The World’s End, and my lifelong love affair with beer
We’re going to see this through to the bitter end. Or … lager end. – Gary King, The World’s End
Now in theaters is The World’s End, the latest from writer/director Edgar Wright and his frequent collaborators, co-writer/star Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost. I’ve seen it twice – including a fantastic beer dinner at the Alamo Drafthouse – and it’s my favorite film of the year. In it, five childhood friends facing middle age are brought together by ringleader Gary King (Pegg) to relive their most epic teenage memory: a night out attempting the “Golden Mile”, a 12-pint/12-pub crawl in their tiny English hometown. They aim to succeed now where they once failed, and complete the Golden Mile in all its bitter, boozy glory.
As a white male approaching 40 with a wife, child, and lots of 90’s music in heavy rotation on my iPod, I’m squarely in this film’s target demographic. I’ve also been a fan of this team’s work for years. They have a knack for parodying a genre while simultaneously making an exemplary film of that genre. What Shaun of the Dead did for zombies, and Hot Fuzz did for buddy-cop action flicks, The World’s End does for sci-fi, but I won’t spoil it. If you’ve seen the trailers, you may know what to expect.
It doesn’t spoil anything to say that beer is a recurring motif in the movie. The twelve pints of the Golden Mile stand as a powerful metaphor for the childhood dreams and lost youth of the characters. That metaphor works well for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who was ever a teenager. Not sure about you, but when I was in my teens I spent a lot of time obsessing over things I couldn’t easily get. Alcoholic beverages were pretty high on that list … right behind, you know, sex.
But unlike sex, which I assumed I would spend a lot of time and effort trying to get for the rest of my life, I knew I was more or less guaranteed easy access to alcohol as soon as I was old enough. So booze was a symbol, in a sense, of my impending adulthood in general, a taste of the future; and that gave it a mystique that always attracted me. I suspect Wright and Pegg felt the same way I did – and apparently one of them wore the same trenchcoat I did, too.
But if alcohol in general held a mystique for me, beer always had a special place in my heart. Maybe because it’s cheap and sessionable (a word I didn’t know then). Maybe because it was cooler than wine and less of a “big deal” than spirits. I know that I can’t remember exactly when I had my first drink of wine or spirits … Catholic communion? A drive-through daiquiri shop in the New Orleans suburb I grew up in? Very likely, but I don’t have any real memory of it.
On the other hand, I can remember every major beer milestone of my childhood and young adulthood:
- First Taste of Beer – age 5, Budweiser, thanks to an uncle by marriage (he was probably in your family too)
- First Whole Serving of Beer – age 14, Miller Lite, at a low-key Halloween party
- First Beer I Bought in a Store – age 17, Crazy Horse Malt Liquor, from a corner store in the French Quarter
- First Beer at a Bar – age 17, a 20-oz $2 plastic cup of whatever rotgut draft was on tap at the shitty Decatur Street dive bar I was hanging out at
- First Craft Beer – age 18, a 20-oz $3 plastic cup of Abita Turbodog, at the same shitty Decatur Street dive bar I was still hanging out at
It was kind of all downhill from there (or uphill, I guess): a progression of gradually more interesting discoveries about how much more there was to beer besides just canned lager, forties, and rotgut draft. Okay, I had a brief Rolling Rock-curious phase in college, but we don’t have to talk about that.
Now that I speak beer as a second language, one might think the power it held over me as a younger man would be lessened. I no longer have to wait for a friend’s brother to come through with a case of Milwaukee’s Best or maintain a mental list of stores and bars that won’t look too closely at my fake I.D.. If I want beer – good beer, brewed a mile away in Austin or halfway across the world in Belgium, I just have to go to the supermarket. Or I can make beer myself, five gallons at a time. Surely what unattainability made magical in my youth, familiarity would render mundane as an adult?
But it hasn’t. The mystique is still there, just changed. Beer is still tied to my hopes and dreams. When I wish I could travel but I’m stuck at my nine-to-five job, an English bitter or a Belgian saison helps me through. When my child was born, I commemorated his birth with two different batches of homebrew, one of which I hope to age until he’s old enough to drink it. And when the hectic pace of adult life makes it hard to find the time to write fiction – after all these years, one childhood dream I’m still chasing – I write about beer.
