Monthly Archives: August 2014

Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu & Red Cliff

Hey there, Drinkers!

Today we’re getting ancient with today’s BAAM. We’re traveling back about 1800 years to China’s Three Kingdom’s period to watch John Woo’s Red Cliff, and then hopping in the DeLorean roughly another 7000 years to try Dogfish Head’s ancient Chinese-inspired Chateau Jiahu. A pairing of history, culture and beer! What else do you need? Let’s get started, shall we?

Red Cliff is the 2008 period war film from legendary action director John Woo. Taking place at the dawn of China’s Three Kingdom’s period in the early 200’s AD, the film catalogues both sides of the build up to the massive battle at Red Cliff along the Yangzte River. On one side, you have the arrogant and ambitious Prime Minister Cao Cao (our bad guy) and on the other, you have the shaky alliance of Liu Bei and Sun Quang. And while Liu Bei and Sun Quang appear in the film, their side of the story is mostly filtered through their host of generals and a tactician named Kongming. The cast is actually HUGE and can be hard to keep track of over the course of the 2.5 hour movie, but after a while you can start to identify characters as much by their wardrobe as by their names.

Good dudes looking good

Good dudes looking good

The plot itself is fairly straightforward and is can related to us in equally straightforward terms. The narration, dialogue and even the visuals do very little in the way of subtly. But then again, what about a war of hundreds of thousands of soldiers is subtle? What I meant to say is that the way characters speak and how they are characterized does little add to depth or intrigue to them. Rather, they simply state their beliefs, intentions and plans. Even our bad guy is unabashedly blunt in his arrogance and ignorance. And in the few times when information isn’t relayed to us directly through dialogue, the visuals and their juxtaposition can a bit on the nose. To highlight the differences between how the two armies prepare for war, we are treated to a rapid-cut sequence showing the good guys training and the bad guys laughing maniacally at a sport games. And while all of the visuals are stunning, at times their blunt nature got to be a bit grating.

Can you tell he's the bad guy?

Can you tell he’s the bad guy?

I should point out that John Woo still very much knows what he is doing. His visuals are crystal clear, his action is frenetic without losing the audience and the production design is absolutely nuts. It really is a beautiful movie but, at times, it gets caught up in its own visual melodrama. But overall, this movie is a classic example of an epic.

Dat epic production design

Dat epic production design

And how about our ancient brew? For those of you who are unfamiliar Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales project, what they do is essentially adapt ancient recipes from archaeological study and historical research and then provide them to us, the drinking public. Chateau Jiahu is based of the residue left behind in pottery jars in Neolithic Northern China. Brewed with rice, honey, fruit and hawthorn berry, this beer is definitely an interesting change of pace for the curious drinker. Pouring a clear, golden yellow color, you’re immediately hit with a wave of sweet fruit, honey and grape aromas. When you sip, at first you’ll be treated to a light, almost white-wine flavor. As you swallow, you’ll start to feel the sweet, almost sticky honey flavor along with that light, rice body. Really, the beer takes like a very sweet, honeyed white wine. In some ways, it’s similar to Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot, which is also a wine-like beer. But be warned, this sweet, light beer comes with a healthy 10% ABV that will sneak up on you. This beer is delicious but is definitely very different than most of the other beers you’ll find out there. If you’re not into sweeter beers, then maybe you should pass on this one. But if not, then drink away!

So there you have it, Drinkers. A match made in ancient China. An epic, if blunt, movie with a beer that largely defies convention. Both are worth your time and will make for a memorable evening.

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

jiahu

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu:
-Beautiful, clear golden pour
-Very sweet, honey & grape flavor
-Sneaky 10% ABV

Red Cliff:
Epic, in every sense
-Beautifully shot action
-A bit blunt in its storytelling

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New Belgium’s Wild2 Dubbel (Lips of Faith Series) & The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Hey there, Drinkers!

I see you made it past that mouthful of a title and are ready get a little wild! In today’s BAAM we’re headed west with New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Wild2 Dubbel and the classic John Wayne Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. So grab your spurs and sit down at the saloon. Let’s get it started!

In 1962, director John Ford released yet another Western with John Wayne. In all, the duo worked together on 24 films, which helps explain certain notions and archetypes we all take for granted regarding the genre. And in a lot of ways, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a classic Western. You have the balance between law and bandit, the specter of an encroaching railroad and the intersection of intellectual ideals with harsh, real-world practicalities. It has all themes and characters we recognize so easily. And even some of the sayings we all know…pilgrim. A large part of this comes from John Wayne, who seems to play himself more than he ever plays a character. And that’s not really a bad thing. He’s not exactly a great actor in this movie but his comfort in the role of the smirking yet troubled rancher is really all he needs to play off the more serious and idealistic James Stewart (who is always just awesome). And with a colorful (and wildly intoxicated) supporting cast of a tough-as-nails young woman, a drunken newsman, a cowardly marshal, a trusty black ranch hand, a heartless criminal and unnamed Mexicans, you really have all the makings of a classic Western.

That's a nice belt you got there, Pilgrim

That’s a nice belt you got there, Pilgrim

But really what makes this movie interesting, aside from the on-screen chemistry of John Wayne, James Stewart and Vera Miles, is how different it is from other Westerns. Most notably, this movie is told almost exclusively as a flashback. It’s actually quite Citizen Kane-y in that respect where the film is propelled by the mysterious return of a popular man who then must explain his past, shedding light on the man he is today. But aside from that structural difference, what makes this movie special is how morally and politically conflicted it is. While many Westerns are famous for their moral ambiguity, this movie takes another angle by pitting American democratic ideals against the iron of a handgun in a very literal, political fashion. James Stewart’s character relentlessly defends the law and promotes the strength of the democratic system, and yet he is utterly powerless when he tries to execute those laws. Meanwhile, John Wayne’s character embraces the DIY system of frontier justice and yet is never rewarded or recognized for his ‘just’ acts. It seems a bit standard nowadays but it’s quite unapologetic with its views. While the film generally supports the American ideals of liberty, voting rights and a free press, it regularly complicates and undermines these institutions.

And for what it’s worth, it’s also just a fun move that I recommend to any fan of the genre.

Eastern Man, Western Justice

Eastern Man, Western Justice

And our wild beer? The Wild2 Dubbel from New Belgium’s experimental Lips of Faith series is definitely an interesting brew. I poured from a 22 ounce bomber into a tumbler and was immediately impressed by the rich, dark golden brown color and the lovely, khaki head. Visually, it’s an appetizing beer. And with that pour, you’ll get some classic Belgian Dubbel hints of yeast and rich maltiness. And for the most part, that’s the taste you get as well. With a medium body, the beer is particularly malty with just hints of dark fruit and pepper. There’s a little odd spiciness in the finish that I can only assume comes from the schisandra with which the beer is brewed. Overall, it’s a solid dubbel. I’m not sure it’s as WILD as the Lips of Faith series generally promotes itself to be but really nevertheless a solid brew.

So there you have it folks, a wild night in the American West. A classic Western film and a Colorado brew all via a California palette. Thanks for reading folks and remember that you too can suggest pairings for the next BAAM!

And as always keep drinking, my friends.

New-Belgium-Wild2Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Wild2 Dubbel:
-Gorgeous pour
-Classic dubbel profile with a little spiciness
-A solid dubbel, but nothing revolutionary

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:
All the Western tropes we love
-Conflicted American ideals
-John Wayne as John Wayne, the cowboy

 

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