Monthly Archives: September 2012

Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale & The Silence of the Lambs

Hey there, Drinkers!

Nothing says Fall quite like pumpkin beer and serial killers. Well…I may need to reassess that one. Anyway, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things here with BAAM so I thought it would be a smart idea to get back to our roots by reviewing a “real” movie and blind tasting what Buffalo Bill’s brewery claims to be “America’s first pumpkin ale.” So put down that glass of Chianti (mmm…fava beans), we’ve got a review on hand!

The 1991 Oscar powerhouse thriller The Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme (who only makes rockumentaries and the intense drama), is one of those movies you really shouldn’t miss. Everyone always talks about classics or must-see movies, but The Silence of the Lambs is really one of the few films from the past thirty years I feel comfortable putting under that heading. It is intense, gripping, frightening and haunting. It’s visually striking, narratively engaging and expertly acted. What is truly remarkable about this film, especially when compared to like-minded thrillers, is that it cares so much more about its characters than it does about the case. While the case is interesting in a sickening sort of way, the most chilling scenes are when Clarice (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) simply talk. Their dialogue immediately gets under your skin and leaves you thinking. There’s a perpetual sense of unease that permeates the film and it leaves the viewer feeling edgy. I’ve seen this film a number of time now but I still got a certain tightness in my chest while watching. Not many movies can do that to me.

AH!

There’s a lot to discuss in this film but I don’t really have the time (or your undivided attention…let’s be real here) to go into detail. However, I do want to briefly point out the use of close-ups throughout the film, as they appear quite regularly throughout. Demme treats us to long, uncomfortably close close-ups of our characters’ faces while they talk. Not only does this connect us to the character, it also forces us to see every detail in their facial expressions. We have no choice but to study, examine and dissect, much in the same way Hannibal Lecter sees the world. It’s real creepy. Other than that, my only complaint is that I was never fully convinced as to why Clarice was really put on the case. Yes, she’s young and attractive and a fresh face for Hannibal, but I feel like the film doesn’t really go beyond these easy, one-line answers. Granted the rest of the movie is so good that it doesn’t matter but I feel obligated to gripe about something. Anyway, go see this movie. Even those viewers who have weaker constitutions shouldn’t find this one all too offensive (it’s only a little bloody/gory/disturbing). This movie isn’t too concerned with the spectacle of blood and is more attuned to the psychological experience of our characters, which is a nice change of pace from today’s blood-thirsty thrillers. But most importantly, this movie is really f-ing good.

That’s Buffalo Bill, in case you missed the BAAM connection. He kills people.

So was “America’s First Pumpkin Ale” a classic as well? Well, based off of the beer alone and disregarding history, I have to say no. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale is good, but in a world where everyone makes a pumpkin beer, this one does little to stand out. Pouring a nice, clean amber color with minimal head, you get the standard notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin that you’d expect. When you take a sip, you get a little of all of those but nothing too striking or sustaining. It’s all quite mellow and smooth actually. Which is nice if you’re planning on making a night of it and having a couple more later on. But as a standalone beer, it does little to set itself apart from the crowd (and it is a crowded field of pumpkin ales). Don’t get me wrong, nothing about this beer is bad, I just hate to admit that it does nothing special. Sorry, Bill!

So there you have it folks, Fall! Killers and beer! A cinematic classic (seriously go watch or rewatch it. It’s still amazing) with a brewing…meh. Okay so not the greatest pairing but still a worthwhile evening. Great movie. Decent beer. Cooling weather. Doesn’t sound all that bad to me. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bottle of Chianti with my name on it.

Just kidding, I wouldn’t cheat on you guys like that.

Keep drinking, my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale:
-Clear amber color
-Mild carbonation & smooth mouthfeel
-Mild, Fall flavors

The Silence of the Lambs:
-Outstanding performances all around
-Great visual storytelling
-A thriller in the truest sense

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Samuel Adams’ Dunkelweizen & Space Jam

Welcome to the Jam, Drinkers!

I know it’s been awhile but we’re back and we’re drinking! It’s Beer Week here in Los Angeles, which means that there are tons of cool events to be going to throughout the area for the next ten days. And while none of them are movie-related (as far as I know), we’re sticking to tradition and pairing Sam Adams’ Dunkelweizen (from their Fall mixer) with the 1996 “classic” Space Jam. If you’re not in LA, settle in and enjoy tonight’s review. If you live in LA, turn off your computer, go to your favorite bar and drink something local. Game on.

