“We pillage and plunder and rifle and loot, drink up me hearties yo ho! We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot, drink up me hearties yo ho!” I’ve always wanted to know the full lyrics of this song written by Xavier Atencio for Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. As I’ve selected Brewery Van Steenberge’s Piraat Ale for today’s beer it afforded me the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity. I wonder, though… what’s so darn enticing about all things piratey?
Piracy was dangerous and romantic at the same time. Theirs was a life of pure pursuit of liberty and adventure. They rejected conformity and enslavement and they didn’t care one bit what anyone thought of them or their motives. Free to roam about thousands of miles of open water and beholden to nobody, their only impediment was their enemies and scurvy. No taxes, no rent, see the world, drink rum? Sure, who wouldn’t want that?
Not all pirates were completely lawless, either. When they were in the employ of their country they were called privateers and had full permission from the king to take down ships and towns under their enemy’s control. The most famous privateer was, perhaps, Captain William Kidd of Scotland. Sailing down the Thames on his first major assignment he failed to salute the British Royal Navy. As a punishment the Navy commandeered most of his hand-selected crew. He sailed to New York to re-populate his ranks but most of those hired turned out to be criminals. After failing to hunt down any pirates south of the Red Sea, his crew became restless and threatened mutiny. Soon, they found and captured an Armenian ship bearing letters of marque from France. Later along they were to attack another vessel when most of his crew abandoned him for the ship they intended to take. They made it back to England before he did and claimed him a pirate. While Kidd was gone to sea the Whig party who had originally backed his trip had been replaced by a Tory government. When the trial ended, Kidd was hung in an iron cage overlooking the Thames as a warning to other pirates.
In honor of scoundrels, buccaneers and salty dogs throughout history I’m pouring myself a bottle of Piraat. It’s Belgian pale ale with a lovely orange-yellow hue and nice sheets of sticky lacing left behind from the frothy but quickly-dissipating head. The nose is full of orange peel, apricot and floral hops. There’s no shortage of citrus, dried fruits and well-represented malted grain present in this ale. The hops are allowed to express themselves more than in the average Belgian ale providing a tangy and bitter counterpoint to the rich sweetness of the beer. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!