And thanks to the breadth and depth of beers available in the world today, there are still some unattainables. My indoctrination into the world of beer has only taught me how much I have yet to experience. I’ve never been to Northern California in February to try Russian River’s Pliny the Younger (I can’t even get the less legendary Pliny the Elder easily here in Texas). I’ve never sipped Trappist ale from a chalice at a Belgian bistro across the street from the medieval abbey that brews it, nor kvass from a street cart in some town in Eastern Europe whose name I can’t spell.
When I started this blog, I set out with the goal of finding the places where brewing and storytelling intersect, to show how beer – for millennia, a mystical beverage credited with inspiring great works of art – can still inspire great stories and be a form of storytelling in itself. It seems Edgar Wright and Company beat me to the finish line. I’d be jealous if I wasn’t so blown away by the movie they made, and humbled by what I’ve realized since seeing it: that beer is, and has always been, an inspiration and an aspiration for me. That getting older means sacrificing some of what it once meant for me, and the reward for that sacrifice is realizing how much more meaning there is to find.
Austin Beer Week 2012 finally begins (for me)
Finally! I get to start celebrating Austin Beer Week in earnest tonight with the Ommegang Beer Dinner at Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden. The Real Ale beer dinner at Easy Tiger a few months ago excited my palate (and loosened my typing fingers; I waxed blogtastic about it here and here), so I’m thrilled to be starting my Austin Beer Week festivities there.
If I didn’t already have a reservation at Easy Tiger, though, I’d be starting my Austin Beer Week tonight at my favorite place in town, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The Alamo has a tradition of multi-course feasts, pairing chef-prepared selections with great beverages and fantastic films (like their annual all-day Lord of the Rings Trilogy Hobbit Feasts: seven courses in twelve hours of movie with the occasional lembas bread intermezzo). Tonight, the Lake Creek location is showing the Indian sci-fi spectacle Endhiran: The Robot (starring Tamil screen legend Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai) with a five-course Indian meal paired with five local IPAs. I saw Endhiran at an Alamo screening last year and found it bizarre, hilarious and touching, combining modern sci-fi tropes with classic monster movie hijinks, and yes – lots and lots of Indian musical numbers. If you’re into Bollywood, Kollywood, or just have an open mind for a totally new experience, I highly recommend it.
Speaking of totally new experiences, yesterday I went to Black Star Co-op to try their new cask ale, Molly Moocher: their Double Dee amber(ish) ale cask conditioned on morel mushrooms. I’m sure I’ve had mushrooms in beer before, but must confess that morel mushrooms terrify me, with those shriveled alien-egg-looking caps, fleshy and pitted with shadowy tunnels into deep, Lovecraftian darkness (shudder). But October is right for fright, so I jumped in eagerly. Amazingly, I didn’t lose my soul or sanity to the Great Old Ones. I just … drank mushroom beer. It was well attenuated and had a rich earthiness from the mushrooms, complemented by earthy hop character. High attenuation and low carbonation combined to make the beer come across as a little thin, but that’s not uncommon for cask ales.
The better beer that day at Black Star was Old Sour Dewberry, a sour English old ale that poured a deep ruby red with a roaring fizzy head. It popped on my palate with refreshing, effervescent fruitiness, like an alcoholic cherry soda. It was so good I wish it had come in larger than a 9-oz pour, but it packed a punch and was worth slowly savoring. I’ll be back for that one soon.
But now: looking ahead to Easy Tiger tonight by eating as close to nothing as possible today. I’ll post details on the dinner including my favorite dish, favorite beer and pairing reactions in the next day or two.
Fantastic Fest 2012 in review: beer, free beer, and a movie or two
Fantastic Fest 2012 is now a happy week-old memory. I saw 33 films from September 20-27 and emptied more than a few pint glasses. My highlights from the festival are below:
Day 1 – My Fest started with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie in 3D. But that wasn’t until 6pm, so before the show, I had lunch at Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden, where I enjoyed two barrel-aged Texas beers: Bourbon Barrel Alt-eration from Hops & Grain, and Real Ale Shipwrecked (aged in Jameson barrels for extra deliciousness) with an antelope and venison merguez sausage in honor of the reanimated pooch. Once I got to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for the movie, I found myself in the Shiner-sponsored theater, and enjoyed a free Shiner Bock. But my favorite film that day was Antiviral from Canadian director Brandon Cronenberg – son of film legend David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome), and worthy of his father’s directorial legacy.
