Monday, October 29, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse and Dogfish Head's Nobel Rot

 So I’m trapped in Yorktown, Virginia for a week long class I’m taking.  So in addition to catching up on some school work, I’m also catching up on some zombie movie watching.  I’m giving this particular movie its second chance.  I watched fifteen minutes of it on Netflix but the quality was lacking and I just couldn’t muscle through it.  But this time I can.  This time I have a secret weapon.  I have Dogfish Head’s Nobel Rot!!!  This is supposed to be a wild blend of beer and wine.  Now while I am fairly well read with beer art and science but I am a simpleton in the world of wine.  So I am going to limit my description of the beer to what the Dogfish Head website says and what my taste buds tell me.
The film is much better on DVD than on Netflix.  The black colors are blacker and everything is sharper.  Maybe it’s just my computer.  I have no idea.  Another reason for watching the DVD instead of streaming is the intro comic inside the DVD case.  I found it after I watched the movie and while unnecessary, it’s helpful in really understanding the movie.  There’s a certain raw badassness that reminds me of Ninjas vs. Zombies or Dead Moon Rising with better picture and audio quality.  It’s not Shawn of the Dead….but few things are.  The movie centers around an ex US Special Agent Dwight Miller (some sort of super dude position) who falls in love and marries a government scientist that is developing the ultimate biological weapon…ZOMBIES!!!!  His understudy, a powerful and quick agent codenamed “Net” turned the couple in for their prohibited relationship.  She was moved and he was on the run…until….Net lets the zombies out to kill Miller.  Miller escapes but so do the zombies.  What happens next is the end of the world.
I pull out the giant 750ml bottle and uncap it.  I have my special Belgian tulip glass just for beers like this. says that the beer is a Saison base with viognier grape must added.  The must (unfermented juice) has been infected with a fungus called botrytis.  This is supposed to reduce water content and magnify sweetness and complexity (as well as alcohol potential…POW!!!).  As if that’s not enough pinot gris grapes are added.  And not any pinot gris grapes these are special dropped fruit grapes.  As an expert (I watched the movie and read the book “A Good Year”) I can tell you that some of the grapes are clipped so that more juice and nutrients can get to the remaining grapes.  The result is a 9%abv 18IBU beer that just aches to be drunk.  Once again Dogfish Head does something creative and inspiring.  But, how does it taste?
It pours a effervescent crystal clear deep gold.  It reminds me of Duvell without that signature marshmallow mouse head.  Immediately I can smell the grapes.  There’s a tart and musty aroma with earthy and wine like finish.  I actually think I’m smelling a wine.  I can sense a bit of that Belgian yeast character but I actually wish there was a little more.  I am a little worried because I see a similar body and color to the Festina Peche, one of my least favorite beers ever.  If this has as much tart as that beer it will be a big and expensive drain pour.  First sip…..AWESOME!  It’s got a big white wine punch up front and it fades to a tart twist of grapes and tannic bitterness.  Its light bodied and pretty highly carbonated.  It dances on your tongue and leaves you with a smack.  You could feed this beer to your snobby wine friends that look down there nose at you and look them right in the eye as they shake in fear and nod with respect.  You will know you’ve won.  And life is all about winning.
Back to the movie.  Acting seemed to take a vacation for parts of this film.  To say that some of the acting was forced is like saying that Glen Beck isn’t particularly fond of liberals.  But actually works.  There is some cool camera work (think the getting ready for work montage in Shawn of the Dead).  And the resident badass, Miller, has a better tough guy voice then Christian Bale and Rorschach.  Some of the special effects were pretty terrible, like the several times where machetes are obviously being pinned between the zombie’s stomach and arm.  Or punches that are thrown way in front of people and zombies.  But despite some bad special effects and some spotty acting there are still several compelling parts of the movie and in the end it’s just plain fun.  The movie is part of this “kick ass and have fun” era of budget zombie movies that is still churning out new and interesting films every year.  Do you need to see this movie…NO.  Should you see this movie…..yea I guess….if you want…..shit I don’t care.   Was it good?  Yea?  I think so?  I think I’ll have to leave this post with more question marks????????

