Monthly Archives: November 2011

New Belgium’s Snow Day Winter Ale & Home Alone

BAAM! We’re back, Drinkers!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it means that it is now unequivocally Christmas time which I, like most Americans, associate with snow. Growing up in New England, there are a few things that stick with me when it comes to wintertime. And while beer was not part of my childhood (because that would be weird and irresponsibly of my parents), the 1990 Chris Columbus directed, John Hughes written, Macaulay Culkin vehicle Home Alone ranks amongst the most memorable and formative pieces of my youth. And though my opinions, and tastes, may have developed a little over the years, I still get excited by the memory of curling up and watching a great movie on a snow day. So let’s get snowed in!

I actually haven’t seen Home Alone in quite some time but it’s incredible how many little details I remembered (and forgot). But what has remained the same is that this movie is still simply fun. Sure Macaulay Culkin’s character is inexplicably violent and kind of an asshole, but that doesn’t mean he and his home-defenses aren’t lovable. I mean, he learns to appreciate the importance of family and unconditional love, so we can forgive him for sticking a nail in a guys foot and lighting Joe Pesci’s head on fire. Right? Another thing that hasn’t changed over the years is how creepy this movie can get. Remember the furnace in the basement? That thing is terrifying! And it doesn’t help that the John Williams score is equal parts scary basement, happy childhood and Christmas hymnal. Truly eerie. To be fair though, the score is fantastic. For a 90’s kids movie, the music actually stands out and is worth paying attention to. Plus, there’s some polka music thrown in there just for good measure.

I also have a few final remarks that I feel just need to be said regarding this film.

1) The crooks in the movie are arguably the worst crooks ever. Ever.
2) Macaulay Culkin calls the cops only after he has tortured the home invaders.
3) I think every boy, at some point in his life, wished he could be this much of a badass.
4) This movie has an inexplicably good cast. Joe Pesci. Catherine O’Hara. John Heard. John Candy. Yeah, I know.
5) This is one of the few films I have seen that has convincing and realistic snow. I’m being serious. Home Alone got its snow right.

Don't worry, it's just a natural byproduct of understanding the importance of family.

Okay enough with the kids movie, let’s drink some beer! New Belgium describes their Snow Day as a  “Midnight Wheat” with some serious hoppiness. Now, I have no idea what a Midnight Wheat is (does that undermine my authority?) but I can tell you how I feel about this beer and its mad hops. This dark, caramel-y beer is a simple and hearty winter ale that would be perfect for a New England snow day. Like several other New Belgium brews, this beer is dark, bitter and hoppy but is still remarkably drinkable. While the hoppiness is the defining feature of this beer, you still manage to get some of those holiday spices filtering in underneath, which adds a nice layer of complexity to this beer. Sure it’s not the greatest winter ale ever but Snow Day is just another example of how New Belgium is able to make potentially difficult beers very accesible to casual drinkers. Now sadly we don’t get any snow here in Los Angeles, but if I never need a snow day, I think I know where I’ll turn. And if you’d like a second opinion on this beer, check out our friend’s review over at A Cap A Day. She does some great reviews and has some beautiful beer-related photography as well. Check it out!

And there you go. BAAM (yup, sticking with it) is back in action, so be on the lookout for some more combos. Home Alone and New Belgium’s Snow Day was a great combo to kick off our holiday season. Home Alone is still a good time and Snow Day is a solid beer to be drinking while watching a movie for kids…yeeaaahh….

Oh and I’m drinking IPA’s again. So that’s happening.
Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
New Belgium’s Snow Day Winter Ale:
Dark, caramel color
Bitter hoppiness as a primary flavor
Very accessible dark, winter beer

Home Alone
Still a classic. Can’t outgrow this one
Surprising and haunting score by John Williams
Macaulay Culkin’s character has some serious rage issues he  should address

 

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Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale & Jackie Brown

Evening Drinkers!

