I Have Sampled This Life: Drinking Beer for Mark Twain

XY Eli Band at the Mark Twain House fundraiser

XY Eli Band at the Mark Twain House fundraiser

Literature breeds imagination, but so does a good buzz. Bring them all together and you have a hell of a fundraiser for one of New England’s best destinations for lovers of stories: The Mark Twain House.

Friday night I had a chance to drink some wonderful local beers at the museum adjacent to Twain’s house, which was the most comfortable setting for a beer-related event I’ve ever experienced.

It was the sixth annual “Tapping Into Twain” Oktoberfest, and it typically raises about $10,000 for the Hartford, Conn., house where Mark Twain lived from 1874 to 1891. There were about 300 people who, like me, wanted a taste of literature with a beer chaser.

Twain loved his warm Scotch, according to the organization’s communications director, Jacques Lamarre. But Twain also loved his beer, and he kept a supply of porter — among other styles — at the ready, especially when he was playing billiards.

“Twain would have loved events like this,” Lamarre said. “He loved a good party, as long as he was the center of attention.”

Long Trail Harvest meets Samuel Clemens

Long Trail Harvest meets Samuel Clemens

Ten thousand dollars compared to a $2 million operating budget for the private nonprofit isn’t much. But Lamarre takes a longer view. “For a lot of people [at the event] it’s their first experience with the museum. A lot of them could return to the museum again, maybe take a tour and buy something from the gift shop. So people know we’re more than just beer once a year.”

For $50 at the door, the guests got food from local restaurants, beer and the XY Eli Band, which pumped out blues standards with a gritty passion.

The night was alive with history, music, and beer. My wife and I enjoyed a few samples of local beers, with stand-outs being Willimantic Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest (spicy and crisp) and Cavalry Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale, which also lingered with a spicy finish.

Connnecticut’s finest were on display: Thomas Hooker, Back East, Two Roads, Stony Creek, City Steam, Olde Burnside, Charter Oak, and even Zok’s homebrew shop.

“Tapping Into Twain” is one of 150 programs the museum will run this year, said Julia Pistell, the communications associate who ran the event. One recent event featured Stephen King, and it raised about $150,000, she said.

There are plenty of other events coming up. I recommend you go to the Mark Twain House website for more information.

Twain once wrote in one of his notebooks, “Never refuse to take a drink — under any circumstances.” Advice from that literary giant is impossible to dismiss.

RELATED POST: Connecticut Wanderings

3 thoughts on “I Have Sampled This Life: Drinking Beer for Mark Twain

  1. I loved this Will! Thanks for sharing! I have great memories of visiting the Mark Twain house as a kid – now here’s reason to return as an adult!

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