Raising a glass to talented local authors is an Elephant Mountain Literary Festival tradition. File photo

COLUMN: Opening gala is good for what ‘ales’ you

Festival Tales from EMLF

ANNE DEGRACE

William Shakespeare wrote “a quart of ale is a dish for a king.” So it stands to reason a taster of locally-brewed beer is a fine way to toast local wordsmiths at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s 100-Mile Opening Gala on Friday, July 13, at 7 p.m. at the Hume Hotel.

An EMLF tradition, the gala’s glass-raising is always good fun. For years we’ve paired regional wines with local writers, describing similarities between, say, the poet and the plonk, not about the quality of the wine or the writer—always excellent—just fun with alliteration. This year the festival is pairing local authors with local beer in celebration of the happy proliferation of both.

As with wine, beer descriptors have their own colourful verbiage. Look for notes of leather, gunpowder, or cut grass; aromas of fresh bread; hints of mango, prickly pear, or smoked bacon. Oh, what fun we’ll have with these!

The afternoon of Friday begins with a free pre-event. The “literary craft crawl” involves beer-tastings at three local micro-breweries, each hand-crafted brew paired with an emerging writer from Selkirk College’s creative writing program.

Emma Leslie, Callum David Pengelly, and Whitney Rothwell will each be properly taster-toasted before they read from their work. Check out Backroads Brewing at 3:45 p.m., The Savoy Brewery at 4:20 p.m., and Torchlight Brewing Company at 5 pm. It’s an easy walk between these venues.

Then it’s the gala in the Hume Room, where the fun begins at 7:30 p.m. (tickets are available at emlfestival.com). Since 1991 Nelson has enjoyed a malty love affair with NBC brews; this is a tryst of a different sort as we pair three exceptional writers and two literary award-winners with Nelson Brewing Company favourites.

Take, for example, NBC’s Happy Camper Summer Ale “with notes of peach, apricot, citrus and a sweet malt finish.” Which writer will be paired with this crowd-pleaser?

Will it be Slocan-valley-born Jordan Mounteer, whose poems have won or been shortlisted for a mittful of awards including CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize? Perhaps it makes sense: what happy camper wouldn’t raise a glass to youthful male ungulate? Jordan’s poetry collection, Liminal, would be a great addition to any thoughtful person’s backpack for those summer sunset evenings.

In his novel Mountain Blues, New Denver author Sean Arthur Joyce’s characters are at turns happy, angsty, wishful, and feisty campers as the story unfolds in one of the most pristine locales around. Happy Camper’s “sweet malt finish” and this novel’s ending do have something in common. So Art may well be our Happy Camper pairing — or one of three other “hopful” possibilities.

And what possibilities! Rayya Leibich — essayist, playwright, poet, and teacher, equally at home in a primary school classroom, teaching a teen workshop, or leading an adult writing course — is a multitalented person with a way with words. Rayya might pair well with a complex, velvety brew displaying notes of attitude, assonance, and allegory (and not-so-subtle hints of alliteration).

Also paired will be the Richard Carver Award-winners. This year’s award is an acknowledgement of two literary movers-and-shakers who have made a difference: literary agent Morty Mint and literary publisher Ernest Hekkanen. Both mavericks, pairing a beer with these two will be interesting — a hoppy problem. (Note: feel free to say skål with a club soda if beer’s not your thing).

With emcee (and Nelson city councillor) Anna Purcell to keep things “hopping” and a bonus interview with Globe and Mail Western Arts Correspondent Marsha Lederman (who will interview our Saturday Night Live! headliners the next evening), expect an unforgettable evening.

One question remains: whose earthy undertones foreshadow a robust finish? There’s only one way to find out.

Festival Tales is a five-part column series on the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. The 2018 line-up features literary couples Susan Musgrave and Stephen Reid, and Esi Edugyan and Steven Price, as well as Saturday panel discussions and more. For information go to www.emlfestival.com.

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