Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale & Festen (aka The Celebration)

Hey there, drinkers!

With the New Year just around the corner, it’s a good time for celebrating. Fortunately for you all, tonight I drank Sierra Nevada’s wintery Celebration Ale and watched the Danish-made, Dogme 95 original Festen, or The Celebration as it’s translated. Let’s get celebrating.

Now, before we begin, we need a brief history lesson. For those of you who haven not studied film (and probably for many of you who have), Dogme 95 is a small film movement that was born in 1995 from the minds of tonight’s director Thomas Vinterberg and the more well known (and spectacularly controversial) director Lars Von Trier. These two filmmakers drew up a manifesto that laid out strict guidelines as to how their movies were to be made. I’ll list a few of their provisions below.

1) All films must be shot on location with available props and set dressing.
2) All lighting must be natural (i.e. you can’t bring in extra lights to properly expose a shot).
3) All camera work must be handheld.
4)  The director must not be credited.

There are a number of other rules the manifesto lays out (many of which were interchangeably disregarded by the filmmakers) but you get the idea. In essence, the creators of Dogme 95 wanted to boil filmmaking down to its essence. To character-driven story. And while the movement itself never really took off, it peaked the interests of many independent filmmakers and its distinct visual style can still be seen in films today. Tonight’s film, Festen, was the first official Dogme 95 film and is pretty much the only one that people talk about and enjoy. Sure, you can go see Julien Donkey-Boy but no one really wants to watch that.

Okay, so now that you’re all a bit more educated, let’s really get celebrating! Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit misleading. There is hardly anything celebratory about Festen. The film observes a 60th birthday party unravel at its seams as it covers topics ranging from rape to racism to suicide. This is all tightly bundled under the umbrella of what is probably the most disturbed and fractured screen family of all time. From the camera’s eerily intimate, yet distant, point of view, the eldest son of a wealthy Danish family reveals that his father (whose party everyone is attending) repeatedly raped him and his now deceased (suicide) twin sister. Really, it’s just all peachy. Yet despite the film’s heavy subject matter, the movie is absolutely engaging and enthralling. The acting is top-notch realism, the visuals are constantly striking and the editing style is as disjointed as the family itself. To be honest, it’s quite difficult to describe this film. The best and most easily identifiable comparison I can make is to Rachel Getting Married  but even that is a bit of stretch. Regardless, I would highly recommend Festen to anyone with an open mind to filmmaking. Sure it’s not something you watch with the kids or you curl up under a blanket to watch, but I guarantee it will be unlike anything else you have seen…in a good way. I promise.

And you thought your family reunions were rough...

But on to more upbeat topics. Like beer! Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale is the first BAAM foray into the strange world of IPA’s (India Pale Ale, for you uninitiated). I know next to nothing about IPA’s as I only recently started to drink them, so I’m sorry if I offend anyone’s sensibilities. Many many decades ago (…yeeaahhh…) when I started drinking craft beer, I think I must have had a an IPA or two that I distliked because for the longest time I inexplicably shied away from them. For beer beginners, IPA’s can be very bitter and difficult to enjoy, which is how I still feel at times. Only recently have I started to actually like drinking IPA’s and I’m happy to add this Celebration Ale to that short list. With a thick, frothy head and instant, hoppy aromas, I got an immediate sense that this beer meant business. While not as bitter or hoppy as other IPA’s, it had a distinct piney flavor that made its style unmistakeable. There was also a little bit of fruit in there somewhere, though at times it was a bit hard to track down. To top it off, this beer has a respectable ABV of 6.8%, something I didn’t even realize while I was drinking it. So, for those who are curious about venturing into the wilds of IPA beers, try to grab one of these winter beers before the holiday season is over.

And so there you have it. Another evening to celebrate. A delicious and easily drinkable beer paired with an unsettling yet remarkable Dogme 95 film. Both represent excellent introductions to new genres that you might otherwise shy away from completely. And I do believe they are both worth your time.

