Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye IPA & Ruthless

Hey there, Drinkers!

Tonight we get ruthless with our BAAM combination. Nothing says Friday night like drinking a beer by yourself while watching a random 1940’s version of Wall Street...right? Maybe? Anyway, while little about this evening was particularly ruthless, there’s still a review to write! So let’s get to it!

(that may have been the least enthusiastic sounding intro I’ve ever written…but onwards!)

Tonight, for your viewing pleasure, we have the 1948 film Ruthless. While I promise I was mostly paying attention to this, I have to admit that I don’t understand what most of this movie was about, what happened or why. In the vein of Citizen Kane, most of this film is told largely through flashbacks that skip years and traverse the entire lifespan of one Horace Woodruff Vendig. It begins when Horace escapes from his broken home and is taken in by a wealthy family and follows Horace’s story of consumption and greed. A brilliant investor and manipulator of the stock market, Horace’s insatiable desire of wealth bleeds over into his personal life as he collects and discards female companions. Generally speaking, Horace is not a good guy and we don’t like him. Which, among many other reasons, is why I didn’t particularly like this film. Horace really has no redemptive moments and never fully learns his lesson (a conclusion we as American-moviegoers have come to expect). Rather we spend two hours learning about the life and times of a vulture-capitalist we largely understood from the get go. There is little growth in the film beyond the women Horace spends his time with and the diminishing respect from his best friend Vic. And from the perspective of plot, it’s just hard to stay engaged. A number of the more heated bits of dialog center around Wall Street deal making that is never well explained. With an influx of lingo I didn’t understand, I found myself tuning out and caring less about the events on screen.

The mustache means he's bad

The mustache means he’s bad

All of this isn’t to say that the film is bad. To its credit, it is shot well and the acting is solid. Sadly however, the pacing if fairly slow and there is little development or forward momentum to keep the viewer engaged. Rather it feels more like an extended character-study of a stoic Gordon Gekko predecessor. And while I should point out that (sadly enough) many of the film’s concerns about shady stock market dealings still ring true today, the film is mostly a slow slide into boredom rather than a biting criticism of greed.

I guess this poster is accurate...sort of

I guess this poster is accurate…sort of

So was our Ruthless Rye IPA as timid as our film? I don’t think so, but maybe ruthless was the wrong adjective. With such a strong name, I was expecting a beer that would knock me on my ass with big flavor and bold hoppiness, neither of which are characteristics I attribute to rye beers. Typically speaking, based on my limited experience, rye beers are smooth and a bit grainy. But not this beer. For one, this is a rye IPA, meaning that it presents a bright, piney bitterness that comes from hops just like any other IPA. But actually I found this hoppiness that was a bit biting at first but mellowed out as the beer warmed. And while I got a little bit of that rye smoothness at the finish, I wouldn’t  describe it as a standout note for this beer. If I hadn’t seen the label, I might have even simply called this beer a solid IPA. Don’t get me wrong, Sierra Nevada brews some great beers, but I just don’t think this one did anything special for me. However, it does make me want to try other rye IPA’s so I can speak more intelligently about the genre. So there’s that.

So there you have it folks, not a particularly ruthless evening but nevertheless enjoyable. I think both of tonight’s selections struggled a little with defining what they were about, but that is not to say that they are bad or not worthwhile. I say if you have the time or the curiosity to give them a try. What’s the worst you could happen? Lose a little time and drink a beer? Doesn’t sound like  a bad Friday at all to me!

And as always keep drinking, my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:2012-01-24-RyeIPA
Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye IPA:
-Clear, amber pour
-Strong, bitter hoppiness at front
-Slight rye finish but lacking

Solid film, just not too engaging
-Hard to follow timeline
-Little growth in primary character

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Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest & The Endless Summer

Hey there, Summer Drinkers!

Summer officially begins tomorrow, which means it’s time to bust out the surf board and crack open a nice, cool lager. Fortunately for you all, I’ve got both on tap for tonight with the 1966 surfing classic The Endless Summer and Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest.  So hop on, catch a wave and let’s get surfin’,

Now I don’t imagine many people have seen or heard of this film, but I’d wager that many of you have seen the poster. It’s an iconic image with bright colors that we have all seen in college dorms across the country. Objectively, it’s a beautiful poster that, impressively enough, captures the essence of what the film is all about: the ease, excitement and hope of a proverbial “endless summer.”

