IMAGE: Chapter 1, The Case of the IPA, via Slashfood.

“It started with a summons from a wealthy brewer named Cornelius Fuggle (no relation)….”

So begins The Case of the IPA, a detective story in twelve parts, published serially on a beer brewed especially for the purpose. According to Buzzards Bay Brewing Company co-owner, Bill Russell, the idea came up “over beer,” in a conversation about the extra label space available on their new 22-ounce bottles.

Rather than fill it with flowery descriptions of the artisanal brewing process or the provenance of each ingredient, brewer Harry Smith asked cellar master Paull Goodchild, a keen amateur lyricist and humour writer, to come up with a label-sized story. Goodchild quickly banged out a “hard-boiled detective farce,” which in turn inspired Smith to brew up a “hoppy, aromatic IPA.”

IMAGE: Chapter 1, The Case of the IPA, via Wired UK.

Each case of twelve bottles contains the full story, although Russell notes that single bottles are also available, as “some people just want to drink the beer.”

In this particular case, based on a quick skim of the first chapter, I too might be inclined to stick with what’s inside the bottle. However, as a fan of both craft beer and serialised literature, the possibilities of bottle publishing are pretty exciting. The Ithaca Beer Company could embark on a multi-year project to publish all 12,110 lines of Homer’s Odyssey, in a homage to the classically named cities of upstate New York. Sam Smith’s might partner with the Booker Prize to reprint the first paragraph of each shortlisted novel on an appropriate ale, sparking an annual autumn of pub-based literary debate. Indeed, as physical bookshops continue to close, perhaps publishers could buy label space for their new releases, running teasers on oversized bottles of Sierra Nevada, complete with a RFID tag that prompts you to purchase the e-book and continue reading.