The Beer:
Aroma – 11/12
Appearance – 3/3
Taste – 18/20
Palate – 4/5 
   Overall – 9/10
Total = 45/50

The Movie:
Production – 3/5
Plot – 3/5
Gore –3/5
 Zombies – 3/5
  Overall – 3/5

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Dead Outside and Samuel Smith's Pure Brewed Lager

It’s not often I review a Pilsner or in this case a “Pale Euro Lager” but I came across a smoking deal and I’m a huge Samuel Smith’s fan.  Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale was a “life changing beer”.  I’m sure if you’re reading this blog you know what I mean.  It was the beer that changed the way you think about beer.  I’ve had a couple of these.  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale opened my eyes to craft beer and that addictive and painful plant we call hops.  Stone Ruination gave me a kick in the teeth and left me crying in the corner.  I had no idea beer could be that intense.  Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter opened my eyes to dark viscous beers that send most to hide under the covers.  And then out of nowhere Samuel Smiths Old Brewery Pale Ale taught me the wonders of well crafted and well balanced simple ales.  Other Samuel Smith’s Ales have stirred up similar feels of respect and admiration.  And I believe Samuel Smith’s is the oldest brewery in England.  Having that thought in mind I dug out an English zombie movie that I have wanted to see for some time.  The Dead Outside is the film and the preview was really cool.  It was dark and pretty intense looking so I’m excited.
The film starts out with that professional looking grey hue.  There is the feel of dramatic indie dribble right from the start.  There’s no words for the first good chunk of the movie, just a guy running out of gas and making his way to a deserted farm house where he takes shelter.  Here he meets the female lead April.  The actress that play April has only one film in her IMDB database.  That should be sort of a tell all.  She is distrustful but not so much that she kicks the guy out of her house.  No she lets him stay the night and eventually (with no real reason) decides to let him stay around.  She whines and yells all the time.  And the guy just kind of mopes through.  If these characters were any more one dimensional they would be made out of construction paper.  She’s painted as sort of a loner badass with a delicate and unstable disposition.  Like a girl trying to be strong despite all her fears.  If you believe a word of what I just said then your trying as hard as I was to like this film.
There’s minimal scenes with actual zombies.  Most of the time it’s just arguing and yelling with this obnoxious English/Irish accent.  The plot is thrown at you as a monkey would throw its own shit.  It’s all over the place and with no real semblance of a plan.  So they deduce that she’s immune to the zombie plague because she’s able to bash zombies to death, get blood all over her skin, and not turn into one.  That to me isn’t a sure thing.  Also the guy is infected but taking meds so he won’t turn?  She finds out and wants him to stop taking them?  Come on people make this thing work.  Pull it together.  Shit I need a beer.
I turn my attention away from the riveting movie to open my Samuel Smiths.  One thing I love about the beer is the larger than normal bottle.  It’s a 550 ml bottle (18.5 oz for those of you not up on metric).  I pour the beer into my big 22oz pilsner glass.  It’s a bright clear gold with a nice foam head that reaches almost to the top of the glass.  It’s effervescent and clean looking.  The aroma is slightly grassy with faint fruit notes.  There’s a lager like cleanness that you can smell.  No diactle at all.  The aroma carries toasted cereal and slight hay to the nose.  The slightly fizzy lager has a smooth and very full mouthfeel for a lager.  It’s not thick by any means, instead it’s clean and crisp and well balanced.  The pale malt is complex and refreshing with an enjoyable grassy hop flavor and slight bitterness that lingers.  The Pale Lager is 5% abv giving it a slight edge over the common pale lager.  As always with Samuel Smiths beers I’m impressed with the well crafted and incredibly drinkable beer that they’re created.  I’m normally not a huge fan of English ales.  Most are too fruity and not hoppy or bitter enough for me.  Samuel Smith beers on the other hand I find incredibly drinkable and well crafted.  I wouldn’t venture too far into their offerings of imperial styles as these lack the American power and that full attack flavor, but their base offerings (lower alcohol styles) are incredible depictions of the styles they are modeled after.  Try a Samuel Smiths, try them all!
With a renewed strength and sense of purpose I’m able to continue through this giant flaming turd of a movie.  The more I think about it the angrier I get.  The preview looked good!  How can the movie be this disappointing?  A woman shows up trying to take refuge in the farm.  April lets her stay a few days then kicks her out.  I guess it was okay to keep the guy around but not some chick too.  No that’s too many mouths to feed from my giant farm.  The next part I had to rewind and watch twice as I was getting bored and drifting in and out.  From what I gather the girl decides to make tea for her last night on the farm.  She gives some to April who immediately passes out.  She wakes up in the back of a van all tied up.  I guess she wasn’t going as peacefully as she led on.  Then there’s a car crash and some more shit happens and basically people die and this movie sucked.  I’m glad this was a watch it now because I’m not going to spend money on such a shitty film.  Thanks for the shitty movie.  Three pints of fine English Lager couldn’t save this burning shit covered train wreck of a movie.  Thanks for wasting two hours.  Fuck you.
The Beer:
Aroma – 9/12
Appearance – 3/3
Taste – 17/20
Palate – 4/5 
   Overall – 8/10
Total = 41/50

