Monthly Archives: August 2012

Black Sheep’s Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale & Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Hark, Good Knights and Fair Maidens!

Tonight’s combo is arguably our most literal pairing to-date but it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up. With Monty Python’s Holy Grail (literally how the label reads), brewed by Black Sheep Brewery, and the classic WTF movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail on the screen, you are pretty much guaranteed a great evening. So grab those coconuts so we can ride into tonight’s review. (Am I pushing it?)

Monty Python’s seminal 1975 Terry Gilliam-directed film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is simply beyond description or comprehension. I’m going to work under the assumption that you have all seen this film because if you haven’t, you don’t exist to me. But for those who need a refresher, the film is ostensibly about King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail, but that really doesn’t say much about the film. In truth, the movie is mostly a series of medieval-themed sketches that generally involve the same characters. From debates about the carrying capacity of various species of swallows to the most famous killer bunny in cinematic history, Holy Grail really runs the gamut of odd topics. And yet these scenes, and all the confusing ones in between, somehow make sense. While there isn’t a real “narrative,” our brains try so hard to create one that we end up feeling fairly satisfied with our personal interpretation. But really this movie is best enjoyed when it is washing over you, rather than being truly “watched”. I recommend seeing this with a bunch of friends and then just quoting the hell out of it as your night progresses. You’ll probably end up seeing it again many times, so don’t worry if you don’t catch every line. My only real problem with this film is the ending. I think most people will agree with me when I say that the ending is completely unsatisfying. Sure, it’s in line with the film’s sense of stupid humor, but it’s so abrupt it makes you question why you watched this film in the first place. But about three seconds will go by and then you’ll remember that if a woman weighs the same as a duck, she’s probably a witch and you’ll just start smiling again.

Kind of how you feel after watching this

To be honest, I feel like I’m not doing this movie justice. It’s too funny and packed with too many hilarious (and cat-themed) details to faithfully discuss here. There are so many small moments that neither advance the plot nor garner huge laughs that it’s impossible to quantify. To that effect though, it is incredibly refreshing to see a movie that pretty much throws logic and convention to the wind. Holy Grail, and many other classic satires, are purely about the laughs but still assume that the audience is A) paying attention and B) moderately intelligent. That doesn’t mean that this film is above poop jokes, because it isn’t, but it also doesn’t shy away from it’s own cleverness. Every detailed is accounted for and every second without a joke is a second wasted. Unlike so many of today’s sad attempts at farce, Holy Grail manages to be absolutely absurd while still taking itself very seriously. Quite the feat indeed.


*I know you all have short attention spans but you can devote 4:30 to watching two of the most realistic sword fights ever caught on camera

And how about our strange product crossover Holy Grail Ale? I’ve seen this beer around for awhile but I’ve always shied away from it, being a skeptic of all overt product placements. Having grown up watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it seemed a bit sad that a beer was trying to capitalize on the film’s success, so I vowed to never support such a nefarious business. But since this blog makes me do things I don’t want to do, I picked this beer up at Galco’s and gave it a whirl. And, to my surprise, it wasn’t terrible! It wasn’t even bad! In fact, it was pretty decent. This pale ale poured a beautifully clear deep red color with a modest, white head. You’re hit pretty quickly with that classic caramel-y malt flavor which subsides into mild-mannered sweetness that hangs around on the tongue for awhile. In the past, I’ve generally stayed away from pale ales because I find them a bit too unbalanced for my tastes. Pale ales tends to be pretty hoppy (and I have no problem with hoppiness) but I’ve found that they can be a bit too bitter. The Holy Grail Ale was a little light on the hops so you’re treated a smooth, maltier ale that is great for slow drinking. 

So there you have it, sons of window washers (the French have some pretty nasty insults)! Holy Grail and Holy Grail. To those of you who say that this combo is a bit of a cop out, a bit too easy or on the nose, I say…yeah. Kinda. But you’re not the boss of me and I can make my own decisions like a real adult. And I happen to like this particular decision. So what if its obvious? It still worked out. It was still entertaining. It was still a night well spent. Good beer. Great film. What else would you rather be doing on a Sunday night? Other than spanking a castle full of 16-19.5 year old blonde and brunette girls?

Nothing.

Keep drinking, my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Black Sheep Brewery’s Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale:
-Gorgeous reddish color
-Classic malty nose & flavor
-A bit simple but still tasty

Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
-Can’t see it too many times
-Farce as its least sensical & very best
-It has “huge….tracks of land.”

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Bootlegger’s Rustic Rye IPA & Hook

Hey there drinkers,

Off the fantastic suggestion from my brother (accompanied by an appropriately amusing reddit thread), tonight’s film is the childhood throwback Hook. And while tonight’s Bootlegger beer was initially going to be paired with another pirate-themed movie, Hook just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. So let’s fly into tonight’s combo, shall we?

