On the evening of Tuesday, April 11, every barstool, patio chair, and indoor table is occupied. There’s a friendliness in the air—the kind in which a stranger will scoot over so that you can have your own space at the bar, and the bartenders ask how your day was before taking an order. As bustling as the taproom is, it feels more like a community’s living room, filled with the laughter and chatter that you hear during a distant family’s holiday get-together. In front of most of the patrons is a pint glass; many ordering at the bar request Arrant (Pale Fire’s newest IPA), with it’s name descending from Shakespeare’s writing. In fact, even the establishment’s name derives from one of the founder’s favorite books, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and an excerpt of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, “[t]he moon's an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.”
With the name tributes aside, there’s no denying that Pale Fire Brewing Co. appreciates and supports literature. When WMRA approached Founder and General Manager, Tim Brady, about the possible collaboration for Books & Brews, it was a no-brainer. Not only has the event featured local and national authors alike, the events are so well-attended that a new ticketing service is now in place in order for people to reserve seats on a first-come, first-served basis. For those who miss the ticket deadline, walk-ins are welcomed as space allows. As an author myself, it is gratifying to see the community celebrate an author, and this large taproom fill up as quickly as it did for April’s guest.
A bookshelf, filled with books, organized by the colors of their spines (dark to light), is featured behind April’s Book & Brew’s author, journalist and author of High Noon, Glenn Frankel. WMRA moderator, Mary Katharine Froehlich, asks the first question, and the author’s eyes light up as he begins to explain why the book he’d written was created. Reading a book is an experience, but WMRA, Pale Fire Brewing Co., and Barnes and Noble booksellers, are creating the spotlight the authors, and the arts, deserve.
As my two daughters and I sit on the couch, directly in front of the author’s seat, I lean forward to learn more about the author’s research while my daughters begin a quiet game of cards; eventually they, too, become interested in the topics being discussed. This is a win-win event and venue for all sides of me: mom, writer, author, literary enthusiast and community member. Of all these things, I must admit, I am not a beer drinker—which is exactly how I know Pale Fire Brewing Co. is onto something more than the perfect brew (which I hear they are). This event is a celebration of the arts, an opportunity for a friendly conversation with strangers, and a place my kids love to visit—even on days in which there’s no event.
Pale Fire didn’t stop at offering literary events solely for adults. In addition to the successful collaboration, Books & Brews, Tap Room Manager, Susan Keeler, believes that one of their newly-created literary events is “a perfect partnership”. Multi-Language Story Time has been developed between local non-profit, Skyline Literacy, and the brewery. The story time is geared towards children ages two to seven, and offers a story read in English, as well as a story read in another language. All the proceeds, of the suggested $3 donation, goes directly to Skyline Literacy. Future Story Time dates are April 29th, May 27th, June 24th, and July 29th (the last Saturday of the month). Whether you are a parent, caretaker or want to come out and be a big kid while you support this cause, there’s something each of us can learn from these events.
“We designed the space to be more than a tasting room and we open our doors regularly for art, literature, cultural and political events," says Susan Keeler, Tap Room Manager. "Our calendar is a blend of our ideas and people reaching out to us with ideas of their own. Events bring out people who don't yet know that we are here, and inspire new customers and ideas."
Literature is beautiful for a multitude of reasons; however, Pale Fire Brewing Co. understands one of the most important factors of literature: that storytelling is part of the foundation of our roots, as human beings, and the literary arts are essential to the growth of a community. We each have a story to tell, and even if one is told in a language we may not understand, literature seems to bring us to a place of connection, fellowship and appreciation, instantaneously. Stories allow us to heal and learn from unique perspectives. Some of my favorite authors have appeared at Pale Fire Brewing Co., and some of the stories I’ve repeated throughout my life were told to me by people whom had a beer in their hands when they told me: coincidence? I think not. Whether you want to listen to a story or tell a few of your own, Pale Fire is open to the events, and environment, which will inspire all.
“Personally, it's been great to watch the Tap Room form its own identity. First and foremost, we are a brewery tasting room, but a downtown space like Pale Fire's has the potential to be so much more. When people come together over a cold beer there is community, and it's nice to be part of that.”
Written by Angela Carter, an author, poet, motivational speaker, spoken word performer, visual artist, art director at the Artful Dodger and a framer at The Frame Factory. Her writing in her full-length poetry memoir, Memory Chose A Woman's Body, was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Her poetry performances have been featured in a multitude of venues including The KGB Club in Manhattan and Busboys and Poets in DC. Angela is an advocate of the healing ability of the arts. She, her husband, two daughters and two dogs reside in Harrisonburg, VA after relocating, from Bath, England, approximately 10 years ago. The Carters are proud to be a part of Harrisonburg's growing, and caring, downtown community. Read some of her work here.