Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hitachino Nest’s Red Rice Ale & Spirited Away

Good evening, Drinkers!

In the international spirit of the Olympics, tonight’s combo is imported from Japan. While there are plenty of American films & beers to discuss, it’s nice to step outside of the U.S. from time to time. And with that in mind, let’s dive right into tonight’s pairing of the fantastic animated film Spirited Away and Hitachino Nest’s unique Red Rice Ale.

For those of you who haven’t seen the 2001 Academy-award winning animated film Spirited Away, directed by the unparalleled Hayao Miyazaki, stop reading this review and go watch the movie. Without exaggeration, this film is truly beautiful and offers something to every audience member. Ostensibly about a young girl who becomes trapped in a magic bathhouse, the film’s themes are broadly human and deeply touching. Buried in this astounding and unfamiliar magical world, our protagonist, Chihiro/Sen undergoes an immediately familiar coming-of-age tale.

Note: I know I can’t really do the plot justice, so I’m going to avoid exposition and just tell you what I think about this film.

Just another day at the magic office.

Though every frame is filled with monsters and creatures, our attention is always focused on our hero’s journey. And that kind of focus is difficult to achieve. Every detail of Miyazaki’s film is accounted for and presented as if it’s part of our everyday experience. Lanterns hop around on feet, trains float over water and dragons streak across the sky. The close-minded will only see an animated film as a “kids movie” and will fail to see the onscreen ingenuity of the fully-realized universe that is Spirited Away. And this film is not for kids. It’s for everyone. Yes it’s a bit childish at times, but it’s also a bit bloody and intense. The film’s two bad-guys, Yubaba and No-Face are some of the scariest, and most well-rounded, “villains” you’ll find on screen. Moreover, despite the film’s 2001 release date and Japanese subtitles (I chose to watch it with subtitles but an American dubbed version is readily available), the film is utterly timeless. A girl’s search for her parents and a quest to save the boy? It never gets old. And so what if I come off as hypoerbolic? If a Miyazaki film doesn’t leave you with a little child-like euphoria and sense of wonder, then you’re not a person. Fact.

Go watch this movie.

No Face is definitely not a creeper…

And to wash down this profoundly unique cinematic experience? How about a beer brewed with…rice?! That’s right folks. Hitachino Nest’s Red Rice Ale is probably the only rice beer I’ve ever seen. For those of you who regularly frequent craft beer stores, you’ve probably seen Hitachino Nest’s adorable labels. To be honest, that’s what caught my eye about this beer first. Proof that good packaging works! But did the beer hold up to the labeling? In fact, it did. This tasty beer poured a light gold color with a pinkish hue that others have described as “grapefruit.” Despite having been brewed with rice, the nose is distinctively beer-y. When you get a taste, you’ll get some nice, fruity sweetness balanced appropriately with malt. As that fades, you’ll get hit with some unexpected smoothness. The fact that it’s so smooth is almost a bad thing, since it made the beer so easy to drink! I finished my $6 bottle faster than I expected and I wished I had another to hold me over. So yes, the beer is a little pricey but I’d say it’s worth it. Not that I can afford to drink one every night, but on a special occasion (or if you really want to impress your friends), grab one of these and enjoy your evening.

So there you have it, folks. One of the better matched combos we’ve done here recently at beer and a movie. Both Spirited Away and the Red Rice Ale served as beautiful ambassadors from across the Pacific. A uniquely sweet and smooth beer with an unmatched animated tale of love and magic. Separate or together, these two bits of entertainment are sure to make you smile and leave you thinking.

And as always, keep drinking my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes: 
Hitachino Nest’s Red Rice Ale:
-Big, foamy head
-Interesting pinkish hue
-Shockingly smooth & well-balanced

Spirited Away:
-Universal story & themes, despite the subtitles
-Fully & intimately realized magical world
-Animated imagination at its finest. Miyazaki FTW!

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Abita’s Purple Haze & Dazed and Confused

Alright alright alright, Drinkers!

Tonight we’re kicking it back and taking things slow with Dazed and Confused while sipping on a tasty Purple Haze from Louisiana’s Abita Brewing. My memory may may be a bit hazy (I had to, sorry) but I think tonight was quite the success. Let’s find out why, shall we?

