Thursday, March 29, 2012

REC 2 and De Struise Brouwers' Black Albert

So I was a little skeptical about the sequel to REC.  REC was so well done and so perfect as a standalone, that I thought that nothing could be done to improve upon it.  But after seeing this film I think perhaps I was wrong, and maybe all things can be improved upon.  Maybe the Mona Lisa could use a nose job.....or a boob job.  Maybe the Eiffel Tower could be a little taller....or a little less French (as it is, it's a giant anti-American middle finger).   I’ll apologize to France as soon as they apologize for Grey Poupon.  And the beer of beers to pair it with…..Black Albert.  De Struise Brouwers’ Black Albert has become my elusive golden goose.  First acquired by my thoughtful wife after overhearing excited mumbles of its limited quantities in our local beer store, she quickly rummaged the shelves, located, and purchased the $15 bottle of beer (11.2 oz!).  Since that day I have searched beer store near and far but have only once found one other bottle.  And so it shall be for the rest of my life.  I will chase that ghost with such resolve that a lesser man would crumble in defeat.
So REC 2 picks up right where REC left off.  It’s the same evening of the outbreak only this time you have the perspective of a local S.W.A.T. team brought in to restore order (or something like that).  The four S.W.A.T. guys enter the building with a man from the Ministry of Health.  It’s not long before they find themselves attacked and confused.  REC 2 progresses a bit more in the “exorcism” direction and less in the “zombie/infected” direction.  In this film the infected people are jerkier and seem to have powers?  Not crazy magical powers like throwing fire, more like walking on the ceiling or hanging upside down powers.  It was just enough to push it out of the purist’s zombie genre but not enough to make it ridicules.
This film also takes a much different feel from the first.  The first one was focused on fear and escape.  The confusion was part of what made it so mysterious and scary.  But, this film didn’t have that.  Instead, this film focused on action and execution.  For example, instead of running around and screaming (which was scary), our characters are engaged in specific tasks with armor and weapons.  It’s the same difference between The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes 2.  With one it’s civilians that are trying to escape.  Most audiences will relate to the characters in the first film and will have a bond with them.  This makes the movie even more terrifying.  Halfway into watching it, it feels like your running from the mutated people.  When they send in Marines or S.W.A.T. it becomes harder for most audiences to relate or feel pity for the characters.  This doesn’t make the movie any less awesome, it just changes the direction a bit.
There really is no good time to stop and pour this beer.  The movie continues at a pretty constant pace right from the opening scene.  I try to rush and open the bottle between attacks.  I don’t think I’ve ever wrote about the proper way to pour a beer.  I’m going to take this opportunity to share what I feel is the proper way to pour a beer.  For Black Albert I’m using my Great Divide deep tulip snifter.  I pop the beer and immediately pour a few ounces down the center of the glass.  This should make the beer foam up a decent amount.  Depending on the amount of foam and agitation I then slowly pour the beer down the side of the glass, tilting it at a 45 degree angle.  I adjust pour speed to increase/decrease the head until I have all but a half inch of beer left in the bottle.  Now (depending on beer type) I use the remaining half inch of beer to swirl up all the yeast settled in the bottom of the bottle and I pour that into the beer.  This isn’t appropriate for all styles so know your beer!
Now for the tasting notes.  The beer is pitch black, like tar.  There’s a healthy one inch creamy dark brown head that fizzles down to a quarter inch after a few minutes.  It’s viscous and opaque, like a black hole that captures all sunlight and reflects none!  After one sniff I’m intoxicated by its amazing aroma.  Sell my old clothes I’m off to heaven!  Rich burnt sugar and charred malts swirl with ripe fruit like figs, dates, and plums.  There’s chocolate…no….FUDGE!  Bitter chocolate and husky grains are massaged by warm baked bread.  You can almost feel the heat from this 13% abv monster as you smell it.  The anticipation is too much.  I dive in for a deep sip, letting it swish over my tongue.  All of the sudden I’m on top of a mountain!  I’m skiing the Alps shirtless during a thunderstorm and an avalanche.  It’s that good.  There’s the rich maltiness that you would expect from any Russian Imperial Stout, but there’s a lot there that you wouldn’t expect.  I’ve found that with other Belgian style Russian Imperial Stouts the “Belgian” character is overwhelmed by the other flavors.  I’m not sure how De Struise Brouwers did it, but they were able to slam in more malt flavors than any other beer I’ve tried without losing that special yeast character that sends this beer off into the sunset riding its Belgian horse with no name.  Seriously!  There’s burnt sugar, deep roasted malts, blackened barley mixed with chocolate……..FUDGE!!!  It’s got a rich fudgy texture that blissfully sends you into buzzed with a smile.  If you’ve got Sherlock Holmes detective skills and a twenty burning a hole in your pocket than go ahead and seek out this beer!
Three sips and a smile later and I’m back in into that horrifying apartment.  The man from the Ministry of Health is really a Priest sent from the Vatican to stop this epidemic before it spreads.  The rest of the film is spent trying to get the blood of the original possessed girl.  Without that blood there will be no antidote and no cure.  I’m not going to give away the ending but I will say that there is already a REC 3 not yet released in the US and REC 4 is soon to hit theaters in countries that aren’t America sooooooooo the plot goes on!  I found only one fault with this movie.  They spliced in footage from a group of kids that sneak into the house behind a fireman and the husband of one of the women inside.  This part seems disjointed and forced and did little to add to the movie.
There were some wonderful parts that included some supernatural special effects that I was surprised and please by.  Overall this movie was wonderful.  While it strayed a little far from “zombie” it still had all the great elements that a zombie movie has.  Put this one in your must watch list and put Black Albert in your must drink list!

