The Imbibing Scribe: Ballads and Berries

I love beer. I love raspberries. But, in general, the two should never meet. I am not a fan of most fruit beers. To paraphrase Mr. Franklin, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is proof that God hates us and wants us to be miserable.

But then, a few years ago, a kind soul forced a bottle of Founder’s Cerise upon my palate, and the skies parted, and the angels sang. It tasted like cherry pie. And beer. And that was good. So, when I saw Rübæs, another Founder’s fruit beer, I gave it a shot. And it is delicious!

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Image credit

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It is certainly tart – raspberries, dude – and has to be sweet to balance. But it achieves that tricky balance as well as we should all expect from a Founder’s beer. However, it is not a perfect beer. It’s a bit thin, and it’s so sweet that more than one in a sitting might be too much. I’ve read some naysayers criticizing its aroma for smelling too much like raspberries (I assume they’ve forgotten that it’s supposed to be a raspberry beer), but I rather enjoy it.

So, bring your fruit-loving palate and pour yourself a glass. And while you do, put on something flawed, but sweet and ultimately refreshing. Currently, while I drink my Rübæs, I’m enjoying the album Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer.

This album takes the traditional ballads collected by Francis James Child and creates really beautiful new arrangements. The harmonies are stunningly beautiful and the two guitar arrangements are soft, melodic, and compelling.

When the album was released in 2013, one review – from The Guardian – noted that the performances were so sweet, soft, and beautiful that they took away from the earnestness and, in some cases, the sheer brutality of some of the images. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the ballad “Tam Lin.”

In this number (Child 39), the duo sings a wonderful harmonized melody. It’s transportive and distractingly pretty. But, the song includes references to a woman taking abortive herbs, a murderous faerie, and a lover who shape-shifts into horrible animals in his woman’s embrace. It took me several listens before I noticed the dark imagery.

But, far from masking that brutality, I think it almost highlights it. When you hear it first, the beauty can throw you off that scent. But, when you realize what they’re singing about, the images become more horrifying than they would otherwise have been.

So, sip your berry beer and listen to traditional English and Scottish folk music. Neither one will disappoint.

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