Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ovila Abbey Saison & Vicky Christina Barcelona

Hey there, drinkers.

Tonight is BAAM’s last entry from Hollywood, CA. I’m still sticking to Los Angeles, but I’m moving tomorrow, so it seems only fitting that we’re talking about a movie that takes us away to somewhere new. Tonight, we’re watching Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Christina Barcelona and drinking the collaborative beer Ovila Abbey Saison. What’s the connection? Well, according to the bottle, the monks of New Clairaux and the brewers at Sierra Nevada created this beer to help support the restoration of a Spanish monastery. And the confluence of Spain and the U.S. is subject of our discussion for tonight. That and Woody Allen. We’ll probably talk about him as well…

For those unfamiliar with this film, here’s a quick overview. Vicky Christina Barcelona is a film about beautiful people (Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz) in a beautiful place (Barcelona) doing beautiful things (each other). What’s not to like? Actually, in general, there isn’t much not to like. The acting is good, the writing is sharp and poignant (if a bit heady) and the scenery is beautiful (Javier Bardem, anyone?). Though the subject matter is a bit familiar, as our cast of characters finds themselves impossibly in love with the wrong people, the story still feels fresh with Woody Allen’s unique sense of style. That being said, there are certain aspects of his style that I found distracting and a bit irritating. Most egregious is the voice over. I am both a fan and a hater of voice-over, so my own feelings on this subject are quite complicated. However, for this film, the voice over seems redundant to the actual narrative and really only serves to a fill spaces between scenes and inform otherwise lovely photography. Rather than let the audience enjoy watching the characters of the film explore Barcelona and, in turn, explore their own feelings, Woody Allen tells the audience exactly what is going on in his characters’ heads and why. And though, at times, it gives us a good laugh, it mostly just makes us feel like we’re too stupid to understand the intricate workings of Woody Allen’s brain. Other than that, the film is quite fantastic. The acting is stellar. Penelope Cruz steps up to play the crazy Spanish lady, as always, and Javier Bardem successfully seduces everyone in the audience. To be honest, I kind of want to go to Barcelona now, as the city itself becomes a character (hence its name in the title).  Vicky Christina Barcelona is definitely worth a viewing, even if you have a complicated relationship with voice over. A few other quick points that I have to point out. The soundtrack for this film is perfect. It’s really quite lovely and seems to capture all of the topsy-turvy emotions of the film. Also, the editor needs to make up her mind. Stylistically, this film is all over the place to the point where it stands out (and not in the good way). We have split screens, crossfades, wipes and long takes. It’s very inconsistent and it bothers me. Those who have taken film classes will know what I’m talking about. Those who haven’t taken film classes, I’m sorry but you’ll just have to trust me.

Love triangle? Screw that. We're going for a love pentagon.

Anyway, let’s talk about beer. I’ll say this straight off just to clear the air: I really enjoy saisons (farmhouse ales) but this one disappointed me. This 1 pt 9.4 oz. bottle of 7% ABV beer was one of the more uninspired and uninteresting saisons I’ve had. Generally speaking, in my opinion, a saison is a very flavorful and exciting beer. While typically quite drinkable, saisons I’ve had run in the 7-8% range. I like saisons because they offer a great alternative to “typical” beers as they can be quite floral and full in their flavor. However, Sierra Nevada’s Ovila Abbey Ale falls short of that benchmark. While I definitely get the Belgian yeast, there really isn’t much else going on in this beer. The flavors were muted and uninspiring. Though easy to drink, I found myself drinking quite slowly as the beer rarely drew me back for more sips. I mean, I did finish the beer, but it took me longer than expected and I wasn’t left wanting more. The beer wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that great. As a beer that advertises itself as a saison, I have to say I was let down. I found this beer more to be in the vein of a Belgian-style ale but it still was a bit lackluster. Sorry kids, I don’t mean to be a downer, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this one again.