Tonight for BAAM (that’s the abbreviation. Just deal with it.) we’re drinking Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale and watching the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. I’m not usually too keen on brown ales and I feel as if Jackie Brown is a forgotten Tarantino film, but both are pleasantly surprisingly and are worth returning to.

When stacked up against Tarantino’s other films, Jackie Brown is generally low on the list in terms of its popularity. Sandwiched between Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill years, Jackie Brown is a little treasure tucked away behind some big stars. While the film sports actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton, the real star of the filmis Jackie Brown (as to be expected), played by a superb Pam Grier. To boil down a convoluted plot, Grier’s character triple crosses (I think triple…I lost count) Samuel L. Jackson who makes his money by running guns. Caught between jail time and the possibility of her own murder, Jackie Brown forges a clever way of getting clear of jail while stealing all of Sam Jackson’s cash with the help of a bail bondsmen. Retrospectively, the film is quite simple but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see what lies next. Sometimes the ambiguity works as it builds narrative tension. Other times I just felt confused. But that’s kind of how Tarantino does things and I don’t think he’s going to change anytime soon. His writing is sharp and quick while his cinematography is slow and often poetic, but sometimes the two don’t mesh. While it’s cool to see tense, important moments shown distantly or mundanely, at times the visual style of a scene or shot drowns out the narrative altogether. There are a number of times when we are left staring at empty rooms, expressionless faces or people walking down a street without a real purpose. And while this is unusual and done with the best of intentions, it feels as if sometimes Tarantino is more interested in how cool his movie looks than in telling a great story. That complaint ties directly to my second complaint, which is the length. The film is an unnecessary 150 minutes long. While I appreciate the choice of using long, slow takes, at times they really just felt indulgent on the part of the filmmaker. But all in all, I like this film. Pam Grier kicks ass, Samuel L. Jackson kicks ass (as can be expected), Robert De Niro almost says nothing and it looks very cool in the way that only Tarantino knows how. Also, quick side note, this film loves music. Seriously, just listen to this movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Did I mention Mr. L. Jackson's funky hair and affinity for screwdrivers?

And on to our beer for the evening. As I mentioned earlier, I usually don’t drink brown ales. They tend to run a bit too malty and bitter for my tastes but Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale seemed to do the trick for me. This beer, which I’ve only seen sold in 550 ml bottles, pours a lovely reddish-brown color with a rich, creamy head. The aroma does not hide that classic, dark malty flavor of brown ales. However, with that first sip, you get something much smoother and downright tastier. You still get that chocolately maltiness, but it isn’t overpowering. You still get some of that yeast flavor and just a taste of bread. Also, it continues to taste great as it warms, a trait I love to see in beers. To be honest, I didn’t really taste any nuttiness but that’s just my unrefined pallet. While other brown ales have disappointed me in the past, I think Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale might have given this brew a second chance in my book.

So that was my evening. Jackie Brown and Nut Brown Ale. An interesting mix actually. I enjoyed both and I also learned a little bit as well, which is more than I can usually say when I sit in front of the TV and drink a beer.

A quick closing note: as Thanksgiving is rolling around the corner and I’ll be headed home to my beloved Boston, odds are you won’t be seeing another BAAM (there it is again, get used to it) for a little over a week. Obviously I’ll be drinking some beers when I’m home (Sam Adams? Harpoon? Magic Hat?) but I’ll probably be too busy socializing and being popular to spend my time with likes of you.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy drinking!

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale:
Lovely, coppery brown color 
Classic and inviting aroma
Surprisingly easy to drink yet full of flavor

Jackie Brown
A somewhat overlooked Tarantino flick
Razor-sharp writing with excellent delivery
Great visuals but at times they get a bit carried away

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Uinta XVII Anniversay Barley Wine Ale & Sideways

Hey Drinkers!

Tonight we’re stepping into uncharted, enemy territory and talking about wine (gasp!). Well, kind of (phew!). We’re watching the wine-centric 2004 Alexander Payne film Sideways while sipping on Uinta Brewing Company’s XVII Anniversary Barley Wine Ale. To put my cards on the table, I have never had a barley wine, I don’t know anyone that’s had a barley wine and I had zero idea what it would taste like, so this was a bit of an experiment. I also know nothing about wine so I probably snickered inappropriately a few times whenever the film got a bit snooty. So let’s get liquored up and get started with tonight’s combo.

