The ocean of ideas will inevitably deplete when your industry cranks out a new business and a half, on average, every day. There are only so many puns based on the word “hop” you can slap on a label before the entire industry begins to appear a little childish. There are more than 5,000 craft beer producers in the U.S. today. That’s a lot of brewers brewing a lot of styles, each needing to be called something.
I’m not going to tally the number of trademark disputes from the past couple of years, because that tally wouldn’t paint the whole picture. There’s an Imperial IPA from a popular East Coast brewery that has almost the exact same name as a flagship beer from a highly publicized Midwest brewery — the only difference is that an article is placed in front of the operative word on one of the beers, and that’s the truth. That similarity has yet to be contested.
Inspiration can be found in many places. To me, one of the most inspirational days of the year is St. Patrick’s Day. For one, I’m inspired by the cultural acceptance of being able to take a day off of work and drink from breakfast until White Castle. The other thing I find inspirational about the holiday are the Irish drinking songs.
I was researching the lyrics to some popular Irish folk tunes so that I can be prepared for when that day-drinking buzz kicks in and has me breaking out in song, which is usually after the 3rd beer after the 2nd whiskey. Instead of rambling this year, I’ll actually be singing something intelligible. That’s when I realized that the names of these songs with deep cultural roots could provide some help to new brewers and beers without names. So, here are some selections for which I won’t require any credit or royalties.
This song is a tale of caution about an Irish lad who was betrayed by a “fair maid” – it’s always a fair maid. Early industrial era poets apparently didn’t know many socially acceptable phrases for describing young women. He ends up being convicted of receiving stolen property, a gold locket passed on to him by the woman. He is subsequently shipped off to Australia, which became a prison colony for the British Empire in the 19th century.
Before the judge and the jury, next morning I had to appear
The judge he says to me: “Young man, your case it is proven clear
We’ll give you seven years penal servitude, to be spent faraway from the land
Far away from your friends and companions, betrayed by the black velvet band”
Most famously recorded by The Dubliners in 1967, the tune dates all the way back to 1837. It’s considered an Irish folk song and is commonly sung in pubs across the pond and here in The States. The American version is called, “The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band.”
The story is both dark and sweet, like a Stout. In fact, the song may even reference the Stout style as it warns about giving into the temptations of love and beer.
So come all you jolly young fellows a warning take by me
When you are out on the town me lads, beware of them pretty colleens
For they feed you with strong drink, “Oh yeah”, ’til you are unable to stand
And the very next thing that you’ll know is you’ve landed in Van Diemens Land
The number of performers to run through this song is close to the number of seafarers to run through the area of Ireland it is ironically named after. The Holy Ground is a nickname for the red light district in the town of Cobh, which resides on the Irish southern coast. The tune was originally a capstan shanty – a song sung as sailors turned the capstan to raise the anchor.
And now the storm is raging, and we are far from shore
And this good old ship, it is tossing about and the rigging is all tore
And the secret of my life, my love, you’re the girl I do adore!
And still I live in hopes to see the holy ground once more!
And now the storm is over, and we are safe and well.
We will go into a public house and we’ll sit and drink like hell!
We will drink strong ale and porter, we’ll make the rafters roar!
And when our money is all spent, we will go to sea once more!
After an ordeal like that, a mighty fisherman deserves a mighty brew.
Have a listen and try not to catch the pub on fire.
Rest in peace, cow.
The progressively longer chorus finally concludes with the supposition of a “whole nuther universe” residing upon a tick.
Here it is at its crescendo:
On that louse there was a tick,
A rare tick a rattlin’ tick,
And the tick on the louse,
And the louse on the hair,
And the hair on the worm,
And the worm on the feather,
And the feather on the bird,
And the bird in the egg,
And the egg in the nest,
And the nest on the limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the hole,
And the hole in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o.
Not to be confused with the novel by James Joyce of the same name, the song says that there was lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake. Finnegan loved his booze and after falling off of a ladder and breaking his skull, everyone partied at his wake along with his corpse. The dude’s ramblin’ ways inspired a celebration.
Here’s a cover by the Dropkick Murphys.
The wild ale is the James Dean of beer. Its story is encapsulated in this song.
I’ve been a wild rover for many’s the year
I’ve spent all me money on whiskey and beer
The character in the song wants to return home as the prodigal son, make amends and claims he “never will play the wild rover no more.” But where’s the fun it that?
Be safe, and have a merry St. Patrick’s Day!