RUFIO! RUFIO! RUFIO! RU-FI-OOOOOOOO. Do I really need to review the rest of this movie?

Okay, fine let’s talk. I think everyone has a few formative movies from their childhood. For me, that list includes movies like Back to the Future, Hot Shots Part Deux (I know, right?!) and the 1991 Steven Spielberg Peter Pan re-imagining Hook. Not to be on-the-nose about these things (though the film is), there is something magical about Hook. It is so full of fun and imagination that it is hard to not fall in love. The make-believe feast scene is still arguably one of my favorite cinematic moments ever. You have Robin Williams (in one of his more bizarre roles) trading absurd insults with a 10 year old boy with a remarkable hairdo, followed by the flying of brightly colored mush food. It’s awesome. But seriously, there’s a lot to love about this film. Most obviously, at least as an adult, is the realization that Dustin Hoffman plays Captain Hook. Doesn’t that blow your mind? And really he’s the best part of this film. Hook is evil, funny, truthful, deceptive, paranoid, insecure and hawkish. Not to mention he desperately wants to start a war with a bunch of kids whose biggest crime is that they splatter the occasional pirate with eggs or with the aforementioned brightly colored mush food. And his sidekick Smee (Bob Hoskins) is also incredibly amusing and adds another layer of depth to Hook’s egomania.

Rain Man

And as much as I love this film, I feel like I should share a few of my complaints. For one, it’s really really long. Coming in at about 2:15 hours, the film trudges along at times. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that Robin William’s character Peter Banning is a terrible father, but it takes forever for the film to move beyond that. Also, the film takes forever to build up Banning’s transformation into Pan but the actual moment of change is shockingly fast. And no sooner does Banning become Pan than we’re suddenly at the climax of the film. As a result, it can get easy to tune out in the middle of the film as you wait for the more awesome scenes to come around. And finally, as I kind of mentioned earlier, the film is painfully on-the-nose with the Peter Pan references. While most kids probably don’t get the wordplay, the film’s dialogue is about 35% obvious foreshadowing (“Gotta fly!”), with another 10% revolving around the famous Pan line “to die would be an awfully big adventure.” As it turns out, life turns out to be a grander adventure but you get the idea. To the sophisticated (re: awake) viewer, all of the obvious referencing starts to grate on your nerves and can pull you out of the otherwise fantastic experience. But overall, these are minor gripes when you stack them against a film this is, for all intents and purposes, pure entertainment that really never gets old.

I should also mention this cast:
Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Julia Roberts & Maggie Smith
And cameos by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Carrie Fischer, Glenn Close & a very young Gwyneth Paltrow

One of the most beloved side-characters of all time. And he barely speaks!

And our Bootlegger beer? Well this Rustic Rye IPA was actually pretty tasty. I was a bit full from dinner, so drinking an entire bomber by myself proved more difficult than anticipated but I don’t blame the beer, I blame my beer-gluttony. Anyway, for those who have never tried a rye beer, I suggest you give them a shot. Just like how wheat beers are brewed with a higher percentage of wheat to barley, rye beers are brewed with a significant amount of rye. The primary result of this added ingredient is unexpected smoothness while still upholding the original, intended flavors of the beer. Since this beer was technically an IPA, the final result is a very well-balanced beer that still retains that classic IPA hoppiness. Now obviously it can’t be as hoppy as other “truer” IPA’s, but you still get the effect, which makes it a good intro to the IPA genre. As an added incentive, this Rustic Rye IPA sits comfortably at 6.5% ABV, making it easy and socially responsible to drink…more or less.

So there you have it folks, an evening with everyone’s favorite bootlegging pirate, Captain Hook and his favorite bootlegged liquor: beer. Actually, I think pirates are more into rum but just work with me here, okay? Anyway, the movie is still a classic and is tons of fun even when you’re all grown up. And since you’re a grown up, why not reminisce about your childhood with a solid, smooth rye IPA? I can’t think of a good reason why not, so better get to it. Time is running out. Tick tock tick tock.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Bootlegger’s Rustic Rye IPA:
-Golden orange color with modest head
-Aroma of hops, caramel & rye
-Remarkably smooth and well-balanced

Hook:
-Beautifully and lovingly imaginative
-A bit long & bloated
-RUFIO!

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Beer Valley’s Highway to Ale & Easy Rider

Hey there, Drinkers!

Tonight…I’m drunk on a very strong barleywine out of Oregon and watching an American classic about stoner bikers traveling across the country. So, in a word, tonight is all about America. Now, that actually comes off as mildly sarcastic and cynical but the truth of the matter is that tonight’s combo is, truly, about Americana.  So let’s get riding with Beer Valley’s Highway to Ale & Easy Rider.