The Movie:
Production – 2/5
Plot – 1/5
Gore – 1/5
 Zombies – 1/5
  Overall – 1/5

Sunday, October 14, 2012

RAMMBOCK: Berlin Undead and Spaten Optimator

Here’s a benefit of being a zombie that you don’t often hear about.  As a zombie your stumble about the earth barley aware of your surroundings until you find someone to eat.  Then you just go at it ripping and chewing an entire person who is still kicking and screaming.  Conversely, if your me, and you eat a few mouthfuls of what turns out to be “not quite cooked pork” then your bedridden for two days of purging every way your body knows how.  That’s why I was watching a zombie movie at 1040 on a Monday.  But don’t worry my friends I’m okay!  Or more importantly for the validity of this blog….our tradition is safe.  I first intended to watch this movie without the beer and then in a few days (when my consumption is more than crackers and water) I would throw down the belated bubbly beverage.  But due to a kick of my conscience and the fact that a zombie movie isn’t the best medicine when your body is ready to vomit at the drop of a hat, I decided to delay the rest of the movie till the end of the week.  That brings us to tonight.  My stomach feels like a tank and I’m ready to go!  The movie: RAMMBOCK (Berlin Undead).  The beer: Spaten Optimator (a bock!).
The cover looks great and unlike the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” I find that you can…and often are right.  When I saw the cover of Living a Zombie dream or I, Zombie I knew what it was.  The cover told everyone out there that this was the biggest steaming pile of dung the world had ever seen.  No you say?  Look further Shadow: Dead Riot….terrible.  C.H.U.D., Night of the Creeps, Beaver Lake Zombies, ZOMBIE ABOMINATION!!!!  Let’s all get off our high horse and admit that sometimes it’s okay to judge.  This movie looks cool.  And it’s German….so Spaten seemed like the obvious choice.  Plus it’s nearing Oktoberfest so it seems only more fitting.  This is one of the few lagers that I’ll make acceptations for.  Normally I go with ale, but sometimes a nice dense malty lager fits the bill, especially when it’s getting cold.  This isn’t the BEST dopplebock but it is probably the most readily available high quality version out there.  I haven’t had Optimator in just over two years.  This all because the wife and I dressed up in the Oktoberfest appropriate beer wench and lederhosen costumes and consumed HUGE amounts of said beer over a two day period.  But I digress…the movie!
Film opens with our oafish lead.  He’s awkward and going bald in a sad strange way.  He’s frumpy and boring but at the same time a little annoying.  In the course of the first five minutes of this film I already hate him so much for no real reason.  I’m able to gather that this spineless love struck sap is returning the keys to his now ex girlfriend.  He was supposed to just mail them but he’s set on winning back the love of his live through whining….awesome.  He goes into the apartment only to find she’s not there.  Instead there are two maintenance men inside.  One of which turns into a….you guessed it….ZOMBIE.  Things in this movie are exactly how I would imagine they would be.  It’s grey and real.  The lead and his surviving maintenance guy sidekick handle the zombies how people probably would.  They make their own weapons……..they just sit and wait……fail…….and they run……semi-fail.  This movie isn’t overly original but it’s also not an exaggerated and unrealistic piece of garbage.  I would prefer this than another dozen Resident Evil films.
The beer.  While I’m not a huge fan of most lagers (I know you know by now) I still have a huge amount of respect for the history and culture behind each glass of that tall foaming lager bier.  Spaten brewery has roots dating back all the way to 1397!  When we talk about anything prior to 17XX my head starts to explode.  It’s just hard to think about life that long ago, but at least it had beer.  By 1867 Spaten (the German word for spade) becomes the largest brewery in Munich.  In 1893 Spaten was producing almost 14 million gallons of beer a year.  That’s an enormous amount of beer especially “pre refridgeration”.  Even more staggering is their 1996 peak of  29 million gallons.  That’s a lot of beer!
Judging by the official American website Spaten exports 4 beers to the US a Pilsner, Dunkle (weizen I assume), Oktoberfest (seasonal), and Optimator (doppelbock).  Today I’ve paired the movie with what I believe is there most widely sold and most interesting brew.  It’s 7.6% abv but feels much MUCH higher.  It pours a deep mahogany brown with reddish hues when held to the light.  There’s a small light tan head that leaves some lacing.  The aroma is malt forward with loads of molasses and a slight spiced rum aroma.  It’s pleasantly sweet aroma has the threat of a hot high alcohol kick.  The taste is similar.  There’s this rich malty sweetness mixed with a big alcohol bump and the astringency of the grain husks and dark specialty malts.   The sweet liquor makes you suck in when you finish.  Almost like a scotch.  It’s a tough beer and not very drinkable.  It’s as if your body can sense danger and will not allow your body to consume more than 2 or 3 of these.  I’ve heard it’s possible that true Germans are born without this ability and can continue drinking these until they are fall down drunk.  That fact is still unverified.
This movie does have a twist that I found interesting but I’m not sure if I like it.  The zombies are affected by flashing lights.  Their retinas are supposedly very sensitive and flashes of light are extremely painful for them.  So something like a camera becomes a weapon.  The makeup of the white eyes helps to reinforce this possibility.  I’m not so sure I buy it…but it was still pretty cool.  Overall our characters were resourceful and inventive even if a bit boring or unlikable.  Part of this is not the fault of the actors, and it’s not that the writing is bad.  It’s that there’s not enough of it.  The movie is just over an hour long.  Not a lot of time.  Certainly not enough to see the characters grow.  Another 20 mins would have made this movie 100 times better.  Maybe even a classic.  Just when you start to respect the lead and think he’s turning into a sort of anti-hero…the movie ends.  Just when the sidekick gets a girl…it ends.  You never see things really come together.
I really liked the special effects but I’m not sure that they were professional quality.  Some of the appeal of the makeup comes from the fact that the director used the setting and the action to take the spot of close up gore shots.  A view from an upstairs apartment window replaced the close up in your face shot of other big dollar productions.  In a way it helped make it feel as if you were at that window.  There was also a lot of cutaways.  I didn’t realize how many until I reflected on the action later.  This movie does a great job of giving the unsettling feeling of gore without pushing in right in your face.  It’s almost a higher level of cinema.
Like the beer, RAMMBOCK is dark and a bit astringent leaving the consumer intrigued but in the end a little disappointed.  Sure it’s not bud light or Resident Evil for that matter but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Ayinger Celebrator or The Horde.  In honor of Oktoberfest we deem thee “da German xombie movie and das beer”.

