If you want excellence in English music, look for Ralph Vaughan Williams. If you want excellence in English beer, look for the Green Man.
During its recent trip to Asheville, NC, the BachBeer team visited the Green Man brewery. When Mags and Seb stepped inside, they were impressed first by a 320-square-foot mosaic with the brewery’s logo and soon after with the delicious taste of Green Man’s beer.
Green Man’s logo is a man’s face with leaves coming out of the side, and it appears on every bottle of the company’s beer.
The brewery’s website explains the symbolism of the logo. “A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves.” It is “a symbol of rebirth, or ‘renaissance,’ representing the cycle of growth each spring,” and “The Green Man” is “also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.”
Green Man brewery pays tribute to English public houses through its beers, which it dubs “legendary ales.” Its three best-known ales all are traditional English styles: India pale ale, porter, and extra special bitter (ESB).
Mags picked the ESB, and Seb chose the porter. Both ales have received glowing reviews. Beer Connoisseur magazine, for example, gave the ESB 92 out of a possible 100 rating points and called it an “almost perfect blend of toasty malt, floral hop presence, soft fermentation esters and clean alcohol — an excellent example of the Strong Bitter style and very pleasant to drink.” The BachBeer selections lived up to their reputation.
The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams resonates with the symbolism of the Green Man. Vaughan Williams is associated with musical “rebirth”; in fact, two of his teachers, Sir Charles Stanford and Sir Hubert Parry, are often described (as, for example, in Encylopaedia Brittanica) as leaders of a 19th-century “renaissance” of English music. Vaughan Williams also helped English folksong to be re-born as art music by using familiar tunes in pieces such as his Fantasia on Greensleeves and Five English Folk Songs. And the music of Vaughan Williams, like Green Man beer, has a distinctly English flavor, which comes from Tudor church music and other historical inspirations.
As we think of the leaves of the Green Man, we remember the poet who wrote Leaves of Grass. Vaughan Williams also was a fan of Walt Whitman, and his early choral piece, Toward the Unknown Region, is a setting of Whitman’s verse. Enjoy this performance, preferably with one of Green Man’s legendary ales close by.