So there we have it. BAAM’s final Hollywood entry. Future BAAM combos will be coming from the hills of Glendale/La Canada, which really won’t change anything at all about this blog. However, I will be closer to my favorite beer purveyor, Galco’s, so that’s good news for me. I once had a film professor tell me that if Woody Allen ever stopped making movies (he averages about one a year, an unheard of turnaround rate),  Woody would probably die. And I think I agree. Woody Allen knows how to do nothing else except make movies. But unlike Woody Allen, I think I’ll live without buying this beer again.

Happy drinking!

 

Tonight’s Drinking Notes:
Ovila Abbey Ale:
Lackluster saison 
Distinctive Belgian yeast flavor
Easy to drink, but not much else

Vicky Christina Barcelona
Pretty people and pretty places
Familiar story but still exciting to watch
I think Javier Bardem seduced me

 

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Abita’s Abbey Ale & Young Frankenstein

Hey there, drinkers,

Tonight I’m feeling good, drinking beer and watching movies (well, really just one movie). And with a bomber of 8% beer to indulge in and an obscure cinematic reference to explain, this BAAM has all the makings of great evening. Fair warning, due to the fairly high ABV of this beer and the sheer quantity of beer consumed (a bomber is a 22 oz. bottle), I may or may not be a bit tipsy in the writing of this review, so just bear (or beer….get it?) with me as I ramble and leave typos.

Before I begin, I owe you at least a brief explanation for this seemingly random pairing. For those of you who have not seen Young Frankenstein, the plot hinges on a one-liner. When Dr. Frankstein’s assistant, Igor (eye-gore), goes to retrieve a brain for the soon-to-be-reanimated-creature , he steals a brain labeled “abnormal,” believing the brain actually belonged to a lady named Abby Normal. Silly. I know. But it’s Mel Brooks, so just go with it. And since this is BAAM and we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we’re just going to pretend that Abby was spelled with an E and go about our merry way. If you have any complaints about my pairing system you can A) Take it up with the person who suggested this film to me or B) Suck it. Let’s move on, shall we?

Now, Mel Brooks’ 1974 film Young Frankenstein is one that I actually have a bit of history with. Back in college, I somehow got away with writing a paper on this film (amongst other films), so I’m sure I could talk to you at length about the repurposing of genre tropes, but we’re not in film school anymore so I’m going to skip that bit. For Mel Brooks, this film is actually less uproarious and absurd than many of his others. Unlike Blazing Saddles (one of my favorite films) or Spaceballs (one of the best parody films), Young Frankenstein doesn’t feel the need to have a joke every 15 seconds. Rather, the film seems to truly relish the tropes of classic horror films. The dramatic black & white aesthetic, combined with a pitch-perfect score and the indulgence in unnecessary pauses in dialogue, it is very easy to see Mel Brooks’ reverence for the genre. Or, at the very least, reverence for his knowledge of the genre and his ability to poke fun at it. Going in to the plot seems a bit silly (it’s the story of Frankenstein, but funnier), but I will say that this film does not disappoint when it comes to feeding the audience a few, healthy guffaws. And while my laughter may have been just a product of the beer, I would recommend this film to anyone who loves classic films and classic parodies. None of this Scary Movie crap. I’m talking about the real deal here. No one does it like Mel Brooks. Oh, also, Gene Hackman is in this film for about 5 minutes. Just a heads up.

No one can yell his way through a film like Gene Wilder. Bring it on, Will Ferrell.

So what beer made me giggle throughout this entire film? Well folks, it’s none other than Abita’s Abbey Ale. A tribute to Belgian beer-making, this Abbey Ale has a deep amber color and a thick head. Smelling, and tasting, primarily of Belgian yeast, there is no mistaking this beer for anything other than an abbey-style beer. Unfortunately, I found the beer’s yeasty-ness to be a bit overpowering. While the beer went down smooth and was pleasant to drink (especially considering the high ABV), it was very difficult to taste anything other than yeast. Sure, you get hints of bread, but that’s basically just a nice way of talking about yeast. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this beer, it just got a little old after awhile. I wanted more complexity out of this beer. As a quick disclaimer, my palette is absolutely not as refined as true beer aficionados, so I may be way off base in my assessment of this beer. For alternate opinions on this or any beer, check out Beer Advocate. They’re awesome. Anyway, from the point of view of a common drinker who enjoys the occasional Belgian beer, I have to say that there are better Belgian-style beers out there. Second disclaimer: I love Abita and I would recommend to all of you to try out this Louisiana brewery (this is BAAM’s 3rd Abita beer, so you probably already figured that out anyway).

