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

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