Pretty sweet, right?

But let’s dive into the substance of this film. Ostensibly, The Endless Summer is a documentary about two surfers, Mike and Robert, who follow summer around the globe in search of great surfing. But to call this movie a documentary isn’t really accurate. Sure, it features real people doing real surfing in real places, but the real flavor of the film is found in the narrator’s loving and quirky storytelling. The narrator, who is also the filmmaker and surfer Bruce Brown, simply converses with the audience. He tell stories, jumps around in time, delivers one-line zingers and provides excessive commentary. It seems as if his intention is not to educate people about surfing, but rather to simply have people share in his love of the sport. Bruce Brown even ends his film with an understated “I hope you enjoyed my film” before cutting quietly to a black screen. Bruce gives us all the important details about the surfing conditions, but he’s really more interested in conveying the whole surfing attitude. Mike and Robert aren’t surf snobs who are fed up with the perfection of Hawaii. Rather, they’re regular guys who love surfing who just want to do a little exploring on the side. Interestingly enough though, we never hear them speak. In fact, we probably only hear synched sound about three times throughout the entire film. Rather, Bruce Brown simply talks over the entire film, providing colorful commentary and occasionally racist anecdotes. But ultimately, The Endless Summer is as much about surfing as it is about finding a state of nirvana. Mike, Robert, Bruce and all the wonderful characters we meet along the way are really searching for the things that make them happy. And if they don’t find that, then they go looking for the next best thing and make the most out of that. And in that way, The Endless Summer truly is a timeless classic.

It’s also a bit of an advertisement for Hawaii but it’s hard to argue against that one.

There are also some tasteful bikini jokes.

And did our pursuit of the perfect wave also produce the perfect summer beer? Not really, but perfect is a tough standard to strive for. I was sipping on Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest tonight and I have to say that it was a good summer beer. This tame 5% lager has everything you want in a summer beer. It’s light, crisp, refreshing and it goes too fast. Before I even knew it, I had finished off this clear, golden beer. Maybe I was just dehydrated from work, but I think it’s more because this beer is almost too light and refreshing, since you don’t really stop to appreciate it. Before I apparently guzzled this bottle down, I got some nice sweet notes with hints of hops at the finish.  It’s a very “clean” beer, for lack of a better word. Nothing extraordinary but definitely a good alternative to any other light beer you’re probably going to be drinking this summer.

Not a bad way to kick off the summer, am I right? We watched one of the most loved and iconic summer movies of all time with a simple, tasty summer beer. And while I recommend that everyone set aside 90 minutes to enjoy The Endless Summer, you might need two or three Summerfests to last you through it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good beer, you might just need a few more than you’d expect. But that’s what summer is all about: sitting back, relaxing and just soaking it all in.

Happy summer, Drinkers.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
-Very clear, golden color
-Soft hints of sweetness and hops
-Almost too easy to drink. Buy two.

The Endless Summer:
-Quintessential surfing & summer movie
-Strikingly simple & beautiful visuals
-Unusual, highly personal “documentary”  style

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Ovila Abbey Saison & Vicky Christina Barcelona

Hey there, drinkers.

Tonight is BAAM’s last entry from Hollywood, CA. I’m still sticking to Los Angeles, but I’m moving tomorrow, so it seems only fitting that we’re talking about a movie that takes us away to somewhere new. Tonight, we’re watching Woody Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Christina Barcelona and drinking the collaborative beer Ovila Abbey Saison. What’s the connection? Well, according to the bottle, the monks of New Clairaux and the brewers at Sierra Nevada created this beer to help support the restoration of a Spanish monastery. And the confluence of Spain and the U.S. is subject of our discussion for tonight. That and Woody Allen. We’ll probably talk about him as well…