I had a rough idea of what Sideways was all about going into it but most of the personal reviews I had heard were on the negative side, which I understand. Naturally, most of the people I talk to about movies are closer to my age than say, my parents. The film  shines a very harsh, sad light on the male mid-life crisis; its confusion, its legitimacy, its awkwardness and its loneliness. So, understandably, this movie is not going to hit home with a lot of younger viewers such as myself. However, I may have to disagree with my age-bracket and say that this movie is doing and saying a lot (with minimal dialogue, might I add). The characters are all dealing with very real, tangible and relatable issues that give credence to the generally panned masculine mid-life crisis. Sure Thomas Haden Church’s character is suddenly sex-crazed, but there is something lurking behind his sexual appetite that gives his carnal desires a more human and, dare I say, justifiable explanation. I mean, his character is kind of a dick (snicker snicker) but he makes me smile so he can’t be all that bad, right? In a rare instance of having too much to say, I’m just going to briefly mention a few other things that I liked, and disliked, about this movie, before moving on, lest I bore you with my oaky tannins and barrel-aged wisdom.

1) I really enjoyed the dialogue in this film. It’s quiet, slow and, in an unusual cinematic moment, actually reflects how real people speak and interact. Very refreshing.
2) The film has this very subtle, under-the-radar bluesy/jazz soundtrack that just seems to perfect fit the setting and themes.
3) It was very creatively and thoughtful photographed. The audience is not always shown the action but rather the reaction or the aftermath of certain scenes, which adds some humor and creativity into the mix.

Some things I didn’t like?
1) I felt like Paul Giamatti’s performance was the only which had real depth. Sure Thomas Haden Church has a solid delivery, but his character kind of hits the same note throughout the film. He also makes appropriately timed witticisms and sexual comments and he also has a perfectly-timed emotional collapse. It all felt too…expected.
2) The transitions in this movie really bugged me. More often than not, scene changes were denoted by long or awkward cross-fades that made the transition all too noticeable but not in a clever-twist-of-editing type of way. It felt more like the filmmakers weren’t sure how to move from scene to scene so just threw some cross-fades in for kicks.
3) Small gripe: Apparently Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are sexually desirable? Just asking.

Wine as a parable to human nature. And it gets you drunk too!

Okay, enough of this wine crap. Let’s drink some beer! Which is kind of how I feel about this beer. Generally when I think of wine, as in when I think about how people other than myself enjoy wine, I think of subtly and refinement. Uinta’s XVII Anniversary Barley Wine is not subtle. Refined? Maybe. But this 10.4% ABV bad boy hits you over the head with how strong it is and I mean that in the best of ways. A beautiful, rich copper color gives way to a strong malty aroma and flavor, which is followed by alcohol. Seriously. This beer is quite tasty for those who like strong ales but for those who are used to only 5% beers, this barley wine may be a kick in the pants. However, its heavy, full body segues naturally into  a remarkably simple finish. This body combined with the (much) higher ABV makes it the perfect cold weather beer. I’m sure some people will be put off by its strength (I was a bit taken aback after I first sip, but then I thought it would only be fitting to give it a second chance…) but for those who wanted to get a little buzz off a single beer on a chilly night, I would recommend this barley wine. The other benefit of this beer, and of this whole beer and a movie experiment, is that it encourages me (and hopefully it encourages you) to try new beers. And let me tell you, I’ll be searching for barley wines in the future.

So there you have it, folks. A remarkably thoughtful and rich evening here. This barley wine was strong, comforting and filling while the movie had a balanced mix of comedy, tragedy and classy alcoholism. A winning combination!

And remember, if you think you have a winning combination, let me know and I’ll try to make it happen!

