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MacLeod Ale’s The King’s Taxes & Three Kings

Hey there, Drinkers!

Grab your gold and a beer because today’s BAAM is all about paying bills (or collecting, if you a king I guess). We’re watching the 1999 film Three Kings and sipping on MacLeod’s The King’s Taxes. Kings, gold, taxes and beer: it’s almost like I planned this pairing. So let’s get started.

In 1999, David O’ Russell (of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle fame) released Three Kings, a bizarre humanitarian heist movie set against the closure of First Gulf War (remember when there was only one?). With an impressive cast including, but not limited to, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, (weird, right?), Judy Greer and a young Alia Shawket (weird, right?), we follow four soldiers on their quest to “liberate’ Saddam-stolen Kuwaiti gold. The film quickly tacks away from the simple premise as our heroes stumble into the quagmire of local politics, pitting soldiers against civilians against the American military against Saudi/Iranian interests. Most of the politics are background noise against the human drama, but the film does reserve some time to relay the profound message of ‘what the hell are we doing here?’

America! Fuck yeah!

America! Fuck yeah!

And while the film’s political message is commendable, the most interesting part of the film is its presentation. The writing and acting is very much David O. Russell’s brand of quick-wit/dumb people humor but the visuals of the film are that of someone still figuring out their style. The narrative goes through big, tonal swings from comedy to heartbreak to action and the pacing of those moments varies wildly, as if stitched together. And within sequences, the visual language also varies dramatically. Highly styled, blurred slow-motion combined with the overuse of whip pans is intended to convey the chaos of a gunfight, but mostly I found the formalism to be intrusive and distracting. This visual inconsistency, and stop-start pacing detracts from an otherwise solid film carried by solid performances (is Clooney ever bad?). I also found the film’s ‘where are they now?!’ ending to be a little cheesy but that’s fine, you’re entitled to do that, I guess. But overall I really do like this movie, but you can definitely tell that it was a learning experience for David O. Russell.

Bullion. Not the cubes you put in hot water to make soup.

Bullion. Not the cubes you put in hot water to make soup.

And with our liberated Kuwaiti gold, it’s time to pay our taxes. For tonight’s pairing, I grabbed a bottle of MacLeod Ale Brewing’s The King’s Taxes. Macleod is a LA local beer brewed not too far from where I live. Having had this beer at the brewery several times, I was excited to see bottles appear at my local liquor store. I should note that I drank my bottle straight out of the fridge, whereas at the brewery, beers are served much closer to room temperature.

Pouring a deep brown with a slight reddish hue and a big, off-white head, The King’s Taxes aims to make a statement right off the bat. It’s beautiful to look at and you get the added benefit of picking up notes of malt, caramel and coffee once you get your nose in there. Off your first sip, you might be surprised by how light the body is. Like many British style ales, The King’s Taxes is deceptively light despite its dark color. And with minimal hopping, you’re treated to a nice, big malty kick with a smooth finish which lingers in your mouth. You’ll get notes of malt, caramel, chocolate and coffee with very little carbonation. Moreover, this beer warms quite well and is perfect for sipping slowly over the course of a two hour film like Three Kings. Overall, a fantastic beer and a great change of pace from my usual, bitter IPA’s.

So there you have it, Drinkers. A strong, if not flawed, film and a great companion beer to hold me through the entire experience. I imagine Macleod may not exist outside of Los Angeles, but if you ever see a bottle, I highly recommend you snag a bottle or two.

Thanks for reading and as always keep drinking, my friends!macleod-the-kings-taxes

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Macleod’s The King’s Taxes:
-Super smooth
-Great roasted, malty flavor
-Warms really well

Three Kings:
-Fun, quippy performances
-Visually inconsistent & oddly paced
-Talented and deep cast

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Lucky Hand Black Lager & Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Hey there, Drinkers!

Today, we’re going to Vegas! Time to bet big and lose your life savings! We’re watching the 2001 classic update of Ocean’s Eleven and sipping on Lucky Hand’s Black Lager (their labeling is gambling themed, go with it). Beer, money, attractive men, Vegas…doesn’t that sound like the perfect BAAM? Hint: it was pretty sweet.