The Beer:
Aroma – 9/12
Appearance – 2/3
Taste – 16/20
Palate – 3/5 
   Overall – 7/10
Total = 37/50

The Movie:
Production – 4/5
Plot – 3/5
Gore –3/5
 Zombies – 4/5
  Overall – 3.5/5

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Signal and Boulder Beer Co's Mojo Risin' DIPA

I found the time to thumb through my movie collection to audit what I had and what I needed.  In the process I realized it’s been quite a while since I last watched the movie The Signal.  How could this be?  It must have been one of those movies I put off reviewing until a time when I had exhausted all other quality films.  I’ve been watching a slew of okay but largely unoriginal movies and thought I would spice things up for all of you.  If you haven’t seen this movie then stop right now.  Don’t read ahead!  Drop all plans for the evening and hunt down a copy (good luck).  While you’re at it find some Mojo Risin’ Double IPA.  Park your ass on the couch as this will be a night you will not soon forget.
 I’ll warn you that this movie starts fast.  This isn’t my first go at it and I know better than to try and do any other tasks while this movie is on.  So the popcorn is in the bowl and the beer is in the glass.  I’ve got my feet up and the movie ready to be started.  Everything is right in the world.  All except I didn’t mention one….little….detail.  This isn’t a zombie movie.  Technically.  But it’s pretty darn close and it’s amazing.  Just watch it.  So we begin.
This film comes at you like a raging bull hopped up on coke and caffeine.  The opening scene drops you at some cabin in the middle of the forest where a creepy nerdy guy is torturing and killing women.  It’s really B-rate and grainy.  There’s no plot just women trying to cut the barbed wire off of themselves so they can try to escape.  A few minutes into it though it cuts out and turns into this strange blurry colorful picture that you might get in your media player.  That’s “the signal”.  The whole thing was playing on some guys TV and not the movie itself.  But don’t be lulled into a sense of security because it’s about to come back around real soon and just as bad.
The guy who owns the TV (Ben) is in bed with a married woman (Mya).  Despite his pleas for her to stay and just leave her husband (Lewis) she goes back to him.  She narrowly escapes one of the “crazies” and gets back to her apartment.  There Lewis confronts her and displays signs of being aware of her mischief.  But before she can jump in the shower and get settled down Lewis has become infected and goes Babe Ruth on his buddy’s skull.  Shit spirals really quickly.  In the hall people are stabbing and mauling each other.  Mya eventually escapes with one of her husband’s friends.  He eventually turns crazy…or maybe not.  The director does a great job of casting a certain degree of doubt into his mental state.  That made the whole thing even more frightening.  When a crazy person in mauling an innocent man or a man stabs an attacker in self defense it’s hard to tell the difference.  And at a certain point paranoia takes over and the line blurs even further.  I’m going to seep forward a bit.  Car crash, Rods knocked out, Mya is walking to the train terminal.