Man oh man have I not seen this movie in a loooong time. The 1996 Ivan Reitman-produced, Michael Jordan-starring, semi-animated film Space Jam brings up some old memories and some conflicted emotions. I think most people my generation saw this movie when they were young. It was one of those gimmicky movies that really captures its time. A time when you could slap Michael Jordan’s name to something and it was an instant success. A time when the Chicago Bulls were relavent (zing!). A time when a film’s plot was ancillary to the amount of fun it could provide. Because really, there’s almost no plot. For a two hour movie, there’s maybe 15 minutes of story. The rest is either hijinks or a basketball montage. To be fair though, I didn’t really expect much other than those two things, but if that’s all you’re going to do, at least do it well. Specifically, I feel a bit cheated by the Looney Toons. I love the Looney Toons. I still find the original cartoons hilarious. But maybe due to an updating in the writing staff or just because they’ve aged poorly, our favorite Looney Toons aren’t very funny. They feel like parodies of themselves. Bugs doesn’t even sound the same. All the cartoons say and do what they’re supposed to, but it all just feels stiff. It doesn’t have that fresh, insane energy of the original cartoons. Bugs doesn’t even dress up as a woman bunny! He has a girlfriend instead. YAWN. Atleast Taz and Wile E. Coyote are still pretty hilarious but that’s because they don’t talk. And why don’t they put Road Runner on the court? (S)He’s so fast!

I’m not feeling the love.

But I’ll ignore most of my gripes with this film simply because it’s not trying to be anything more than entertaining to kids. So we can just look past Michael Jordan’s odd willingness to sacrifice his freedom for some cartoons he’s just met (cartoons that forcibly remove him from reality and demand training), the mushy rules of cartoon basketball or how almost none of this film takes place in space. Ignoring those, and many other complaints, I just want to point out a few weird thing. One: the strange frequency of references to the film industry (union contracts, agents, likeness fees, Teamsters, etc.). I don’t think I got that when I was younger. Two: the oddly stoned alien (“I’m ready for another trip!”). It’s just a bit blunt…see what I did there? And three: Bill Murray. Did you remember that Bill Murray was in this? As himself? Zombieland premonition! But seriously, it’s hard to take this movie seriously. It’s meant for kids in the simplest of interpretations. It does little to be treat its audience intelligently and does not age well with the audience that saw it when they were seven. And, sadly, I have the suspicion that today’s youth would be too fond of this one. Sorry, Mike!

About as odd as it looks.

And was tonight’s Dunkzelweizen a slam dunk (now you’re getting it)? I’d say it was a decent two-pointer (sports knowledge!).  It was nothing special but it’s solid beer for an average night. This Sam Adams beer, fresh out of their Harvest Collection, is a darkish wheat brewed with Belgian yeast. The end result is kind of what you’d expect from that description: a medium-bodied wheat beer with some classic banany yeast flavor. There’s some fruity sweetness in there that’s balanced against the darker malts, making this beer fall right in the middle of the road in almost every regard. So while it doesn’t do anything special, it’s still a pretty good beer for when the evenings start to chill. But since I’m in LA, that won’t be for awhile.

So that’s the game breakdown, folks. We had a once-funny, now-frustrating film with a solid but ordinary beer. Not the best way to get back into BAAM but it’s hard to complain when you have a beer in your hand, a movie on your screen and Michael Jordan crushing Bill Murray’s hoop dreams. Very hard.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Samuel Adams’ Dunkelweizen:
-Pours hazy, medium brown
-Classic Belgian-yeast flavor
-Solid but unremarkable

Space Jam:
-Childhood classic, but the shine has faded
-Michael Jordan+Bugs Bunny=hijinks
-All kinds of Hollywood & NBA cameos. Charles Barkley anyone?

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North Coast Brewing’s Old No. 38 & Back to the Future Part III

Great Scott, Drinkers!

BAAM is back…to the future…yeah. Let’s just roll with that one. But yes! Another beer and a movie combo is rolling into station (I should just stop now) with North Coast’s Old #38 Stout and the third installment of Back to the Future trilogy. So let’s fire up the engine (okay I’m stopping now) and get into tonight’s review!