The 1993 cult high school movie, Dazed and Confusedis one of those movies that I think most people saw when they were too young to really get what was going on. Or they know about it, never saw it and pretend like they have seen it. Or maybe that’s because they got a contact high from the film strip and forgot it all but that’s another issue. Directed by Richard Linklater (I reviewed his famous Before Sunrise about a year ago), Dazed and Confused is at once a typical coming-of-age high school flick and a confounding piece of cinema. Most obviously confounding is the cast. This massive ensemble film includes many actors that we have come to know over years including Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Park Posey, Joey Lauren Adams and Matthew McConaughey, who literally hasn’t changed in 20 years.

But what struck me more was the lack of a structured narrative. In fact, the film is actually quite directionless, which seems fitting. Taking place on the last day of school for a group of rising freshmen and seniors, the audience is tossed into a world of incredibly high teens who seem to have some weird aggression problems, all of whom really have no plan for the future.

Milla has zombies in her future. Lots of zombies.

And while focus-less films typically frustrate me to no end, I wasn’t as bothered by Dazed and Confused. I think what it came down to for me was that this film didn’t try too hard to look like it wasn’t trying too hard. If that makes sense.  Let’s make a comparison, shall we? The Big Lebowski is ostensibly about nothing, right? Well the Coen brothers, as brilliant as they are, tried very hard to create a plot about nothing (don’t hate me, Dudes). And while some people love this film, I tend to disagree. The opposite can be said of Dazed and Confused. This is a movie about a bunch of teens with nothing to do and just enjoying it. And the film itself reflects that. We weave in and out of characters’ lives, there is no major problem to be resolved and not everyone has to get the girl at the end. It’s kind of cool actually. Yes, this film is a bit…meandering but it works. For me. And while my high school experience was is in no way represented in this film, I did feel a certain kinship with most of the characters as they fail to figure out what their lives are all about. I also have to say, briefly, that this film is reminiscent of many of Linklater’s other films. From Before Sunrise to A Scanner Darkly, Linklater seems to be interested in characters that are floating through existence, occasionally searching for something more. Dazed and Confused is no different.

Oh and I also have to point out this one line where a female character compares decades:
“Maybe the 80’s will be like radical or something. I figure we’ll be in our 20s and it cant’ get worse.”
Oh it gets worse, darling. It gets worse.

Kind of how you feel after watching this movie.

So we were dazed, confused and hazy? Sure! Why not? Tonight’s tasty beer was brought to you by the Abita Brewing Company and it actually matched the film quite well. As Abita explains on the label, their Purple Haze is a wheat lager with an added raspberry puree that goes into the brew after filtration. When you crack open the bottle, that added raspberry is immediately apparent in the nose. You get a nice sweet, tartness that excites your palet. But what’s cooler is that when you give this beer a pour, you can actually see a slight purple hue in this otherwise light-golden beer. With that first sip, you get a nice balance of light wheat flavor and subtle fruitiness. And on top of that, it’s really just a refreshing beer. Maybe the kind you want one or two of when school gets out for the summer (Just kidding kids! Don’t drink until your 21!). But seriously, Purple Haze is a nice clean, crisp beer for those toasty summer nights.

So there you have it, folks. A hazy but enjoyable evening. We watched a not-too-serious and heavily substance-abused (on screen, not me) reflection on high school while sipping on a sweet little raspberry beer. Neither tries too hard to be anything other than it is and, in the end, that helps them both. Rather than hitting us over the head, both pieces of entertainment leave us with enough room to breath. To think, or not think, about the choices we make and the future that awaits us this summer.

Thanks for reading and as always keep drinking, my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Abita’s Purple Haze:
-Strong raspberry aromatics
-Subtle purple hue to the pour
-Refreshing, not-too-fruity taste

Dazed and Confused:
-Lovingly irreverent of high school
-Kids in the 70’s drank and smoked…a lot. Should I be surprised?
-Tons of stars before they were stars


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Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale & Chicken Run

Evening, Drinkers!

Tonight we’re back with another beer from Anchor Brewery and continuing with our recent trend of discussing American values in cinema (4th of July slasher, death racing as an American pass-time, Team America: Fuck Yeah!). On tonight’s menu? Chicken. And Liberty.