The Beer:
Aroma – 10/12
Appearance – 3/3
Taste – 18/20
Palate – 5/5 
   Overall – 9/10
Total = 45/50

The Movie:
Production – 5/5
Plot – 4/5
Gore – 5/5
 Zombies – 4/5
  Overall – 4.5/5

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quarantine and Dogfish Head's Midas Touch

Welcome to the review of the biggest “one watch” movies I own, Quarantine.  What’s a “one watch” movie you ask?  Well, it’s a term I invented to describe a movie that’s pretty good the first time you watch it, but you never really want to see it again.  This term can cover all genres.  Perhaps there’s a Mr. Bean movie that you giggled at and sat through but would never watch again.  Or maybe more realistically it was the time you decided to get more cultured and watch Schindler’s List.  Beautiful movie.  You were in tears.  But you’re not going to pop that one in on a Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn and a beer.  Such is Quarantine, the American remake of the Spanish movie REC (see last blog post).  It casts Angela Vidal (Dexter’s sister) as the lead screamer…ahem…character….in a very close remake of the Spanish version.  The lucky beer for tonight’s movie is Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch!!!  Due to the high cost and availability of Dogfish beers (other than the 90 min IPA which is everywhere) I haven’t reviewed many of their beers.  So here is one of the best genre breaking beers out there!
I saw Quarantine in an EMPTY theater in Virginia when it came out.  Some scenes were so scary that I literally jumped out of my seat!  And that never happens.  But the scary parts were all “one watch” scary.  Like a guy slamming into the floor in front of you after a three story drop.  It’s only good for one go around.  Like that damn youtube video where you watch the car driving along a country road and some shit pops out at you.  I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  So starting the same as REC the news crew is following a group of fireman on a normal night of work when they’re called to assist a medical situation in an apartment.  The American version of this movie was a little more obvious with the sexual tension than the Spanish film.  Us dirty Americans are real classless dogs.  Regardless…when they enter the apartment things get wild.  There’s some fighting, biting, throwing people off balconies, and then angry cops being angry cops (shooting people and going to blows with local media).  After the initial horror the next few minutes are a lot of people arguing and a cop telling everyone to be quiet and calm down and stay in the entryway in one group.  As things take a lull I’ll get into the beer.
Dogfish Head Brewery is one of my favorite breweries in the world.  I would drink lots more of their beer if I was Mit Romney but because I don’t have millions I’m forced to indulge only on special occasions.  Dogfish Head has grown from a tiny brewery run on a 10 gallon system to the #19 largest brewery by volume (  I mean....they've got a fucking TREE HOUSE!!!  LOOK!!!
And that’s going up with the big guys (Bud/Miller/Coors).  I try to stick it to the man by supporting local businesses rather than the giant conglomerate, but what do I do when the little guy becomes “the man” I’m trying to stick it to?