Day 2 – Two major highlights: The Conspiracy, also from Canada, which I watched with a couple of pale ales: an Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle IPA and a Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale. Later that night, a friend and I got to the bottom of a pitcher of Real Ale Firemans #4 while watching Dead Sushi, the latest from Japanese director Noboru Iguchi. Iguchi’s shock/splatter/gross-out horror-comedies aren’t for everyone, but I find them great fun; and Dead Sushi is one of the better ones. Before the screening was a live in-theater eating competition between Iguchi, SFX guru Yoshihiro Nishimura and four audience members eating bull penis sushi, duck fetuses and ghost pepper tuna roll. Kudos to them; I couldn’t do it.
Day 3 – A great day. I sipped a Ranger Creek Small Batch #2 saison during Holy Motors by French director Leos Carax, a dense and symbolic film that begs rewatching. Next I saw the brutal yakuza revenge sequel Outrage Beyond by Japan’s Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi), which went well with a Brooklyn East India Pale Ale. I watched an English-language remake of Pusher (the Danish original was the directorial debut of Drive and Bronson director Nicolas Winding Refn) with a Live Oak Oaktoberfest in hand, and I enjoyed another Firemans #4 at midnight during my most anticipated movie of the festival, the kung-fu-steampunk epic Tai Chi 0. All these movies made it into my top fifteen of the fest, and I’m still thinking about that Ranger Creek saison.
Day 4 – Started with my initial pick for best of the fest, Lee’s Adventure, a Chinese sci-fi film starring Jaycee Chan (son of Jackie) as a slacker-gamer with a disease that randomly slows and speeds his perception of time. China scored again in the evening with the aptly titled Vulgaria, a crude comedy about a Hong Kong softcore porn producer that kept me laughing out loud. At midnight, I saw the awesome British action-comedy Cockneys vs. Zombies, whose title pretty much says it all. I watched that with my favorite beer of the day, a Deschutes Obsidian Stout that was perfect for a midnight show.
Day 5 – The standout film was Black Out, a Dutch crime caper that played like classic Guy Ritchie. Day 5 is usually when I start to get bleary-eyed and need rest; unsurprisingly, I have no beer notes from this day. I recall drinking one or two Fire Eagle IPAs and at least one Hops & Grain Pale Dog Pale Ale.
Day 6 – My evening film was Vanishing Waves, a sci-fi thinker from Lithuania. There’s always at least one quiet, sterile and cerebral sci-fi film at the Fest every year, and whatever it is usually ends up in my top ten. This was no exception, and it inspired me to dig up and finish an incomplete short story I drafted last year (hooray for inspiration!). I watched it with a Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA.
Day 7 – The penultimate night of the Fest brought me Hellfjord, by far the most fun I had all week. A new series from from a team of brilliant Norwegians (including writer Tommy Wirkola, director Patrik Syversen and writer-stars Zahid Ali and Stig Frode Henriksen) whose combined resume includes the zom-com Dead Snow and the geek comedy You Said What?, Hellfjord touted itself as Twin Peaks-meets-Hot Fuzz, and that’s pretty spot on. The complete first season screened – seven episodes – and I simply could not stop laughing during the entire three and a half hours. “Brilliant” doesn’t begin to describe this series. It was my definitive Best of the Fest. I’m counting the months until it may someday be released on American DVD, and if you have any sense of humor at all, you should look for it too. I also finished off another pitcher of Firemans #4 (with help) and had a spectacular barbecue chicken pizza with jalapenos before heading to the Hellfjord Norwegian Party at the Highball, where friends and I donned Viking helmets and drank Austin Beerworks Black Thunder Schwarzbier with samples of lutefisk and other pickled Nordic delicacies. And the mighty Thor smiled down upon us.
Day 8 – Somewhat anticlimactic after Day 7, but started with the poignant, entertaining Canadian drama I Declare War, about kids playing a game of war that skirts dangerously close to the real thing. After a couple of underwhelming afternoon screenings, I ended the day with a few complimentary Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ales at the Closing Night Party at the Austin American Legion hall.
So there you have it. Seven days have passed and I’m already looking forward to next year’s Fantastic Fest. There’s a reason we call it “geek Christmas” in my house. It’s a time to celebrate film, storytelling, inspiration, good friends, good food and good beer. And these are a few of my favorite things.
Fantastic Fest: The most wonderful time of the year
Fantastic Fest 2012 starts today in Austin! Billed as “a film festival with all the boring parts cut out”, it’s eight days of weird and unique films from all around the world. Horror, action, science fiction, fantasy and offbeat comedy will show in abundance.