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Last year's batch but you get the idea

Uinta’s XVII Anniversary Barley Wine Ale:
Very, very strong
Gorgeous copper color
Strong malty flavor with hints of spice and fruit

Sideways:
Good mix of sad and funny. But mostly sad
Thomas Haden Church is hooooorrrny (and Sandra Oh is a firecracker!)
Easy to relate to as you age, like a fine wine

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Allagash Dubbel & Double Indemnity

Good Evening Drinkers,

Tonight we’re in for some double (dubbel) trouble with Allagash Dubbel Ale and the 1944 Billy Wilder classic noir Double Indemnity. A duo that makes you sit up, pay attention and appreciate the finer things. So let’s get started.

For those who are unfamiliar with the specifics of Double Indemnity, I wouldn’t worry too much. While the narrative is fascinating and deserves multiples viewings, the film’s  entirety serves as the archetype for all noirs, making it easily recognizable to any viewer. The stark black and white contrast, the slick voiceover, the beautiful femme fatale; Double Indemnity has all the tropes of a good noir because it’s one of the best. To summarize, this film follows an insurance salesman by the name of Walter Neff (“with two F’s, like in Philadelphia, if you know the story”) as he records his confession in helping a sexy (and deranged) woman kill her husband for the insurance money. The entire film is a flashback and the audience is only briefly reminded of this fact as Walter’s confident voice easily carries you from scene to scene, immersing you in the past. Not to mention the dialogue is very sharp and deeply layered with sexual tension as Walter Neff fires off a stream of superb one-liners. Now a lot of people have this sad assumption that older movies (re: black and white) are either dry or boring, in both story and style. However this is not the case for Double Indemnity. I’ve already mentioned the that story is captivating, but I also have to mention that the lighting design of this movie is equally incredible. Without the distraction of color, it is remarkable what one notices in terms of light. Every scene is deftly composed to underscore what the narrative. Neff’s troubled thoughts as to his crime are reflected in the half-shadows that cover frequently his face. Our femme fatale, however, is often shown is complete darkness, revealing her malevolent inner nature. If she is not the darkness, then she is lit gorgeously, projecting that outward air of beauty. Now I don’t mean to bog you down with these film-major details, but these are things worth paying attention too, especially in a classic like Double Indemnity. Oh also, it might be of interest to fellow Angelinos that this movie makes great use of the city’s geography. Without the traffic. And it rains.

These are my Los Angeles murderin' glasses. Do you like them, Mr. Neff?

So let’s talk about the other part of my dubbel-feature. Now for the sake of honesty, I’ll let you know that I will pretty much drink, and enjoy, anything that Allagash brews. I’ve had maybe six or seven of their beers and they have all been stellar. I’d try more of them, as I have with Sam Adams, but the price tag for Allagash beer tends to run a little high. But despite that, I picked up this Dubbel and it did not disappoint. For those unfamiliar with the many different genres of beer, a dubbel is a Belgian style that trends towards a brown ale with an average ABV of about 7%. To that end, Allagash’s Dubbel fits the bill quite neatly. It has a nice, brown color, a mild malty flavor and hints of that easily identifiable Belgian yeast (bananas, remember?). For a beer with a higher-than-average ABV and malty character, I was surprised at how easy it went down. In fact, I ended up finishing it faster than I intended, leaving me to wish I had a second in the fridge to carry me through the rest of the movie (not that the movie needed any help). But alas I only had the one, which means that I’ll be back at the store to pick up another one of these tasty beers. And as a general rule of thumb, if Allagash is the brewery, it’s good.

So that was my double trouble night. If I were feeling like a baller I would have done two movies with two dubbels, but I’m not that awesome. Maybe some other night. But I will say that this was one of the more complimentary combos I have done so far. A strong, thoughtful movie with a smooth but surprising beer. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m really happy with the combination and I would recommend that all of you give it a whirl sometime.

Keep drinking my friends!