Merry Drinking!

Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale: 
Thick, three-finger head  
Distinct piney aroma & flavor
Good gateway beer for IPA’s

Festen (The Celebration)
First Dogme 95 film…but maybe the only one worth watching
Striking and unusual visuals
Dark, depressing & totally fantastic

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Review

Beer & A Recap – Holiday Edition

Hey there drinkers!

Now that I’m back from my East Coast holiday adventures, I thought I’d give you a brief recap of all the beers I drank and all the movies I watched. My next BAAM combo will be in a separate post in the next day or so, this way you don’t have to read too much. Because reading is bad.

Anyway, let’s get started.

(By the way, I’m doing these from memory so just bear with me)

Beers I Drank:

Magic Hat #9
One of my favorite beers. It’s light but full of nearly inexplicable fruity flavor. Self-described as a “Not Quite So Pale Ale,” I have to agree that this a very accurate description of this Vermont Beer. Very hard to find here in Los Angeles but whenever I see it, I drink it.

Trout River Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
A very simple but fulfilling stout. I drank this after a chilly hike in the Green Mountain State and it really hit the spot. Smooth, flavor with strong notes of chocolate. Too bad I can’t get this in LA…

Anchor Steam Liberty Ale-
A very hoppy and rich ale that may be just a hair too hoppy for my tastes. Anchor Steam does some good stuff but their beers tend to be a little more bitter, so bear that in mind if you’re going to give this piny-tasting beer a shot. Otherwise a very solid beer.

Harpoon Winter Warmer-
Along with Sam Adams, Harpoon is pretty Boston beer royalty and this Winter Warmer is definitely up to snuff. I had a few of these with some friends at a local bar and I was shocked at how smooth this dark, winter ale was. With strong notes of holiday spices and a lovely brown color, this Winter Warmer may be one of my new favorites. Again, too bad I can’t get it in LA. I’m sensing a theme here…

Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection New World Tripel-
The shining beer moment of my trip home. Apparently, this season Sam Adams rolled out a new edition of beers called their Barrel Room Collection. These super classy beers are all sold in super classy bottles that pretty much force your hand into buying them. Seriously, see the picture to marvel at their beauty. Anyway, this New World Tripel was pretty much everything you want out of a great tripel. It was light in color, very grainy and citrusy in flavor and deceptively strong. New World Tripel is a whopping 10% ABV but it is remarkably easy to drink. For those willing to shell out a few extra bucks for a great beer and an easy buzz, I definitely recommend picking this one up.


Movies I Watched:

Clerks –
Kevin Smith’s first feature is a rambling, black & white, dialogue-heavy meander through the lives of a few New Jersey convenience stores clerks and the people that surround them. It’s very hard to say what this film is about as it covers topics ranging from Stars Wars, hockey, blowjobs and necrophilia. While the film is impressive in its allowance to its actors to just talk and talk and talk without the camera ever moving, the film really drags. Without a real, compelling narrative and generally annoying characters, I found myself not paying attention by the end of the film. Still, it’s an interesting bit of filmmaking from an independent standpoint, so it may be worth a watch for you cineastes out there.

Die Hard: With A Vengeance
Yeah! A real man’s movie! Yippe Kay Yeah Motherfucker! And now that that’s out of my system we can proceed. This third installment of the preposterously  still-marketable action series marks a departure from the previous two films in that it takes John McClane (who are we kidding, it’s Bruce Willis) out of the confined spaces of office buildings and airports and out into the streets of New York City. This sprawling action film also features Samuel L. Jackson as a guy named Zeus. Yup. Anyway, this film is successful at never really letting the action die down. For the 2+ hours of the film’s duration, the audience (and Bruce Willis) get very little rest as the plot is pretty much dictated through the action (something not really done anymore). And while the film is successful at carrying us along for the ride, the ride gets a little old after awhile. For the last 30 minutes of the movie, I really just wanted it to end. I wanted Bruce Willis to kill the bad guy and save the day, but it just took him so damn long to do it! I think there was room in there for about three distinct endings to this film. But other than that, it’s hard to complain about these sorts of action movie classics. Because really, who doesn’t love explosions?

