Books & Brews: The House on Teacher’s Lane / Noble Rot

Two of my favorite things in the world are books and craft beer.  Out of this grew the idea that maybe pairings aren’t just for the table anymore; perhaps there is a perfect beer for every book . . .

About eight years ago, my husband and I bought the first floor of an old parking deck and renovated it into the space we now call home.  Recently, a friend recommended Rachel Simon’s memoir,  The House on Teacher’s Lane, because she saw striking similarities between the author and her husband and my husband and I.  It was a bit eerie.  Simon is a writer who also teaches at a college.  Her husband is an architect.  I write and teach.  My husband, while not an architect, did attend a summer architecture program at Colombia University and just generally has an amazing eye for design.  Simon captures this dynamic between two people who are creative in such vastly different ways, perfectly.  I can see entire worlds with characters moving through them in my head, but ask me to imagine all the baseboards in my house painted a certain color, and I’m at a loss. 

The really beautiful thing about Simon’s book, however, is that it isn’t just a tale of renovation, but instead, her far deeper insight woven into the story of the transformation of her home.  Her descriptions of long nights spent painting, pausing only for take-out dinner and her memory of elaborate names of the paint colors made reading Simon’s memoir feel like talking to an old friend. (Her colors were Breathtaking and Butterfield; mine were Honeymilk and Chocolate Soul).  But it was passages like this one, that really made the book shine:

“Renovation is messy, unpredictable, maybe even out of control.  It crawls forward through one phase after another, nurtured by the nimble-handed and the stumble-prone and the dream-thwarted, consuming far more time and going through many more compromises than anyone would imagine, until finally it matures into a house that still, for all the preparation and hope that went into it, has shortcomings.  And then we move inside this flawed house, and over time, we either come to rely on its ability to protect us, and commit ourselves to protecting it, and let ourselves grow charmed by its idiosyncrasies, and learn how to conduct ourselves when its deficiencies arise — or we leave.  Just as we do with love.”

It was prose like this that made me see layers in my own experience that I had never considered.  Storytelling at it’s very best.   But please be assured that you don’t need to have had a renovation experience to enjoy The House on Teacher’s Lane. There are beautiful truths in it for everyone.

So while you are enjoying Simon’s memoir, let me recommend that you sample a Dogfish Head, Noble Rot — the perfect pairing. Why?  Simon’s memoir is set in Delaware, making Dogfish Head the natural choice as a brewery.  The Noble Rot is a saison-style beer brewed with grape must sourced from a winery nearby. (Grape must is the pressed grape juice that still includes stems and skins.) There is a focus on sustainable design in the renovation project Simon chronicles; Noble Rot is a good fit with its re-use of a by-product sourced from a local winery.

The resulting beer is a pleasant blend of sweet and sour, clearly making it the perfect pairing for a memoir all about finding balance between the old and new.  Between love and loss.  Between broken and fixed.  Peace within the lovely, messy juxtaposition of life.


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