Get ready.

Tonight’s movie is a bit of a throwback, but I think most of you should remember it. Back in 2000, the incredible creators of Wallace & Gromit took a break from their famous characters to bring us Chicken RunUtilizing their unmistakeable claymation style, Peter Lord and Nick Park recreated the classic film The Great Escape with chickens. It’s a little odd, but that’s kind of what these guys do. In short, the chickens of Tweedy’s Farm work to escape the confines of their farm/prison by enlisting an escaped American circus rooster (improbably voiced by Mel Gibson) to train them to fly. In between the silly setup and the film’s high-flying dramatic conclusion, there’s the usual slew of amusing antics that one would expect of a bunch of British lady-chickens trying to fly. And that’s kind of what this film is. Antics. And it’s great. Sure the plot is a bit predictable and the movie is a bit short (a speedy 82 minutes), but that’s not really why you see this film. If you’re like most viewers, it’s mostly a quick, fun distraction that satisfies both parents and kids. It’s goofy enough for the little ones and has enough sly, British humor for the adults. Not to mention you have Mel Gibson pretending to be funny and carefree. That’s always a hoot. But simplicity or not, you still have to appreciate the creativity and labor that went into this film. As I’ve said with other stop-motion films, just the sheer amount of work that goes into creating one of these feature-length films is alone worthy of praise. But on top of that, you have distinct characters and a plethora of witty chicken-themed puns. What more could you ask for?

You could ask for a chicken dance scene, but they have that already.

Onwords to beer! Now the strangely astute and the hopelessly bored may notice that I’ve actually discussed Anchor’s Liberty Ale in last year’s holiday recap. However, since my review was about three sentences long and my opinions towards IPAs have changed pretty dramatically since then, I figured I owed it to this beer to give it a second shot. And I’m glad I did. This San Francisco IPA is arguably one of the maltier IPA’s I’ve had. It’s actually hard to classify it as an IPA, as the floral bitterness from the hops is very well-balanced caramel-y malts. You also get some fruity hints in there, which takes some of the weight out of the beer, making it perfect for a warm Los Angeles evening. Pouring a hazy gold with a thick, lacy head, this brew is at once easy to drink and multi-faceted in its flavor profile. And while I wasn’t the biggest fan of Anchor’s summer wheat, I have to admit that the Liberty has inspired me to check out some more of this brewery’s creations.

So that’s our evening of Liberty, folks. There were chickens running wild, beer was flowing and I was laughing by myself in my darkened living room. So it was a pretty typical Wednesday for me. Zing!

Remember that if you have any beers or movies that you would like to see here, just leave a comment, hit me up on Facebook or find me on Twitter.

And, as always, keep drinking my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale:
-Hazy gold color with 2-inch lacy head
-Sweet, floral hoppiness
-Well-balanced maltiness

Chicken Run:
-The Great Escape as performed by clay chickens
-Sharp, British humor
-Mel Gibson plays a douchey American. Shocker.

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Bud Light & Team America: World Police

Fuck yeah, Drinkers!

The things you guys put me through! The things I drink for your entertainment! This was originally intended to be BAAM’s 4th of July All-American Special, but due to some unfortunate timing, we’re just going to call this our America: Fuck Yeah Edition of beer and a movie. I assume most of you are familiar with both of tonight’s bits of entertainment, so this will be less of a review and more along the lines of a deeply subjective commentary. Anyway, let’s tastelessly celebrate the greatest nation in the universe and its beer of choice.