So let’s get started, shall we?

A quick disclaimer before we begin: I’ve never seen the original 1960 Ocean’s Eleven, so I won’t be making comparisons or assumptions about this modern reboot. So here we go, Ocean’s Eleven is Steven Soderbergh’s star-filled, quick-witted, hyper-stylish heist movie. And in many ways, it really is a classic heist movie. The first half of the film gathers our crew, explains their skills, lays out (most) of the details on the job and sets up how much of a dick our bad guy is. Hint: he’s a real dick. The second half of the film is the job itself, offering its little twists and turns and surprises, gently unfolding the hidden parts of the heist to the delight of the audience and the chagrin of the bad guy. But what’s interesting about this film is that it’s not really  about anything. The biggest impetus for the heist seems to be mostly because they’re bored and “it’s never been done before.” Our hero, Danny Ocean, is also motivated by the need to get his wife back (which happens way to easily and is kind of a dumb character point). But most of the reasoning is sidelined and deemed unimportant. In the end, the movie isn’t actually about much but since you have so much fun before the credits roll, you don’t really mind.

Brad Pitt tells Carl Reiner to steal things...just cuz

Brad Pitt tells Carl Reiner to steal things…just cuz

The real magic in this movie is, quite obviously, the casting. You have some of the biggest and more talented male actors in recent memory all sharing the screen together, quipping away at each other like there’s no tomorrow. Lead by the two kings of smooth, Brad Pitt and George Clooney, the film has an incredibly sharp wit and fast pace, making it easy to get caught up in the dialogue. Almost every line is expertly delivered and reveals something about the character, their history and their relationship with the people around them. The unfortunate side-effect of having so many talented actors is that only a few of them get enough screen time. Even Matt Damon the super actor seems underused, mostly because he just has to share his screen time with so many others. The other casualty of this intense screen-sharing is that only a few characters get a real history. Yes we get good, short anecdotes on most of Ocean’s 11, but the history of their relationships with one another is vague, leaving the audience to assume that all smart criminals are best friends and always know where to find one another. Maybe that’s the way it is in real life, but I’m not a super criminal so I can’t say for sure.

One other small thing to note before I move on is the film’s visual style. The first half of the movie has a very specific, highly-stylized visual character that seems to get a little lost as the film progresses into the heist. The visuals, coupled with the editing and soundtrack do give the movie a certain 60’s throwback vibe, but all of the truly interesting visuals step aside for narrative clarity in the latter of half of the movie.

But overall, the film is success. I think that’s mostly because Soderbergh understood that this film is more of a playground for his actors than anything else. It’s fun, quick and our heroes make a lot of money. Oh and the men are beautiful.

It's really unfair to guys like me that guys this actually exist...

It’s really unfair to guys like me that guys this actually exist…

So was our beer as Lucky as our movie? I’d say so. Lucky Hand is not a brewery  I heard of before and black lagers/schwarzbiers are not typically my bag. But I have to say that Lucky Hand’s Black Lager was a nice surprise. For those who don’t know, schwarzbiers are black in color but lack the same heavy, malty body of a stout or porter. Instead, the beers tend to be on the lighter end of the spectrum with regards to body. The Lucky Hand poured a deep black with a rich, caramel head, giving off strong notes of roasted malt. But with that first sip, you’ll be surprised to find the beer quite easy to drink. Moreover, those roasted malts are balanced quite nicely with some mild hopping. The end result is a low ABV beer that is both rich in flavor but light on the stomach, making it easy to take down the bomber I had to myself. As BeerAdvocate notes, these qualities make this beer a nice alternative for the typically heavier winter beers. So when the temperature dip below 70 here in sunny Los Angeles, Lucky Hand’s Black Lager is not a bad option.

So there you have it folks. A night with the cards all stacked in our favor. A great, fun, light movie with a great, fun, light beer. Definitely not a bad way to kick back and relax on a weeknight.

