Tonight I’m trying new things and feeling Irish. Both Smithwick’s Irish Ale and the 1996 Neil Jordan film Michael Collins were new experiences for me and I have to say that I enjoyed both very much. Both are steeped in Irish history (Smithwick’s comes from Ireland’s oldest brewery and Michael Collins recounts the story of Ireland’s 1918 struggle for independence from the British Empire). Liam Neeson is the star, Julia Roberts makes some guest appearances and everyone is drinking.
Now, I won’t pretend to know Irish history or fully understand the political strife that has split the country for most of a century, so I can only take the movie at its word. So putting aside historical accuracies or inaccuracies, I have to say that the film is quite powerful. Not only is the film visually beautiful and supported by a strong score, but is also compelling in its narrative and layered portrayal of its characters. Liam Neeson somehow manages to effectively transform from a warhawk to an arbiter of peace. While that may seem like a generic character arc, Neeson’s portrayal is much slower, darker and, ultimately, sadder than most others you’re likely to see. While few of the other actors manage to keep up with Neeson, altogether the cast is strong despite their tendency to mumble their lines. Seriously, I had to turn up my volume and lean over my coffee table to hear what they were saying sometimes.
Smithwick’s Irish Ale, however, is not one for mumbling. It’s deep amber color and rich biscuity, almost chocolatey flavor speak volumes. It’s a full-bodied beer that tastes great all the way down without ever being too bitter or harsh. It also has a beautiful, thick head that is slow to dissipate which adds a great smell to the beer. Whether I got wrapped up in the Irish flag-waving or because I simply enjoyed myself, I drank this beer faster than I expected and found myself wishing I had a second to wash down the rest of the film.
Overall, I have to say it was a good night. A powerful and rich movie accompanied by an equally matched beer, neither of which I had really heard of before tonight. Must be the luck of the Irish.
Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Strong acting and a powerful narrative
Julia Roberts is pretty much forgettable
Alan Rickman was an Irish president long before he was a Professor of Potions