Maybe it’s okay to be big….as long as you keep your soul!  From everything I’ve seen that’s exactly what Sam Calagione has done at DFH.  He has a great business giving full benefits to happy employees, and produces some of the highest caliber beer on this rock.
Midas Touch Golden Elixir is said to be crafted from an ancient recipe that was scientifically derived from ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas.  The label says the beer was brewed using barley, white Muscat grapes, honey, and saffron!!  It’s 9% ABV and a low12 IBUs.  I gently poured the beer into my Great Divide chalice and admired the absolutely stunning gold color.  It pops like a mini sunshine explosion in my glass.  It’s definitely the most brilliant colored beer I’ve ever seen.   But I don’t really care about appearance.  It could look like a cup full of dead cats as long as it tasted good.  The beer definitely has a grape aroma in the front.  It’s like a chardonnay or a Riesling with a sweet malty hue.  Slight hints of honey and at the end there’s a flowery smell I can only believe is the saffron?  And the taste…..oh boy oh boy!
It’s full and sweet.  Elixir is a fitting label for this.  It’s sweet but it doesn’t fall flat on its face.  It’s not flabby and oily like some high alcohol sweet beers.  This one has a light crispness to it.  There’s grape and honey in large doses with a smooth clean yeast finish.  There are flowers and bits of fresh baked white bread.  There’s a high alcohol slap on the tongue that rounds everything out and slams it down your face.  It’s like getting dunked on by Shaq, like fighting a “pre-Lennox Lewis” Mike Tyson.  This beer is one of a kind and original in a way that few are.  It’s like reinventing wheel, only this wheel is not just a wheel, it’s a luxury muscle car that drives itself while pouring you a beer and giving you a little pat on the ass.  It’s like that.
Now the movie is really good.  Now that I’ve had some beer I’m going to elaborate on why exactly this film missed the mark with me.  It’s Angela.  I’m sorry lady but there’s a limit on how much screaming you can put in a horror film before people start rooting for the monster to kill you.  You sped by that line like a drunk Lindsay Lohan.  I think at this point we can just say Lindsay Lohan and assume the drunk part is understood.  There’s so much screaming in this movie that you’ll have a headache.  And it’s the hysterical crazy.  There’s no turning point where the woman finds her inner strength and triumphs over evil.  No this movie is following a hysterical, screaming white girl for an hour and a half until she’s finally dragged off into the dark.  At which point you probably cheer, pop a couple of aspirin and burn the dvd.  I feel bad she’s driven me to this extreme because other than that the characters are very believable and relatable,  the zombies (rabies infected people) are terrifying, the special effects are top notch, and the story is original (other than the fact it’s a remake).  If they muted fifteen minutes of her audio on the final cut of this movie it gets 4.5 dead hands.  But with screaming intact I just can’t justify that kind of score.  It was a valiant effort and a great film, you just need to watch it with the volume on low.

The Beer:
Aroma – 11/12
Appearance – 3/3
Taste – 19/20
Palate – 5/5 
   Overall – 10/10
Total = 48/50

The Movie:
Production – 4/5
Plot – 5/5
Gore – 4/5
 Zombies – 4/5
  Overall – 4/5

Thursday, March 8, 2012

REC and Great Divide's Espresso Oak Aged Yeti!!!