As a fair warning, I will announce that the entire Back to the Future trilogy made a formidable impression on my childhood and I still regard the entire series as one of my all time favorites. That being said, Back to the Future Part III was never my favorite. I was always more partial the second movie since there were flying cars and the like. But that’s besides the point. What I’m trying to say is that I may have difficult separating my childhood memories from tonight’s viewing but I’ll do my best to remain as professional as I always am in these reviews.

Now for the sad, lonely few who haven’t seen any of these films, the third one will pretty much make no sense whatsoever. While the film does attempt to refresh the audience’s memory as to the characters, events and “science” of the previous films but the trilogy’s history is not Part III’s primary focus. And I make that pun deliberately. As can be expected from a movie about time traveling to the old West, there are some historical inaccuracies that will nag you but, in general, they won’t bother you enough to detract from the entertainment of the film. Besides, it was the 80’s and no one cares anyway.

Flying steam-powered, time-traveling train from the late 1800’s? Check!

I have to say that one of the major differences in watching this film as a 20-something as compared when I did as an 8 year old is realizing that this movie is not about Marty McFly. Unlike Part I and Part II, this film is much more about Doc Brown in terms of both conflict and character. Where in the first film Doc Brown was the amusing, scientifically informed sidekick to our hero Marty, Part III is more interested in learning about who Doc Brown really is. What happens when he falls in love? What happens when his head and heart are conflicted? What happens when he drinks? Unlike many other trilogies that try too hard to keep their protagonists fresh, Back to the Future changes course and allows another character to take center stage. Of course Marty McFly is still important and serves as the grounding story for the complete trilogy, but he acts much more like an audience interpreter this time around. To a fault, actually. Many of Marty’s lines seem to knock the audience over the head with obvious facts or serve to remind the audience of what is at stake. More often that not, Marty spends his time pointing out the not-so-subtle connections between past, present and future. You’re my great-grandfather?! You’re Mad Dog Tannen?! It’s a refrigerator?! The unfortunate side effect of making Doc Brown the primary character in this film is that Marty McFly is forced to play second fiddle. A position that he doesn’t seem all too comfortable with.

The name’s Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.

There are a lot of things I could point out, both good and bad, about this film but for the sake of time I just want to mention one last thing I found amusing. It seems that every character we’ve ever met throughout the series has some historical counterpart in 1885 Hill Valley. They all have the same last names, all act the same, say the same things and are all played by the same actors. And while this is mostly a cute wink to the audience, it makes you realize that no one has left Hill Valley in over 100 years. And that there’s about four or five generations of repetitive parenting trickling through the ages. Just some food for thought.


The end of an era.

And how about our Old No. 38 Stout from North Coast Brewing Co? Well, it’s still a bit too warm out to really be drinking stouts but I don’t really care so just sit down and keep reading. The Old No. 38, apparently named after a retired steam engine, pours a deep black with a thin chocolate-colored head. It’s actually quite a lovely black. I’d compare it to a few other dark stouts I’ve reviewed on BAAM like Old Rasputin or Old Engine Oil. Apparently in Beerland, old equals black. But where these two beers were big and rich, I found Old No. 38 to be a bit more mild mannered. You still get that great barley aroma and chocolate malt flavor like the other two, but this beer lacks a bit of a punch. Which is fine, in my opinion. It’s easy to drink and very smooth. The hoppiness is a bit a buried under the malt but all-in-all, the Old No. 38 is a solid stout. North Coast always makes great beer so I won’t be shying away from this one in the future….or the past!

So there you have it, drinkers. Back to the Future III and Old No. 38 Stout from North Coast Brewing. While neither is the best representative of their genre, Part III being the weakest film of the trilogy and Old No. 38 being a fairly tame stout, both are still easy to enjoy and are worth coming back to. And since I’m now tempted to go back (to the future!) to rewatch parts I and II (thanks Mom and Dad for your HBO Go account info!), I also find myself more interested in what North Coast Brewing has to offer.

Thanks for stopping by folks. And remember, keep drinking my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Old No. 38 Stout:

-Pure, deep black pour
-Classic, chocolate malt flavor
-Solid, go-to stout

Back to the Future Part III:
-Silly, but heartwarming attempt at a Western
-Finally Doc Brown’s turn in the limelight
-Still brings a smile to my face so many years

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