So maybe tonight’s combo wasn’t as…memorable as last weeks adventure with Ironclad, but it was certainly more enjoyable. The movie was a funny, low-key parody that gave proper respect to its parent genre while the beer got me tipsy enough to mostly disregard its repetitive flavor. In the history of BAAM, we’ve had worse and we’ve had better. Minimal complaints.

And remember, if you have any ideas or suggestions for beers or movies, please let me know. Tonight’s film was suggested through a friend/reader after I had already settled on a less-clever pairing. So, just like in this great democracy of ours, your voice is important! Tell me what you want to see here on BAAM and I’ll try my best to make it happen.

Happy drinking, friends!

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Abita’s Abbey Ale
:
Deep, rich amber color
Yeasty nose and flavor
Overwhelmingly yeasty, to a fault

Young Frankenstein
Gene Wilder in top form, as always
A loving, and caustic, reflection on classic horror film
I once wrote a paper on this film. I miss college…

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Irondale’s Bully Maclary’s Mor Barley Wine & Ironclad

Hey there, drinkers!

Tonight we dropped an iron curtain across BAAM with Irondale’s Barley Wine and the enigmatic 2011 film Ironclad. Haven’t heard of either? That’s fine. I’m here to educate you. Remember? Actually, let’s get one thing straight. A large portion of tonight’s education does not come from me or my brain. Rather, it comes from my good friend Anne, who joined me for tonight’s BAAM. Her surprisingly thorough knowledge of 12th century (12th, right?) English history is quite remarkable and serves to only further illuminate her awesome nerdiness. For those interested in all things not related to English history, I suggest you check out her film blog, We Recycle Movies. It’s pretty sweet. Expect a BAAM-WRM crossover in the future. Anyway, let the education commence!

So I just finished watching Ironclad which is about….wait…what…what just happened? Seriously, does anyone know what just happened in this movie? I think I saw Paul Giamatti and a few other famous people whose faces I recognized…But really, can someone help me out with what the hell just happened in this two hour, disappointingly battle-scarce medieval bit of English “history.” And I really do mean “history” with quotation marks because, from what Anne has told me, and from my own working knowledge of history, I’m pretty sure none of this movie is based on facts. As far as I know, King John the Douchebag signed the Magna Carta and happily lived out the rest of his years as a powerless king before dying of dysentery. However, Ironclad contends that post Magna Carta-ing, King John the Crazy Pants decided to hire a bunch of Danish mercenaries (really? Danish?) to help retake his country (with the Pope’s blessing) only to be routed by about 20 dudes in a castle and a French army that seizes the English crown. But those are trivial facts. Let’s talk about this as a movie. Well, for one, this film certainly does love its blood. Despite there not being much fighting, the few scenes of violence certainly do overcompensate. We’re talking about severed limbs, spouting blood, split skulls, intestines laid out for display…it’s all there except for one, crucial aspect of medieval filmmaking. Boobies. I mean, what movie of this historical era doesn’t randomly thrown some breasts on screen? Game of Thrones, anyone?! I mean, come on! Why so much blood if there’s only going to be one (1) pair of boobs on screen for the whole two hours? And they’re not even Kate Mara’s!  By the way, did I mention that Kate Mara is in this movie? Anyway, it seems hardly worth it if you ask me. Also, one other quick gripe I have with this film besides the excessive gore, lack of female nudity, blatant disregard of history and the fact that this movie making no sense whatsoever…what is the film’s obsession with moats? Time and time again, characters in the movie reference the fact that the primary castle in the film lacks a moat. Whoopty do! No moat! Let’s move on with our lives and siege towers!