This is the Blair Witch of zombie movies.  The real one.  The best one.  I had heard rumblings about this Spanish film that was lighting fires in horror movie and indie film festivals.  I had to wait an incredibly long time before I could find a Region 1 format dvd.  In fact it took me so long to find it that I had already seen Quarantine in the theater before I found it!  So I was kind of working backwards so to speak.  I’m pairing this awesome movie with an equally awesome beer…Great Divide’s Espresso Oak Aged Yeti!!!!  This is the beer that keeps me up at night.  I worry that I’ll miss its seasonal release or that maybe Great Divide will be overwhelmed by high demands and won’t be able to get any!!  It’s terrifying… the movie!  Okay not like the movie but it’s still pretty scary.  Just to be sure I would get my fair share I bought every bottle my local beer store had.  No joke.  I made it rain.
It’s hard for me to talk about this movie without talking about Quarantine.  It’s hard not to compare the two films and all of their uniqueness or un-uniqueness.  But I will try.  You’ll have to wait for the Quarantine review for their subsequent comparison.  After searching through my own blog I’ve discovered that I have yet to review any of the Great Divide beers!!!  This is something I sincerely apologize about.  Espresso Oak Aged Yeti is one of five Yeti beers.  There’s Yeti the original Russian Imperial Stout, Belgian Style Yeti, Oak Aged Yeti, Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, and then the mother of them all Espresso Oak Aged Yeti.  Not quite as expansive as the Southern Tier Russian Imperial Stout selection but I think Yeti is of even higher quality.  Great Divide prides itself of full flavored ales such as;

Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Scotch Ale
Farmhouse Ale
Belgian Golden
Double IPA
Baltic Porter
Wood Aged Double IPA
Oaked IPA
English Old Ale
And a wonderful Rye Lager

That’s a pretty wide selection of styles.  It’s something I really appreciate in a brewery.  It’s substantially more expensive for breweries to use different yeasts instead of recycling the same strain over and over on all its different beers.  I appreciate them going the extra mile.  Before I even get the DVD into the player I’ve got my glass ready and I’m pouring the beer.  It’s hard for me to express how beautiful it is.  It’s one of the blackest beers I’ve ever seen (second only to Black Albert).  It’s thick, opaque, and viscous with a dark mud brown head.  The head itself is darker than some stouts I’ve seen.  It’s full of dark roasted malt, French roast coffee, and bitter chocolate.  The aroma is delightful.  I can say delightful and still be “Jack Bauer” manly with this beer in my hand.  You can pretty much do anything while drinking this beer and still be lumberjack manly.  The flavor matches the aroma.  It’s thick and deep with so much malt that I’m a little overwhelmed.  Tons of bitter coffee mix with the high alcohol heat to give the perfect blend of flavors.  The oak mutes it all and brings it all together with the slightest hints of vanilla.  It has low carbonation and a sweet finish that lingers.  This beer is meant to be sipped and savored.  If you see it then buy all you can find.  It’s worth it.
The movie is frightening.  The idea is that a news crew is following their local fire department out on a routine call to an apartment when all hell breaks loose!  Soon they find themselves trapped with feral possessed people as the building is quarantined.  The first person camera work makes this movie feel real without making you sick like Blair Witch.  Because it’s a news team also means that there is a professional camera so there’s no cutting corners with special effects.  The characters are instantly believable and relatable.  Even though you’re reading subtitles!  It’s one of those movies that after the first couple of minutes you forget your reading.
It’s such an original spin on an old genre.  Everywhere the characters turn there is danger.  The movie keeps your heart pounding the entire time.  I’m going to go ahead and give some spoilers so if you haven’t seen this movie you should shield your eyes.  If you’re like me and was watching this movie with the sound way up then when the firefighter got thrown down the stairs you screamed like an eight year old girl.  That shit made me jump!  The coordination to make all of these effects work without cutting from scene to scene and using multiple cameras must have been incredible.  My favorite scene in the movie was only a quick flash when the firefighter used his sledgehammer to explode a demon’s (possessed person’s) face.  He slammed down and blood exploded all over the wall.  AWESOME!
I know I said I wouldn’t do this but a few comparisons have to be made with Quarantine.  First off, REC is way better.  The acting is more believable (there’s considerably less screaming from the lead actress).  And REC is more gory than the toned down Quarantine.  It’s not Dead Alive gory but it’s a classy gory like Pontypool.  Just watch this movie.  It’s a 5dead hand award winner.  This is one for the collection.

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