For the lonely/ronery few who have not seen the 2004 film Team America: World Police made by the creators of South Park and the Tony Award winning play The Book of Mormon, buckle up. Team America tells the story of a team of American action heros who fight terrorists across the globe and totally kick ass. Bringing on an ace-actor to help fight the good fight, Team America traces a deadly, international plot back to North Korea’s now-deceased-in-real-life ruler, Kim Jung Il. There’s explosions, music, romance and more explosions. And it’s all done with puppets! Setting aside the hilarious absurdity of doing a grossly offensive action parody with puppets, it really makes the whole film more impressive. And while the filmmakers deliberately flaunt the puppeteering (you can see the wires in every shot), it doesn’t diminish the skill and care that went into the creation of the characters and sets. For what it’s worth, you can never accuse Trey Parker and Matt Stone of phoning it in.  From the non-language the film’s Arabs speak to the location cards that reference nation’s only in their distance from the US. They seem to approach every aspect of every project with a detail-oriented eye that astound and offends almost everyone.They fully commit to the puppets and embrace the mediums quirks. But if that isn’t enough, Parker and Stone also show of their “love” of musical theater by infusing the movie with some of the dumbest and most hilarious musical numbers you’ve ever heard.

Okay so this movie is not for those with sensitive demeanors or virgin ears. There’s no shortage of crude humor, homophobia, xenophobia and racism but that’s kind of what these guys do. And they distribute the hurt  pretty evenly and across political lines, so you feel little better when you laugh. Not much, but enough. The one unfortunate thing about this movie is that it seems a bit dated. Team America: World Police was released back in 2004 when the threat of terrorism and WMD’s seemed much more tangible than it does today. That American war-mongering spirit seems to have died down a bit by now, so the film sees a bit out of step. Also, there’s a song about the Michael Bay film Pearl Harbor, which no one remembers anymore. Also also, the movie makes fun of Ben Affleck quite a bit but, fortunately for all, Mr. Affleck has improved his credentials since then. But I digress. Ultimately, no one watches this film and pretends to take away anything from it or really finds it that dated. All you really need to do is laugh and occasionally grimace as the off-color humor. Because when you know that America is the best, no movie can ever say otherwise.

Fuck yeah.

Team America in DirkaDirkastan or somewhere stereotypical & mildly racist

And our American beer? Well, it’s kind of just Bud Light. Do I really need to say anything about it? Actually, I should point out that the Budweiser company isn’t even owned by Americans anymore. Back in 2008, Anheuser-Busch was bought by a Belgian-Brazilian company (thanks Wikipedia!), meaning that America’s most iconic beer is not American anymore. Well, at least on paper. But anyway, back to the beer itself. Something most Bud Light drinkers probably don’t notice is the color. Since we typically consume our Bud Light as directly as possible, we hardly bother to pour it into a glasse. But since I’m a classy fellow, I poured my beer and noticed that Bud Light pretty much looks like water. It’s almost clear with a tiny hint of yellow. Also, the beer’s one inch head pretty much dissipated instantaneously. And the taste? Well, it kind of tasted like nothing…Okay that’s not fair. It’s more like water that tastes a bit funky. I guess I would call it grainy but that’s really a stretch. But I don’t want to keep wasting anyone’s time by talking about a beer that costs, on average, about a dollar. Let’s move on with our lives.

Not sure how I feel about this one…

So that was our AMERICA! special, everyone. I’m sorry I couldn’t get this to you on the 4th, but you’ll forgive me, right? I mean, I drank a Bud Light for you. That’s dedication. I’d make a reference to dedication as seen in Team America, but it’s wholly inappropriate. Just watch the movie and you’ll understand what I’m vaguely sidestepping here. Anyway, despite the nothingness of the beer, the movie is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter. I mean, I understand the appeal of the Bud Light, I really do. It’s cheap, it’s easy to drink and it’s really really cheap. For people who view beer as more of a refreshment with the added benefit of booze, then sure, drink away. But for anyone who has modicum of interest in beer or self-respect, then Bud Light is really just a waste of time and calories.  But go watch Team America. It’s still amazing.

But, as always, keep drinking my friends. Just not Bud Light please.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes: 
Bud Light:

Team America: World Police
-Absurd musical action romance parody with puppets
-Shocking, and hilarious attention to detail
-Fuck yeah!

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Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil & Death Race 2000

Hey there, drinkers!

Since I’m sick of waiting on the library to send over my movie selection for my 4th of July special, I’m saying screw it and just doing another BAAM. Fortunately for you, this “screw it” attitude and tonight’s film are still in the spirit of America, even if our beer is from the UK. But we can just pretend I’m tying some history into tonight’s review. Yeah….totally planned that one.