If I don’t stop now to talk about the beer it won’t be till the very end that I remember to mention it.  I just get so excited about this movie.  So I managed to pick up this normal $8 six pack for $10 a case!!!!!  Basically I got 24 for the price of 6.  Gotta love the military exchange.  And I do love me some DIPA.  It’s a light medium amber with a decent off white head.  The aroma is beautiful but not overwhelming (as if there were such a thing).  There’s lots of pine and citrus and it’s very sticky and sweet.  There’s the presence of malt but none of the lemon or grassy aroma that would be common of the newer breed of American IPA.  Boulder Beer Co, the oldest microbrewery in Colorado, says the beer is double dry hopped with tons of Amarillo hops.  Thus the “outrageously intense” grapefruit like aroma and flavor.  The first sip is wonderful.  The beer is moderately carbonated.  Just a bit lower than I like but perfectly suitable for the style.  I understand that what I like doesn’t always mean what’s the best for that beer in that style.  So I will forgive what I feel is slightly low carbonation.  The flavor is great.  Exactly what I want in a double IPA.  This one focuses on the flavor and aroma hops and doesn’t kill your tongue with 100+ IBUs like some beers (STONE).  There’s tons of the same stuff you smelled. Mostly grapefruit.  There’s a healthy malty base with this beer.  It’s just slightly sweet.  It actually is VERY drinkable for a 10% abv IIPA.  That’s saying a lot about the crafting of this special pint.  Is this the unique monster that Smuttynose’s Big A IIPA or Stone’s Ruination are….no.  But is this a very tasty in incredibly drinkable IIPA that should be stocked in everyone’s fridge for movie night…undoubtedly YES!

Back to the carnage!

Something that I should have mentioned earlier is that the film is broken up into different transmissions.  Each one was directed by a different person.  None of the directors had contact with each other.  The three transmissions were in different genres; 1. Horror 2. Dark Comedy 3. Science Fiction.  This was something I didn’t know the first time I watched the film and it made the second viewing even more impressive.  That’s why the first transmission was so violent in a heart racing, arm of the chair gripping kind of way.  The second part of the movie (where I pick up here) is very different.  Yes it’s still violent and bloody in a very unsettling way….but it’s also hilarious.  My wife was using the computer and I had my headphones on when I was watching it.  So it was awesome to see her face as I laughed out loud at scenes that she found repulsive.  The whole second transmission takes place in a house where a very 50’s Leave it to Beaver type husband and wife are having a New Year’s Eve party.  Well he’s dead.  Wife killed him when he went crazy.  But the party goes on anyway.  The way that the director blends the mundane and the extreme are beautiful.  Trying to make small talk while caked in blood and surrounded by dead bodies is a pretty funny thing.
I don’t want to go on forever but I do want to capture a few of the major victories of this film.  I don’t know what kind of budget they had but this movie is theater quality big block buster stuff.  The severed head scenes are great and when the guy drills into Lewis’s arm I almost threw up.  But it wasn’t just the special effects that made this movie great.  It was the originality and fearlessness.  It was having a person on fire running by and nobody even looks up.  Then a guy chases people with a chainsaw only feet from our main characters and they barley look up.  It was funny and gory and scary.  I was blown away with the acting.  Each character was believable and likable (maybe accept Lewis) and each was real.  Each person was unique.  This movie left me with an unsettling feeling yet I immediately wanted to watch it again.  I shamelessly give this movie the 5 dead hand rating despite its lack of technical zombies.  Screw anybody who disagrees.

The Beer:
Aroma – 10/12
Appearance – 2/3
Taste – 18/20
Palate – 4/5 
   Overall – 9/10
Total = 43/50

The Movie:
Production – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Gore – 5/5
 Zombies – 5/5 (this movie is so fucking great i'm bumping this to a 5)
  Overall – 5/5