Labyrinth (well, I watched most of it anyway)-
Have you seen this movie? Be honest with me. Have. You. Seen. This. Movie. If the answer is no, stop reading and go watch it. It’s…transformative. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie but it’s still very much worth seeing, if only to see how truly odd Jim Henson really was. Oh and to see David Bowie seduce a tween Jennifer Connelly. That’s also worth seeing. That and the Bowie musical numbers where he’s surrounded by creepy little gremlin muppets. Dance Magic Dance! Oh oh oh how I could forget?! Bowie steals a baby. Yeah, that happens too.

Inglorious Basterds
I realized that I had seen this before when I started watching but it was a long flight and I had time to kill. But really, I wanted to like this movie so much more than I did. I remember hearing about it from my friends who really enjoyed it, but I only got sparse and fleeting pleasure out of this Tarantino film. Undoubtably the writer/director has a great sense of style in terms of his writing and his visuals, but as I think I pointed out in my post on Jackie Brown, Tarantino gets so caught up in his style that he loses track of what he is really trying to achieve in his story. From a narrative standpoint, this films doesn’t really go much of anywhere. It slowly and clumsily hobbles from storyline to storyline amid bouts of relentlessly witty dialogue. Now, to his credit, Tarantino does get some great performances out of his cast. Not that anyone is particularly likable at all, but the actors’ performances are quite strong. Sure Brad Pitt’s character is a bit of a caricature and The Bear Jew loses all of his terror the second he opens his mouth, but in all, I think the all-around performances really helped carry an otherwise slow film. Oh and I think I might be in love with Melanie Laurent.

Crazy, Stupid, Love
A simple, predictable and heart-warming romcom with enough self-respect to take it easy on the “com.” Have we seen this story before? Absolutely! Do we, as American filmgoers, really care that we’ve seen this story before? Nope! When you have a star-studded cast and Ryan Gosling’s star-studded abs, it’s really hard  for this film not to be a winner. Yes, some of the performances are a bit flat (I’m looking at you Ryan Gosling, even though I think you’re great) and we pretty much know how things are going to turn out but that’s not really what this film wants to be. What this film serves more as a tasteful reminder that we should always be striving towards that impossibility of Hollywood love and romance. And it’s very successful. You kind of want to fall in love after you see this movie, as much as you secretly hate yourself for watching it. For me, it made me want to fall in love with Emma Stone (surprise!).

No but seriously, I think I might be in love with Emma Stone.

2 Comments

Filed under Review, Special

Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale & Juno

Howdy Drinkers!

I’m sorry for the gap since the last post but hey, life happens. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking or watching movies. Rest assured, I’ve been doing both. Recently, I saw Mike Mills’s Beginners (beautiful. I highly recommend it) and also rewatched the classic Bond flick Goldfinger (essential viewing for any aspiring Bond-lover). I also drank a few new beers recently. I had a Duvel, which is a classic Belgian golden-ale which I found good, but not extraordinary. I also had Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra which was fabulous. The Indra is an export stout that is very rich and has a great spice to it (like actual, spicey spice, not holiday spice). If you see it, drink it! But that’s in the past. Tonight, I drank 22 oz’s of Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale while watching the 2007 indie heartwarming blockbuster Juno.