Okay. That’s enough. Quick synopsis of my feelings of this movie: what just happened? There. You have it. Don’t watch this movie.

"I am Paul Giamatti and I do not understand why I am in this awful movie! I also gesticulate with my fists!"

Okay let’s throw a little sanity into the mix and talk about beer. So, for you avid BAAM readers, you’ll know that this is only the second barley wine that I’ve consumed. And I have to say that the style is very intriguing. I still havent’t really figured out what they’re all about but I’m interested enough to continue trying. So let’s talk about Irondale’s Bull Maclary’s Mor Barley Wine (long name, right?). For a beer with 9% ABV and so rich in flavor, it is remarkably smooth and easy to drink. Its rich, almost chocolatey finish helps calm down the beer’s more excitable early flavors that I found difficult to identify (though, to be honest, that might have just been because I was trying so hard to not pay attention to this movie). It’s actually almost a bit sweet, which is something I didn’t expect but I didn’t really mind either. Overall, it felt like a good beer to have on a chilly winter evening. Hearty, filling and yet not overbearing. The kind of beer that dulls your senses enough to make you not hate yourself for watching a movie like Ironclad.

So, there you have it folks. I’m pretty sure you can intuit my feelings on the movie. The beer I think I would come back to, though I’m compelled to experiment with more barley wines to help me further understand what this style is all about. But, in all, it was quite the educational evening. I learned some more about barley wine. I learned quite a bit about English history from my friend Anne. And I also learned that no self-respecting castle shows up for a fight without a moat.

Happy drinking, friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Irondale’s Barley Wine:
Rich, full-bodied flavor
Chocolately finish
Impressively smooth and drinkable.

Ironclad:
History has no bearing on historical films
Oh yeah, there were Knights Templar in this movie
What just happened again?

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Beer & A Recap: Family Ski Vacation Edition

Hey there Drinkers!

I just got back from a lovely ski trip in Colorado, so I thought I would update you on my Rocky Mountain drinking adventures. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much movie watching, so this entry will be a little thin on a the cinematic end. But I did have some (many) great beers, so I hope that makes up my failings. For those of you who follow BAAM on Facebook (www.facebook.com/beerandamovie1), a few of these will be repeats, but you’ll just have to deal with it. Let’s get started!

Crazy Mountain Amber Ale:
I really enjoy amber ales. I find that they serve as great middle-of-the-road beers that easy to drink but still have some great flavor. Crazy Mountain however was a bit of a disappointment for me. It was a decent beer, but as an amber it was a bit too hoppy and grassy in its flavor. I’ve done some reading and it looks like this is a canned beer. I had it in a pint glass, but I’m mildly biased against canned beers, just to put it out there. Anyway, as this is a local Colorado beer, odds are I won’t be seeing it all too often, which is fine with me.

Avery Out of Bounds Stout:
A simple, solid stout that most anybody can drink. It’s a bit hoppy for a stout but it works quite well. Also, it’s strong chocolatey flavor tends to linger around for awhile which is really nice. Sure, the beer isn’t “out of bounds” crazy delicious, but it’s a good beer to sip after a long day of skiing.

Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA:
A great followup to my review of Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA. With a longer hopping schedule, you can really notice the increased hoppy character and complexity of this beer. Remarkably still, it’s not too overwhelming as an IPA, again confirming that Dogfish Head really knows what it’s doing.

New Belgium’s 1554:
One of my favorite darker beers. The 1554 “Enlightened Black Ale” is a very approachable dark beer that I think surprises most drinkers. Though quite malty and chocolatey in flavor, the beer itself is not too heavy or overbearing. Rather, it ends up being a very easy-to-drink beer that I think most casual drinkers would enjoy. This one is very easy to find, so I suggest you pick up a few and share with your friends.

