I was recently asked what my favorite beer style currently is. It was a welcome, though tough, question. Usually, you get the more prosaic, what is your favorite beer which leads to the even worse answer of Whatever I am drinking now!

When it comes to books though, I have a very clear favorite. The River Whyby David James Duncan. One might look at the blurb for the book and come to the conclusion that I like fishing and the Oregon outdoors. That would be wrong. I am not someone who hunts or rafts or camps. I like hotels with wi-fi and free breakfast.

So why is a book that talks about fishing and a bygone book The Compleat Angler something that I have read multiple times. It is because of the lead character Augustine aka Gus, aka Gloomy Gus and his family H2O, Ma and Bill Bob Orviston. It is a book of discovery. That sounds lame as I type it, but it is the truth. It is about finding your place in your family and in the world and then creating your own family. And I find hope and solace in that discovery. Because it is not easy and I don’t know still if it should be or not.

There is philosophy everywhere in this book and I tolerate that too to get to the parts where Gus is tongue tied when he first meets Eddy or when Gus tells a whopper of a fish tale to an unknowing “fishing writer” or literally any of the action between H2O and Ma. In each reading, I have been taken by a different character. My first read, I pictured myself as Gus but lately I gravitate more to Ma and Bill Bob.

Recently, I have given this book as gifts to two people. One my age and one to my oldest nephew and it is a book I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone because I think that, they too will feel a kinship with one of the characters in the book.

Now for beers there are plenty of beers with a fish related name but a new beer from Sierra Nevada strikes me as a good first choice, 3 Weight is a new canned Session IPA that portrays a fisherman with rod in hand and hip deep in water and makes reference to the type of line being used to catch fish. Plus you could easily chill the can in the river.

And since the book is set in western Oregon, near the coast, I have selected a de Garde beer Purple Kriek. Get it, Kriek, or creek or crick. Might be a skosh too obvious. But it is also a wild ale and this is a wild and outdoorsy family.

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