For those unfamiliar with this film, here’s a quick overview. Vicky Christina Barcelona is a film about beautiful people (Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz) in a beautiful place (Barcelona) doing beautiful things (each other). What’s not to like? Actually, in general, there isn’t much not to like. The acting is good, the writing is sharp and poignant (if a bit heady) and the scenery is beautiful (Javier Bardem, anyone?). Though the subject matter is a bit familiar, as our cast of characters finds themselves impossibly in love with the wrong people, the story still feels fresh with Woody Allen’s unique sense of style. That being said, there are certain aspects of his style that I found distracting and a bit irritating. Most egregious is the voice over. I am both a fan and a hater of voice-over, so my own feelings on this subject are quite complicated. However, for this film, the voice over seems redundant to the actual narrative and really only serves to a fill spaces between scenes and inform otherwise lovely photography. Rather than let the audience enjoy watching the characters of the film explore Barcelona and, in turn, explore their own feelings, Woody Allen tells the audience exactly what is going on in his characters’ heads and why. And though, at times, it gives us a good laugh, it mostly just makes us feel like we’re too stupid to understand the intricate workings of Woody Allen’s brain. Other than that, the film is quite fantastic. The acting is stellar. Penelope Cruz steps up to play the crazy Spanish lady, as always, and Javier Bardem successfully seduces everyone in the audience. To be honest, I kind of want to go to Barcelona now, as the city itself becomes a character (hence its name in the title).  Vicky Christina Barcelona is definitely worth a viewing, even if you have a complicated relationship with voice over. A few other quick points that I have to point out. The soundtrack for this film is perfect. It’s really quite lovely and seems to capture all of the topsy-turvy emotions of the film. Also, the editor needs to make up her mind. Stylistically, this film is all over the place to the point where it stands out (and not in the good way). We have split screens, crossfades, wipes and long takes. It’s very inconsistent and it bothers me. Those who have taken film classes will know what I’m talking about. Those who haven’t taken film classes, I’m sorry but you’ll just have to trust me.

Love triangle? Screw that. We're going for a love pentagon.

Anyway, let’s talk about beer. I’ll say this straight off just to clear the air: I really enjoy saisons (farmhouse ales) but this one disappointed me. This 1 pt 9.4 oz. bottle of 7% ABV beer was one of the more uninspired and uninteresting saisons I’ve had. Generally speaking, in my opinion, a saison is a very flavorful and exciting beer. While typically quite drinkable, saisons I’ve had run in the 7-8% range. I like saisons because they offer a great alternative to “typical” beers as they can be quite floral and full in their flavor. However, Sierra Nevada’s Ovila Abbey Ale falls short of that benchmark. While I definitely get the Belgian yeast, there really isn’t much else going on in this beer. The flavors were muted and uninspiring. Though easy to drink, I found myself drinking quite slowly as the beer rarely drew me back for more sips. I mean, I did finish the beer, but it took me longer than expected and I wasn’t left wanting more. The beer wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that great. As a beer that advertises itself as a saison, I have to say I was let down. I found this beer more to be in the vein of a Belgian-style ale but it still was a bit lackluster. Sorry kids, I don’t mean to be a downer, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this one again.

So there we have it. BAAM’s final Hollywood entry. Future BAAM combos will be coming from the hills of Glendale/La Canada, which really won’t change anything at all about this blog. However, I will be closer to my favorite beer purveyor, Galco’s, so that’s good news for me. I once had a film professor tell me that if Woody Allen ever stopped making movies (he averages about one a year, an unheard of turnaround rate),  Woody would probably die. And I think I agree. Woody Allen knows how to do nothing else except make movies. But unlike Woody Allen, I think I’ll live without buying this beer again.

Happy drinking!


Tonight’s Drinking Notes:
Ovila Abbey Ale:
Lackluster saison 
Distinctive Belgian yeast flavor
Easy to drink, but not much else

Vicky Christina Barcelona
Pretty people and pretty places
Familiar story but still exciting to watch
I think Javier Bardem seduced me


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Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale & Festen (aka The Celebration)

Hey there, drinkers!