Soooo for like the .001 percent of you who haven’t seen this totally brainsploding adult-teen dramaromcom, here’s the skinny…Yeah I can’t keep writing like that. But that’s one of the most noticeable facets of the 2007 indie flick Juno. Diablo Cody’s writing style is now unmistakeable and often repeated but back in the stone age of 2007, Ellen Page’s ultra-snarky pseudo-slang was fresh, original and a provided a welcome break from the classic high school comedy milieu with which we are all too familiar. Combined with the somewhat unusual topic of teen pregnancy and it’s blunt vision of the subject, this was the breakout film of the year.  I did find the dialogue a bit tiring after awhile and Juno’s attitude is a bit too flippant and consciously  quirky to suit my tastes, but overall it’s a good film. Visually, it’s simple (in a good way!) and the performances are earnest and caring. Ellen Page does a great job of bringing a character to life who could have easily been a caricature. And sure you it’s a bit baffling as to why Jason Bateman’s character is married to Jennifer Garner’s character (who really remembers the character’s names?)  considering they seem to be inhabiting different lives, but it’s pretty easy to forgive that as the movie progresses. I do actually appreciate how Bateman’s character kind of disappears in the third act because it shows a bit of courage (or laziness) on the behalf of the filmmakers, considering Bateman quite literally isn’t important anymore to any character’s future.  But I digress, aside from the occasionally overwritten scenes and the very carefully (and too obviously) constructed indie/punk/folk soundtrack, I enjoy this film. As I imagine is the case for most viewers, it’s hard to not let this film make you sad, happy, thoughtful and hopeful all while realizing that Ellen Page is the shortest actress ever.

Also, small qualm coming from a former track & field athlete: what event does Michael Cera run?! He trains for distance but he always seems to be competing in sprinting events and wears sprinting spikes…and he eats breakfast burritos as he’s about to run. Just saying.

Oh I just happen to be talking on my hamburger phone. What a fun, little, random, completely unmanufactured quirk of my completely non-purposefully quirky teenage lifestyle.

So let’s talk about Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale. Here’s the story of how I chose this beer: I like to buy my beers at a small, locally-owned shop in Highland Park called Galcos Soda Pop Stop (seriously, go there. You’ll fall in l0ve). It’s this awesome joint that has a massive selection of craft beer and artisan soda. The real kicker though is that you can buy everything by the bottle, meaning you never have to get locked into a six pack. So anyway, I’m walking down the aisle with a buddy of mine and we stop at the Rogue section. I see a beer that says “Juniper Pale Ale” at the bottom and I say “Juniper Pale Ale? That sounds crazy!” And then I bought it. Fast forward two weeks and I’m cracking this 22 oz bottle open and I have no idea what to expect. Well, to be honest, this Juniper Pale Ale kind of just tasted like a pale ale. I mean, it’s a good pale ale, but I’m not sure where the juniper went. There were some faint earthy undertones but any beer with some margin of hops and malt (like any self-respecting beer should have)  should have some earthy/grainy notes. It was also just barely sweet, which may been the juniper, but it’s hard to say. As someone mentioned on BeerAdvocate, if you’re going to call your beer a Juniper Pale Ale, then you should be able to taste the Juniper. But kudos to Rogue trying out something new because that’s what makes craft beer so exciting. I’ve been meaning to try some of Rogue’s other beers so hopefully we’ll see them again here on BAAM in the near future. Recommendations anyone?

So BAAM is finally back with Juno and a Juniper Pale Ale. Both are good, but not great. Juno is sweet, refreshing and heartfelt but it’s hard to not feel like everyone is trying just a little too hard as a result of the unnaturally witty dialogue. The same goes for Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale. It’s a solid pale ale, but the juniper doesn’t really shine through or even really make a strong impression. So if you want your juniper, you might be better off with some gin (gasp).

Looking to the future, I’m going home briefly for the holidays, so I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be posting. I’m going to try and get another one up before I head back East but don’t hate me if I miss the mark. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to get you a guys a good New England beer and a movie edition. But until then. Happy Holidays and Happy Drinking!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale: 
Pours a hazy, light golden color
Solid, pale ale flavor
Lacking on the juniper front

Juno:
Earnest & sweet approach to a tricky subject
Witty dialogue is sometimes too witty for its own good
Canadian actors Michael Cera & Ellen Page prove that they can play American characters. Minds explode.