And as always keep drinking, my friends.
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Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Lucky Hand’s Black Lager:
-Deep, black color
-Nice hop/malt balance
-Surprisingly light & easy to drink

Ocean’s Eleven:
-A heist movie, for fun
-More about the character than the story
-A-list cast delivering sharp dialogue

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New Belgium’s Dig & Fantastic Mr. Fox

Hey there, Drinkers!

I’m having just a fantastic night here with Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox and New Belgium’s Dig spring seasonal. Though it’s more summer than spring now, I found that both of these lovely escapades were perfect for the warm weather and for the start of a great summer. Let’s get digging.

While many casual viewers may not know Wes Anderson, they almost assuredly know his style. With only a handful of films under his belt, Wes Anderson has built one of the most distinguishable visual and narrative styles in modern, commercial filmmaking. Known best for his 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson is known for his quirky dialogue, hyper-formal visual style and vintage sense of fashion and music. All of his films deal with the anxieties of youth or coming to terms with one’s age in a way that is both hilarious and deeply saddening. Moreover, Wes Anderson likes to constantly remind his audience that they are indeed watching a film. His films almost always begin with a book and many of his sequences are titled. To be honest though, his style is difficult to put in words but is immediately recognizable in every frame in each of his films. The difference with Fantastic Mr. Fox? It’s all stop-motion.

So stylish

Briefly put, stop-motion animation is a series of still photographs with minor changes between each frame. These series of photographs are then sped up to 24 frames-per-second to mimic motion. Remember those flip books you made as kid? Fantastic Mr. Fox is basically a more complicated, expensive and time-consuming version of that. But let’s dig into the substance of this film, shall we? This Roald Dahl adaptation tells the story of a smooth-talking fox who provokes three nasty farmers into a fantastical war that unites the animals of the countryside. Setting aside my personal appreciation for Wes Anderson’s films, I really love this movie.  For the entire 87 minutes, I had a huge grin on my face and, at times, I couldn’t help but bust out laughing altogether. The film is whip-smart in its comedy, heartwarmingly quirky in its drama and simply gorgeous to watch. Every last detail has been accounted for. From tiny name tags to the rustling of Mr. Fox’s hair in the breeze, everything is fully, and lovingly, realized. And while the film has a few odd diversions, including a weird banjo-dancing montage, every frame just puts a smile on your face. And it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a stellar cast. The voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and an amazing Willem Dafoe give life to just a few of the many distinct characters that make this film such a pleasure to watch. There are too many tiny details and one-line zingers for me to discuss here but I have to say that this is one of those movies that makes you think “this is why I go to the movies.”

And I’m not sorry for the repetitive hyperbole. This film’s a cussin’ good time.

And since Fantastic Mr. Fox features a significant amount of digging, it seemed only appropriate to try out New Belgium’s Dig spring pale ale. This clear, orange colored ale is what many beer-drinkers like to call a “session” beer. A session beer is, in short, a beer you don’t mind having a few of in a row without running the risk of getting sloshed. This 5.6% ABV pale ale is light, refreshing and has mild hints of pine and sweet fruits/citrus. While those with more defined palates will be able to distinguish the types citrus, I’ll just say that I got some nice fruits in there. Anyway, this is a great easy-drinking beer. It’s fairly light, quite flavorful and should have a broad appeal to drinkers everywhere. And while this beer is probably leaving liquor store shelves now to make room for more summery beers, I’d recommend grabbing that last case and firing up the grill.

Don’t drink too much.

Though I hate people who say this, I’m going to say it anyway: I’m really digging tonight’s combination. The beer was light, refreshing and pretty delicious while the movie was pure fun. Some people may be off-put by Wes Anderson’s quirky writing and his very noticeable visual style, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is such a simple pleasure to behold that one would be hard-pressed to not have a good time. Seriously. If you haven’t picked up on how I feel about this movie, go watch it. Now. Then comment below and tell me how right I was. And enjoy a beer while you’re at it.

Keep drinking, my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

New Belgium’s Dig:
Pours a nice, clear orange color
-Hints of piney hops & citrus
-Easy to drink two or three of these

Fantastic Mr. Fox:
-A real smile-bringer
-Unmistakably Wes Anderson in style & tone
-Willem Dafoe plays a crazy rat. Fantastic

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