Mirror Pond Pale Ale:
A simple, classic pale ale that doesn’t get too crazy on you, if you’re in the mood for a casual, refreshing drink. As a pale ale, it’s quite balanced in its hops and malt, relieving some of the bitterness that some pale ales can have. I’ve found that “pale ale” is a somewhat broad and vague term, but this Mirror Pond seems to sit comfortably in the middle of the road, just waiting for you stop by and take a sip.

Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier:
A simple, not-too-sweet hef that does the trick. This German wheat beer is not as sweet or citrusy like its American counterparts Blue Moon or Shocktop, but Paulaner is solid beer. It’s fairly light, refreshing but still has some of the wheaty body. You get hints of citrus in there, but it’s not going to knock you over the head either, which is fine in my opinion.

*Note: The next three beers I had the night I returned from Colorado and went to my favorite beer bar in LA, The Surly Goat. The beers were all (very) high in alcohol and I was fairly tipsy by the end of the evening. Just saying…

Craftsman’s Acorn Saison:
I really love saisons. They are much more wild and flavorful in their profiles than most other beers, which make them great for special occasions. This saison was a bit most tame in it’s flavor but was still quite delicious as you get grain, citrus and floral notes all at once. I didn’t get the acorn, for better or worse, but I’m not too heartbroken about that. And with a not-too-shabby ABV of 8.1%, I could definitely see myself drinking this again.

Ballast Point’s Navigator Doppelbock:
I think Ballast Point is my new favorite brewery and I’ve only had two of their beers. In an earlier post, I mentioned their Inda Kunindra Export Imperial Stout which has an unusual spiceness to it that I loved. Well, the Navigator also exceeded my expectations. This brandy barrel aged doppelbock is not for the faint of heart. Right off the bat you’re hit with strong notes of brandy and alcohol (more brandy). Once that dissipates, the more stable, doppelbock body kicks in to help mellow out the bite from the alcohol. This is a true sipping beer that needs to be enjoyed slowly with friends. So if you see this at your local bar, like I did, I would highly recommend you give this a shot. A long, slow shot…

Dogfish Head’s Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Ale:
Another mind-blowing beer from the same evening. To be honest, I was a bit drunk by this point in the evening, so I don’t remember the specifics of this delicious 10% ABV Double IPA. I do remember that the name “double IPA” seemed to be quite fitting for this beer, as it outshined any other IPA I’ve had recently. It was also quite lemony but not in an obnoxious or puckering way. Rather, it helped mask the very high ABV, which is always a good thing. Another great beer out of Dogfish Head, but definitely not for the casual drinker.

Really briefly, I actually only finished one entire movie this past week (I saw others but was never able to finish them, sadly). What I actually watched all the way through was Horrible Bosses. With great comedians and Jennifer Anniston’s unsettling sexuality carrying this film, it was hard not to laugh. It had some great one liners and some fun banter between the three protagonists, but the more I actually thought about this movie, the more it didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Which, I guess, is fine. Considering this film’s premise is already pretty extreme (“Let’s kill each other’s bosses!”), it really doesn’t do you any good to start thinking about relationship dynamics or actual narrative structure. Rather, this movie is just meant to be laughed while you having a few beers after a hard day of Colorado skiing.

Not horrible, just unsettling.

So that’s it, folks. Thanks for bearing with me with me through all this text. Regular BAAM entries will be back by the end of the week, so we should be getting back to normal. For those of you who don’t know, beer and a movie is now on Twitter (@beerandamovie1) as well as Facebook (www.facebook.com/beerandamovie1). The WordPress site is still the hub of BAAM, but Twitter and Facebook let me do some smaller, on-the-fly posts as well as help me get the word out about BAAM. So if you like what you’re reading, watching and drinking, hit me up on and share the love!

Keep drinking my friends!

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Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA & Ip Man

Hey there drinkers!