With the New Year just around the corner, it’s a good time for celebrating. Fortunately for you all, tonight I drank Sierra Nevada’s wintery Celebration Ale and watched the Danish-made, Dogme 95 original Festen, or The Celebration as it’s translated. Let’s get celebrating.

Now, before we begin, we need a brief history lesson. For those of you who haven not studied film (and probably for many of you who have), Dogme 95 is a small film movement that was born in 1995 from the minds of tonight’s director Thomas Vinterberg and the more well known (and spectacularly controversial) director Lars Von Trier. These two filmmakers drew up a manifesto that laid out strict guidelines as to how their movies were to be made. I’ll list a few of their provisions below.

1) All films must be shot on location with available props and set dressing.
2) All lighting must be natural (i.e. you can’t bring in extra lights to properly expose a shot).
3) All camera work must be handheld.
4)  The director must not be credited.

There are a number of other rules the manifesto lays out (many of which were interchangeably disregarded by the filmmakers) but you get the idea. In essence, the creators of Dogme 95 wanted to boil filmmaking down to its essence. To character-driven story. And while the movement itself never really took off, it peaked the interests of many independent filmmakers and its distinct visual style can still be seen in films today. Tonight’s film, Festen, was the first official Dogme 95 film and is pretty much the only one that people talk about and enjoy. Sure, you can go see Julien Donkey-Boy but no one really wants to watch that.

Okay, so now that you’re all a bit more educated, let’s really get celebrating! Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit misleading. There is hardly anything celebratory about Festen. The film observes a 60th birthday party unravel at its seams as it covers topics ranging from rape to racism to suicide. This is all tightly bundled under the umbrella of what is probably the most disturbed and fractured screen family of all time. From the camera’s eerily intimate, yet distant, point of view, the eldest son of a wealthy Danish family reveals that his father (whose party everyone is attending) repeatedly raped him and his now deceased (suicide) twin sister. Really, it’s just all peachy. Yet despite the film’s heavy subject matter, the movie is absolutely engaging and enthralling. The acting is top-notch realism, the visuals are constantly striking and the editing style is as disjointed as the family itself. To be honest, it’s quite difficult to describe this film. The best and most easily identifiable comparison I can make is to Rachel Getting Married  but even that is a bit of stretch. Regardless, I would highly recommend Festen to anyone with an open mind to filmmaking. Sure it’s not something you watch with the kids or you curl up under a blanket to watch, but I guarantee it will be unlike anything else you have seen…in a good way. I promise.

And you thought your family reunions were rough...

But on to more upbeat topics. Like beer! Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale is the first BAAM foray into the strange world of IPA’s (India Pale Ale, for you uninitiated). I know next to nothing about IPA’s as I only recently started to drink them, so I’m sorry if I offend anyone’s sensibilities. Many many decades ago (…yeeaahhh…) when I started drinking craft beer, I think I must have had a an IPA or two that I distliked because for the longest time I inexplicably shied away from them. For beer beginners, IPA’s can be very bitter and difficult to enjoy, which is how I still feel at times. Only recently have I started to actually like drinking IPA’s and I’m happy to add this Celebration Ale to that short list. With a thick, frothy head and instant, hoppy aromas, I got an immediate sense that this beer meant business. While not as bitter or hoppy as other IPA’s, it had a distinct piney flavor that made its style unmistakeable. There was also a little bit of fruit in there somewhere, though at times it was a bit hard to track down. To top it off, this beer has a respectable ABV of 6.8%, something I didn’t even realize while I was drinking it. So, for those who are curious about venturing into the wilds of IPA beers, try to grab one of these winter beers before the holiday season is over.

And so there you have it. Another evening to celebrate. A delicious and easily drinkable beer paired with an unsettling yet remarkable Dogme 95 film. Both represent excellent introductions to new genres that you might otherwise shy away from completely. And I do believe they are both worth your time.

Merry Drinking!

Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale: 
Thick, three-finger head  
Distinct piney aroma & flavor
Good gateway beer for IPA’s

Festen (The Celebration)
First Dogme 95 film…but maybe the only one worth watching
Striking and unusual visuals
Dark, depressing & totally fantastic

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