Friday, February 3, 2012

The Walking Dead (Season 1) and Russian River Pliny The Elder

I was hoping to have this one out before the premier of season 2 but I went and had a second kid.  That has slowed down the whole blogging thing.  I found out about the walking dead about two years ago when a friend of my father told him about the comic (ahem....graphic novel).  It was so good that some of volumes actually made me lose sleep.  That's impressive.  So I was a little annoyed when AMC picked up the series.  I know I'm not alone.  I was hoping that HBO would throw down and give it all the uncensored carnage that we all would like to see.  It could have been worse I guess.  It could have went to USA in that time slot right after Monk.  AMC has some pretty great shows out right now with Breaking Bad and Mad Men so I gave it a chance.  I decided the best beer to pair with this series (yes six hours and one beer...well one beer six times) would be Russian River's Pliny the Elder.  Much to my amazement I found a couple bottles at my local supermarket.  I bought all they had!  I had never seen it in bottles before and thought it might be the last time.  For those of you who have never heard of Pliny the Elder it's the famous IIPA that has won TONS of awards!  I read a zymurgy in 2009 that had Pliny the Elder trading off with Dogfish Head's 90 min for best bear in the US for 3 year running.  Pliny the Elder (not to be confused with Pliny the Younger) also won Bronze at the Great American Beer Fest in 2004 and a Gold in 2005.  Pliny also won gold at the World Beer Cup in 2005.  All of these in the Double IPA catagory.  It's supposed to be epic.
So I started off with the first episode and was immediately impressed.  They weren't rushing things as I had thought they might.  And it stayed fairly close to the comic.  I'm not sure why it's so important to me that it follows the comic so closely.  Perhaps it's because the comic was so well done.  The character development in the the comic was so amazing that you actually felt like you knew each character.  You shared their joys, disappointments, and fears.  Each time they deviate from the comic or change any of the characters relationships or mannerisms I take offense.  "That's not how Sean would react!" or "That's not how Andrea is!"  Those are my friends!!!!  The opening sequence in the Walking Dead was spot on and almost frame for frame from the comic.  Except that with the magic of TV everything was even more frightening.  The initial scene where Rick awakens in the hospital and is trying to figure out what's going on captured hopelessness and horror even better than 28 Days Later!!!  And that's saying something.
The Walking Dead is instantly a classic in my collection.  It fills a gap between a gory raw classic and an easily accessible show even my wife will watch.  In that sense it's the perfect show for pulling a large audience into the world of zombie mania.  More people than ever will start coming up with their own zombie survival plans and wearing I (heart) zombie t-shirts.  This will inevitably lead (if it already hasn't) to a slew of watered down zombie flicks looking to cash in on the craze.  The same reasons i love The Walking Dead are the reasons I hate it.  It's beginning to take away something that for a while (at least it seemed) was deeply personal.
 I was lucky enough to be able to try Pliny the Elder once before.  When my wife and I were traveling from Boston to Anchorage we stopped in Santa Rosa to do some wine tasting.  I had heard of the mystique that surrounded Russian River beers but because they didn't distribute to Massachusetts so I didn't have a chance to actually try them.  We were just walking through downtown Santa Rosa when I saw it.  It was like a shinning star!  Russian River was right there in front of me.  I fell to my knees in amazement.  Was it fate?  I had they're amazing jalapeno pizza bites and a pint of Pliny the Elder.  It was a day I'll never forget.  If you ever go there you'll understand what I mean.

The Beer!  So my notes on this review became less and less coherent as the films went on.  Perhaps it was because by the end it was getting really late, or maybe it was the 5 Plinys that went with Season 1?  Go to (bastards) link for Pliny the Elder or the site and you will see that this a standard setter.  It gets a score of 100 across the board in 4 different categories (including a professional rating).  The beer pours a dark gold with hues of orange topped with a thick cream colored head.  The aroma is overwhelmingly awesome.  There is tons of citrus.  It's like pounds and pounds of grapefruit, apricot, orange peel and lemon.  There's also a bit or resiny bitter hops that push through the barrage of citrus.  With the first sip after sip of this beer continue to push fruit on fruit into your tongue.  There's a certain level of balance with the caramel malt backbone but don't be fooled, this beer is all hops.  The malt is simply there to sweeten your tongue and get you drunk.  The hops are the driving force here.  The hops are much like Robert De Niro in Ronin.
The first season was breathtakingly original.  And that's difficult for a zombie series.  The actors (and actresses) are talented and realistic and the plot is thrilling but believable.  Greg Nicotero is the head special FX guy and his work is inspiring.  He did Planet Terror, Diary of the Dead, and even Army of Darkness just to name a few.  He also did Transformers, Public Enemies, Minority Report, Book of Eli and like 1,000 other awesome movies.  He not only does that bang up job in makeup but he also stars as several zombies along the way.  He's the guy that bites Amy and the guy that kills the deer.  It's one of the reasons this show is so great.  the death just seems so real.
That's Greg!!

For those that live under a rock or in North Korea "The Walking Dead" stars Rick Grimes, a cop who awakens from a coma to find himself in a world of zombies.  I know i know "that's 28 Days Later"!!!  It is but i'm going to give them a pass because they do it differently enough as to not be considered cinematic plagiarism.  He finds his family who have set up camp in a band of survivors just outside of Atlanta.  The biggest problem I had with season one was the rapid deterioration of human decency that was somewhat more drawn out and deliberate in the comic. This was a bit rectified in the second season where things just drag for a couple episodes.  I guess they needed some balance.  The characters they cast in the show bear an incredible likeness both in appearance and demeanure to their comic book counterparts.  It's almost eery actually.  Glenn is the most obvious, but Dale is spot on as well.  This show is so well produced that my wife (who hates TV and horror specifically) gets so excited for Walking Dead that she won't let me watch an episode without her.  It's the real deal.  I can't say any more about  it.  You need to watch it and you need to read it.

The Beer:
Aroma – 12/12
Appearance – 3/3
Taste – 20/20
Palate – 5/5 
   Overall – 10/10
Total = 50/50


The Movie:
Production – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Gore – 5/5
 Zombies – 5/5
  Overall – 5/5


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