Tonight’s combo is a bit of stretch but you’ll just have to deal with it (tonight’s original choice was Gone in 60 Seconds but I couldn’t get my hands on it. And I don’t need more Nick Cage in my life). Anywho, I’ve been feeling like a bit of an IPA man recently (get it?), so I picked up the much-celebrated 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head and decided to watch some kickass kung fu. Literally. Asses were kicked. Everyone loves a good kung fu movie and everyone should love craft beer, so tonight ‘s  BAAM seems like a perfect match. Let’s get kicking!

Ip Man is the 2008 Chinese biopic that follows the life of the legendary kung fu Grandmaster Ip Man (surprise surprise!) during the Second Sino-Japanese War (WWII era). For those of you who have no idea who Ip Man is (I didn’t before watching this movie, though I’d heard good things about the film), this is the grandmaster who taught Bruce Lee all his moves. So, needless to say, this guy is kind of a badass. And the movie does a good job of conveying that. Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen, truly just kicks ass. He is utterly calm, collected and smooth, and yet he just obliterates everyone around him with occasional help from feather dusters. Unlike many of the amazing kung fu movies that we are are used to, Ip Man does not rely on high-flying stunts or insane set-pieces to get your adrenaline running. Rather, the fights are appropriately “realistic” which in turn helps raise the stakes for everyone involved in the fight as we feel like they are real human beings and not Cirque du Soliel acrobats. Beyond the fight scenes, the story itself feels a little like filler. The acting is a little stiff (though subtitles don’t really help) and the actual details of the narrative were a bit mundane. Sure, Ip Man finds himself the champion of the Chinese in the face of Japanese invasion and it’s most inspiring, but it feels much more like rhetoric or propaganda than heartfelt performance. But this is an issue that generally didn’t bother me as the film was never far from more sweet kung fu. A final note, this movie looks beautiful. Not to generalize, but most Chinese films I’ve seen have immaculate cinematography and Ip Man is no different. Each shot is carefully composed and brilliantly executed. Oh and color drains or saturates depending on how hopeless the Chinese feel in any particular sequence. It’s pretty sweet.

Always a badass. No matter what.

And now for our oddly paired beer. Dogfish Head is one of the big names in American craft brewing. They are always trying innovative recipes while consistently making great beers. Did you ever watch Discovery’s short-lived series Brewmasters? That’s Dogfish Head. And it’s an awesome show. Watch it. Anyway, Dogfish Head is arguably best known for its IPAs (and its Punkin Ale). They have a variety of IPA’s of varying hopping schedules (hence 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA and 120 Minute IPA) and I’ve only heard good things. Their most “basic,” or accessible as I prefer to say, is the 60 Minute IPA. It’s a simple, medium-bodied IPA that is not too bitter or overwhelming with its hoppiness. That first sip will come as a bit of a surprise for those less-acquainted with IPAs (yours truly included), but once you’ve gotten acclimated, the beer is really quite easy to drink. It also has a lovely cloudy, copper color and a rich head that releases some tasty tasty aromas. All said, this is one good beer, which makes sense considering it’s one of the brewery’s most common and well-liked beers. Dogfish Head has a ton more interesting beers out there that I sadly have not yet tried. I’ll have to add them to my New Year’s Resolution list for beer. Or maybe just cool-it with the Sam Adams…

A quick word of business and then I’ll let you go. I’m going on a family trip next week to Colorado which means two things. One, I may or may not be posting next week (sorry). Two, I will be drinking lots of New Belgium’s Fat Tire and 1554 (not sorry).

And so, with that, I welcome you all to 2012. May this New Year bring you lots of delicious beer drinking (in moderation), engaging movie viewing (with friends!) and all things good and shiny. Thanks for reading BAAM in its 2011 infancy and maybe, just maybe, I’ll mature a little, like a fine barreled-aged stout. But that’s unlikely.

Happy Drinking!

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
60 Minute IPA:
  
Good, clean simple IPA
Lovely copper color with thick, white head
Great IPA for beginners

Ip Man:
Refreshingly not-over-the-top fight scenes
A bit preachy when it comes to themes of nationalism
Ip Man defeated all of Japan. All of it.

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