Old Favorites and New at the 2012 Off-Centered Film Fest
This weekend saw the annual return of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione to Austin for the fifth anniversary of the Off-Centered Film Fest, a three-day celebration of craft beer and film in partnership with the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. This year’s programming was all western-themed, and I attended two of the four events: Thursday’s Blazing Saddles Quote-Along Beer Party Rolling Roadshow, and Friday’s Once Upon a Time in the West Dogfish Head Beer Feast.
On Thursday, attendees gathered at Republic Square Park downtown to watch Mel Brooks’ classic western spoof Blazing Saddles outdoors on a giant portable screen. Cap guns were handed out and free beans were provided by the bowlful. The audience was encouraged (nay, compelled) to shout their favorite lines as they were spoken on screen. Most importantly, though, over a dozen area breweries (and Dogfish Head) set up booths and iced down the jockey boxes to let us sample some of the rarest brews the Central Texas craft beer scene has to offer (complete list here). The pours were $3 each, and not huge; but proceeds benefited the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and frankly, most of the beers were in the 8-12% ABV range, so no one complained. I tasted seven, and five stood out as being truly fantastic:
- Jester King Craft Brewery/Mikkeller Beer Geek Rodeo
- South Austin Brewing Saison D’Austin
- Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling Strawberry Milk Stout
- Thirsty Planet Brewing Jittery Monk Smoked Coffee Dubbel
- Real Ale Brewing WT3F Mysterium Verum
As for the movie, well, it’s Blazing frickin’ Saddles. To say that I’m a fan is like saying Bismarck is a herring. It’s like saying William J. LePetomane has questionable acumen as a governor. It’s one of the most often quoted movies in this house, and ranks just behind the original Star Wars trilogy and just ahead of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the number of times we’ve purchased it (once on VHS, twice on DVD, and twice on Blu-Ray). To see it again on the big screen while quoting along, shooting caps at the screen, and sampling exciting new local beers was a fun twist on an old favorite, and a heady rush. (That’s Hedley!)
The new experience and the old were reversed on Friday, when I went to the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar to see a film I hadn’t seen before while drinking some familiar (but spectacular) beers. The film was Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West, and was accompanied by a six-course Italian meal prepared by Alamo Executive Chef John Bullington and a paired flight of eight Dogfish Head beers selected by Sam Calagione (full menu here). The food was absolutely delicious, as I’ve come to expect from Alamo feasts. And although I had tasted most of the beers before – or at least previous years’ versions of them – many of Delaware-based Dogfish Head’s top-shelf offerings are hard to come by in Texas, so I always welcome a chance to drink them again.
Ta Henket is a recent favorite of mine in Dogfish Head’s catalog, and I hope it sticks around. Bitches Brew is a thing of beauty, and I was thrilled to get my hand on only my third glass of it since it came out in 2010. But my favorite beers of the night were two I hadn’t tried before: the 2010 Olde School Barley Wine, and a barrel-aged 2010 Burton Baton. Burton Baton is a perennial seasonal offering, but this version of it had a funky Brett-like character that surprised and really impressed me. I asked Sam during the Q&A session whether they had intentionally exposed the beer to any wild bugs during fermentation; no, he said, but he noticed and liked the wild character as well, and pointed out that these kinds of unpredictable results are common when barrel aging due to microbes residing in the porous wood. Intentional or not, I’d love to see more of this kind of thing from Dogfish Head, and will drive my happy ass all the way to Delaware if I have to.
Meanwhile, the Olde School Barley Wine was my favorite pairing of the night, with cured duck breast, fig and gorgonzola on a pinenut crisp with balsamic vinaigrette. My favorite dish on its own was the lamb meatballs and gnocchi served with a delicious but not quite as perfectly paired 2011 Immort Ale.
The Leone film was incredible, and I learned why friends have been telling me to watch it. It’s joined the short list of films I’ve seen that are very near perfect. From the beautiful composition to the sparse but perfectly sufficient dialogue to the haunting score by Ennio Morricone, not to mention excellent performances by Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards and a chilling Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West is an absolute must-see for anyone who loves, or wants to learn to love, the western genre.
Although I missed out on the Fest’s other two events, I enjoyed the ones I made it to and look forward to next year. Here’s hoping that Dogfish Head and the Alamo Drafthouse continue their collaboration. It’s a great time for anyone who loves good beer, great food, or awesome films … and for someone like me who loves all three, it’s yet another reason to be glad to be in Austin.