The 1969 Dennis Hopper-directed film Easy Rideris one of those films that, as s film student, you discuss as being a formative moment in American cinema without ever really watching it. On the surface, I get that. It’s fairly easy to talk about Easy Rider in terms of its visual and narrative style as a break from “traditional” American filmmaking without actually watching much of the film. You can kind of get the idea from just watching one scene. Easy Rider is largely plotless and uses jarring flash-cut transitions, which stands in contrast to the “seamlessness” of most mainstream American films from that time. However, after watching this film, I came to realize that this film not only serves as a stylistic change of pace for American filmmaking but also acts as a document of a country at odds with itself. Produced and released in the throes of the late-60’s counterculture, Easy Rider is less about its protagonists’ drug-fueled journey from Los Angeles to New Orleans and more about their perspective on a country that is at war with itself and its past.

America on wheels

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper play stoner-bikers who are carrying cocaine (?) across the country with a delivery in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But that’s not really what the film is about. It’s mostly just an excuse to have our characters on motorcycles. In fact, you’d really only catch this plot if you were paying close attention. As cliche as it sounds, the film is more about the journey than it is about the destination itself. As the two easy riders motor across the country, they encounter a hippie commune, an alcoholic alien conspiracy theorist (played incredibly by Jack Nicholson), racist sheriffs, adoring tweenie girls and two friendly whores.  But again, the film is not exactly about these people but what aspect of the country the reflect. You have the traditionalists who want to shave our long-haired protagonists, the blissfully ignorant-yet-curious youth, the disenchanted professional and the drifters. You have untouched landscapes, small American towns, bustling urban landscapes. Every sequence in this film seems to represent, and accurately capture, a different slice of  an America that is colliding with its own past. And while the film itself is not too exciting and the ending wholly unnecessary, it is still an important and engaging film. For those in the right mindset, I think this film can really speak volumes about this nation. But to the more casual viewer, you will probably get pretty bored of looking at Peter Fonda’s perfectly formed chin and Dennis Hopper’s thick-ass mustache. For me, I didn’t fall in love with Easy Rider (I have a problem with plotless films) but I think I can still appreciate what it does with regard to both its unconventional narrative style and its presentation of an important crossroads in American history.

Kinda the film’s attitude towards everything

And now that we’re done with that surprisingly serious and “well thought out” review of Easy Rider, let’s talk about a very strong beer that still has me reeling. I am, of course, talking about Beer Valley’s Highway to Ale barleywine. I’ve reviewed some barleywines in the past (here and here) but I think this is strongest one I’ve tasted so far. Weighing in at a heavy 10.5% ABV, this may be the second strongest beer I’ve every had (number one being the incredible Allagash Curieux). And even though I’ve had stronger, this is probably the booziest beer I’ve ever had, meaning that I could both taste and feel the alcohol moreso than in other high ABV beers. Though you get distinct notes of malt, caramel and fruit, the most defining characteristic of this beer is its bitter booziness. And, to be honest, I found this beer to be a little much. I’ve been on a bit of an IPA kick recently, so I’m no stranger to bitterness but I found this beer to be on the harsh side. Other drinkers on Beer Advocate described this beer as “smooth” but I only found that smoothness once the beer warmed up a bit. In fact, I think I began to enjoy the beer much more once it had been out of the fridge for an hour or so. That may be just a result of me having consumed more alcohol, but I found that the flavors mellowed out a bit as the beer warmed, cutting into the harsh bitterness of this barleywine. For you curious drinkers, I’d say give this one a shot but bear in mind that this beer is not for the feint of heart. It’s strong, flavorful and packs a bit of a punch. If you’re  a more casual drinker, I’d suggest working your way up to this one. Or maybe just try a sip from your friend’s cup. That might be a safer option for everyone.

So that’s it, folks. Truly an interesting evening. Easy Rider and Highway to Ale left me with mixed feelings. Easy Rider is a great cross-section of this country in the later 1960’s but it kind of drifts in and out of the point that it wants to make. And as for the barleywine? It’s definitely an experience. It’s a good beer in my opinion, but only once you’ve let it sit out for awhile. Straight out of the fridge it can be a bit overwhelming but if you give it some time, it’ll give you something to think about.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Beer Valley’s Highway to Ale:
-Drunk-inducing 10.5% ABV
-Tasty beer but a bit harsh
-Warms incredibly well. I’d suggest giving it time

Easy Rider
-The conflicted side of the counter-culture
-Plotless, directionless and proud of it
-Jack Nicholson is crazy and fantastic

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