2 Comments

Filed under Review

Anchor Steam’s 2011 Our Special Ale & Special

Hey Drinkers!

Feeling special? I know I am. Because tonight we’re drinking Anchor Steam’s 2011 edition of their holiday “Our Special Ale” and watching the 2006 indie flick Special starring Michael Rapaport. So let’s find out if this really was a special pairing, or just an average evening.

Special follows the sad, lonely life of a Los Angeles parking enforcement officer (an occupation you never see on screen) who believes he develops superpowers after participating in a drug trial. Spoiler: he doesn’t actually have superpowers. But the film isn’t particularly concerned with convincing you of whether or not its protagonist, Les, actually has powers or is just crazy. Rather, its purpose is more to put us in the shoes of a man in desperate need of a change in his life. In Les’s case, that change comes in the form of a little blue pill called Special. Intended to “suppress the chemicals in the brain responsible for self-doubt,” Les instead apparently learns to float (Criss Angel status), read minds, walk through walls, teleport and be a badass. All of these powers are cleverly displayed, and disproven, using visual tricks, and it just makes you feel sad for Les (except for the badass part. He gets hit by a car twice and can still walk). But loneliness is what this movie really is. It’s a study in sadness. The writing and the acting are a bit stiff and generic, but the film’s photography is deeply infused with loneliness and alienation. Some of the greatest moments in this film are just long, silent shots of Les walking home after a rough encounter with the forces of evil. As Les points out, being a superhero is lonely work. He feels like everyone turns against him and that’s a fairly true assessment. As he comes to believe more and more in his powers, everyone around Les, including the audience, watches him deteriorate into madness. And while the absurdity of the premise and the general comic nature of Les and his powers help keep maintain levity, the film altogether leaves you feeling a down, because we know just how not special the protagonist is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself.

It is important to point out that this movie is very clearly done on the cheap. So with that in mind, it’s quite a remarkable film. The effects are strong, the cast is decent and it is shot beautifully. Kudos, indie filmmakers!

The face of a hero

But was our beer special? That’s a good question. Tonight’s 2011 Our Special Ale has an interesting history. According to the label, this beer is Anchor Steam’s 37th version of the beer. Apparently, every year they change the recipe of this beer with sole intent of creating a beer that people can come together over during the holidays. While I believe that most of these 37 incarnations are probably on the darker, more Wintry end of the spectrum (’tis the season for dark beers), it is hard to judge this beer based on its pedigree or consistency. But regardless, let’s talk about the beer that I drank tonight. It poured a dark, chocolate-y color and had a nice, dark malty aroma to it. Upon first sip, you’ll get hit with some unexpected bitterness up front. However that bitterness quickly dissipates into a sadly mild and fleeting pine-y taste. The woodsy flavor wasn’t bad, it just evaporated and didn’t leave much behind, which meant I easily forgot what this beer tasted like. And with such a dark color, I was expecting a fuller body but it actually went down very easily. Almost too easily for a Winter beer (typically winter beers are heavier, maltier and more complex compared to their lighter, crisper Summer brethren). The beer wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t much of anything sadly. I like Anchor Steam, but they may have missed the mark on this one. I hate to say it, but this beer was nothing special.

So that was my special evening: watching Special and drinking a 2011 Our Special Ale. Neither stands out as an amazing experience, but at least the movie was occasionally thoughtful and, dare I say, beautiful. Unfortunately I can’t really say the same for this beer. It was just too simple and uninspired to be the hearty Winter beer it should be.

Stay tuned for more editions of BAAM in the near future. I hit up my favorite beer shop this week so I have some cool beers (including two IPA’s) coming up soon.

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Anchor Steam’s 2011 Our Special Ale:
Dark, chocolate-y color 
Mild piney taste
Flavor lacks staying power

Special
Great premise with good execution
Not the best writing
Visually striking and thoughtful

 

2 Comments

Filed under Review