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.
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.
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.
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.
Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu:
-Beautiful, clear golden pour
-Very sweet, honey & grape flavor
-Sneaky 10% ABV
–Epic, in every sense
-Beautifully shot action
-A bit blunt in its storytelling