Anyway, tonight’s combo is all about cars. I’m sipping on an Old Engine Oil and watching the cult classic Death Race 2000. There were tons of great car movies I wanted to watch tonight, but my secret love of Sylvester Stallone combined with a lack of accessibility to other movies meant that I watched Death Race 2000. And now you know how beer and a movie comes together. But that’s enough peeping behind the curtain. Let’s get tonight’s show on the road, shall we?

Unlike its crappy 2008 Jason Statham reboot, the original 1975 film Death Race 2000 is classic a Roger Corman dystopian blood n’ boobs fest. Taking place in the distant future-past of the year 2000, the United States is a totalitarian nation governed by guys in tacky brown suits and a man named Mr. President who lives in a crystal palace in Shanghai or wherever. Anyway, for some reason this reconstituted U.S. now loves the bloody Transcontinental Race in which drivers maneuver animal-themed cars cross-country and score points by running people over. At the heart of this amazing concept is the famed driver Mr. Frankenstein (because he’s been rebuilt a bunch of times…and wears a gimp suit) and his navigator, Annie. To make a short story shorter, Annie is really freedom fighter sent to kidnap Mr. Frankenstein but, surprise surprise, ends up falling in love with him. Somewhere between the film’s expository intro and the moment when Frankenstein reveals that he too wants to topple the government, Annie and Frankenstein square off against Sylvester Stallone, who pretty much plays himself: angry, slack-jawed and totally bitchin’.

This is pretty much the entire film.

So now that you are up to speed on what the film is ostensibly about, let’s talk about it. Briefly. Death Race 2000 is one of those movies that make less sense the more you think about it. So setting aside the unexplained premise, the unexplained characters and the unexplained boobs, the film is actually pretty enjoyable. As long as you take this film for what it is (aka a crappy 70’s B horror/sci-fi flick), it’s not half bad. The film does do a good job of criticizing the news media and its proclivity for hyper-sensationalizing anything it can get its hands on. You’re constantly assaulted by obnoxious news casters who seem to care more about the blood than where the blood is coming from. And, on a more base level, the film doesn’t really pretend to  be anything more than what it is. It knows it’s cheap, cheesy and kind of hilarious, so plays that up. But it doesn’t really do anyone any good if I keep trying to analyze this movie. I’ll leave it at this: if you and your buddies are looking for a mindless but goofy evening, then check this movie out. But if you don’t think it’s really going to be your thing, odds are it isn’t.

They don’t make posters like they used to. Also that white outfit isn’t in the movie.

And did our Old Engine Oil keep pace with tonight’s film? In a word: yes. This tasty U.K. porter sports a modest 6% ABV and pours a deep, black color. Combined with a rich thickness, it’s not a stretch to guess how they came up with the name. Giving off a strong aroma of chocolate malt, this beer is startlingly smooth and balanced. Sure, it has that rich chocolate malt flavor like any self-respecting porter, but the maltiness never dominates. Rather, you are given arguably one of the smoothest dark beers around. For those looking for big, bold flavor, I suggest you look elsewhere. Old Engine Oil is much more about it’s smooth mouthfeel and ease of drinking than it is about loud flavors. And I appreciate that. This beer offers the odd prospect of a heavy beer without the weight. If that makes sense. Feel free to call me out on that one.

So there it is, folks. Our non-4th of July special turned out pretty good. Though we’ll have to post-pone the actual 4th of July combo a few more days, I think tonight’s BAAM still captured what we Americans love most: movies, beer, boobs and blood. Oh and hand grenades.

Literally. A hand. Grenade.

But seriously, tonight’s combo was a lot of fun. We had a great, easy-watching film with a great, easy-drinking beer. Both were fresh and invigorating without overpowering to the senses. While Death Race 2000 is a little (or a lot) crazy, it’s still good fun. And what better way to enjoy a mindless 70’s David Carradine cult classic than with a little beer your belly?

Keep drinking, my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil:
-Pours a deep, dark black
-Rich, chocolate malt character
-Easiest-to-drink porter I’ve ever had

Death Race 2000
-Hit & run driving is now a national sport. Yay, the future!
-Sylvester Stallone gets angry. Shocker.
-David Carradine is into leather. Shocker.

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