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Allagash Dubbel:  
Very drinkable despite 7% ABV
Rich, brown color
Hearty, malty aroma and taste

Double Indemnity:
A classic noir by which many others are compared
Sharp writing and beautiful visual style
A great history lesson in LA geography (also watch Chinatown if you’re interested)

 

 

 

 

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Beer and a Movie’s 21st Birthday!

Hey there Drinkers,

Tonight’s beer and a movie was a little special. It’s the 21st entry which means that we’re finally of age! And like any birthday party, we had some friends over and we drank beer. Since we were watching the 2006 Martin Scorsese Oscar-winning insta-classic The Departed, it felt only right to bring on the Sam Adams. With the “cold” weather rolling into Los Angeles, the Winter Variety 12 pack was not out of place and provided a little something for everyone. Oh and one of my friend’s brought over some Mickey’s, because that sounds Irish.

A little sampling of our evening.

To be honest, it’s hard to watch a movie with a group of people. Conversations fly and important screen moments get missed. Which is fine. This was meant to be a social evening and I like to think that I’m not some crotchety old man just yet, but listen, I just like to watch my movies. But moving on, The Departed is really everything you want out of a good, thoughtful (but not too thoughtful) movie. There’s action, suspense, murder, sex, attractive men, old men, Mark Wahlberg. It’s really got everything. Aside from that though, the movie has some of the strongest characterization and acting of anything mainstream of late. Every character we see in this well-paced 2.5 hour film is three dimensional. All of the actors bring their A-game (would you slack off if Scorsese was in the room?) and truly bring their characters to life. And while the film suffers from a few jarring edits (which I know were done intentionally, I just didn’t  like them), it flows seamlessly from scene to scene. You hardly even notice that they never actually experience Winter in Boston despite the film taking place over more than a year’s time. Hardly. Even. Noticed. And when it comes down to it, this movie is just hilarious. Everything that Mark Wahlberg says is priceless. Jack Nicholson is at the pinnacle of his crazy. And even the violence is so blunt that you can’t help but smile just a tiny bit after you recover from the initial shock. Well played Marty. Well played.

"I am actually from South Boston so don't you pull any of that Good Will Hunting shit with me."

You know who else really brings it every time? Samuel Adams. I don’t think I have ever had a mediocre beer from them. I’ve probably had eight or more of their beers and they are all incredible. Unfortunately, I’m wasn’t man enough to try all of the beers from the Winter Variety pack in one sitting, (more pairings to come!) I did get a chance to sit down with the Old Fezziwig Ale and the Black & Brew. I’ve actually had Old Fezziwig before in last year’s Winter mix so I was particularly excited by the Black & Brew, but we’ll talk about both. Black & Brew, as you can imagine, is a stout beer brewed with coffee. And, simply put, it tastes exactly like what you’d expect. The beer is unmistakably a stout with a deep, black color and rich, almost chocolatey flavor. But the kicker is that you easily identify the coffee in this very drinkable stout and it tastes great. The coffee isn’t overpowering either. Rather, it subtly accentuates what is already happening in the stout and really rounds out this perfect winter-time beer. And Old Fezziwig Ale? Another solid performer. This ale is spicier than the Black & Brew and uses some of the classic winter flavors like cinnamon and relies more on noticeable hoppiness. Not too hoppy mind you, just enough to give this beer more of a body, which is exactly what you want from a winter beer. But since I’m in LA and not layering up to keep out the New England chill, these beers gave a me a little taste of home.

So all in all it was a successful birthday party. Good beers, a good movie, good friends. You can’t really ask for more than that. And a special thank you to my friends who came out and supported this largely asocial activity. Be on the lookout for some more wintry Sam Adams combos (someone’s gotta drink ’em) as well as another classic film paired with another New England beer coming soon in the near future. And, as always, keep drinking my friends.


Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Old Fezziwig Ale
Classic winter spices  
Strong, full body
Nice, reddish color

Black & Brew
Lives up to its name 
Noticeable, but not overpowering, coffee flavor
Solid new brew from Sam Adams

The Departed                                                                                           
Meticulous characterization and performance
Huge, star-studded male cast
Marky Mark is a true Bostonian

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