When I’m not blogging, brewing or working at my day job, I write for the very small screen and work in independent film production with Blue Goggles Films (see the latest episode of our series De-Pixelated here, co-written by me). So great film on a budget is a passion of mine, and Fantastic Fest is my Christmas. I look forward to it every year the way some people look forward to the World Series, E3, or a major political convention. In fact, it is like a major political convention: full of deeply opinionated people exchanging passionate debate after nights of minimal – or no – sleep … but instead of arguing about the economy or health care, they’re discussing Dogme 95 or the most effective use of the Wilhelm scream in a Spanish-language film since 1996.
It’s not technically a beer event, but it does take place at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, so there’s beer and food available for purchase at every screening, and lots of parties with free drinks at night. So beer is a big part of the festival for me, because I love pairing beer with a good film as much as with a good meal. I’m hoping the Alamo has a lot of interesting stuff on tap to keep the libations as exciting as the entertainment.
I usually see about 30 films during the 8-day festival. My original idea was to do “Fantastic Fest in 30 Beers”: a different beer for every film I see. But I realized 30 pints in 8 days is going to be hard on my wallet, and I really want to enjoy some high-gravity brews if possible without falling asleep during my midnight screenings.
So I won’t try to force a beer for every showing. But I will be drinking some interesting stuff throughout the week, and seeing some fantastic films. I’ll write about both as often as I can. I’ll also be tweeting about the films and the festival as it happens – check out my Twitter feed @shawnbou21 to see my updates.
On Snobbery, Science Fiction and Saison
In hindsight, the last post I wrote before going to Mexico may have come across as snobbish – despite my protestations to the contrary – in my hard-line stance against Mexican lager. But I’m now pleased to report that during my time in Mexico, I learned that even I can enjoy a cerveza in the right circumstances. Tequila on ice proved too intense for drinking throughout the day, and soon became an exclusively after-dinner indulgence. Mojitos were a nice afternoon distraction for a few days, and I eventually found myself craving (of all things) white wine during the brunch-to-dinner stretch. Oh, but the afternoons of room service nachos on our poolside patio, of brick oven chorizo pizzas overlooking the beach … on those occasions, I gave in and popped a few Coronas, and man were they tasty.
So it seems that there’s a time and a place for Mexican beer: hot summer afternoons on the beach in Mexico, with spicy foods that don’t require forks. So viva regional traditions, and si, quiero un limón con esa.
(NOTE: That’s about as good as my Spanish gets. Unimpressive, certainly, but all self-taught based on four years of high-school French, three years of college Latin, and twelve years puzzling over Spanish billboards in California and Texas. Several of our servers in Mexico applauded my pronunciation, while laughing at my attempts to place orders for things like “Don Julio in the rock, and water that has been carbonated” or to break the ice with Hugo the bartender by observing that “Sunday is a crazy man, yes?”)
Last night, several days home and still nursing a George Romero-esque horror of a peeling sunburn, I relaxed with two saisons and a Blu-ray viewing of John Carter, an unfairly maligned film that I’ve seen twice now. It was a fine epilogue to the Mexico trip, because Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars – the novel from which the film was adapted – was the first book I read on vacation.
Beer #1 was Saison du BUFF 2012, the feted three-way collaboration between Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone breweries. This was one of two bottles I bought Saturday – I’m cellaring the other. It poured tawny golden and surprisingly clear, even with the dregs roused. The initial herbal aroma blast from the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme passed quickly to apple and pear aromas. The flavor was powerfully herbal, with a resiny character I’d attribute to middle/late high-alpha hops if I didn’t know better … and finishing quickly leaving a brie-like aftertaste. My only complaint was that this enticing flavor experience didn’t stay on the palate long enough. It was fleeting, and left me wanting more (of the same). But it went very well with popcorn and a kosher dill spear, and Captain John Carter’s sudden appearance on the red planet.
Beer #2 was Lift Bridge Brewery’s Farm Girl Saison, a personal favorite and one of a dwindling number of bottles I brought back from a recent trip to Minneapolis. I can’t get it in Texas, and that’s a shame. It faced some competition in the Saison du BUFF, but held its own despite its underdog status. It poured a pale burnished straw, cloudy with respectable head retention. Fruit aromas took the lead, with apricot and pear overlaying a familiar funkiness. The flavor was simple, delivering on the promise of the aroma: apricot and pear with some funk. Sweet, and maybe a little cloying. I preferred its mouthfeel, as it lingered on my palate longer.
So if Saison du BUFF is the princess of Mars, mysterious and seductive like the alluring (and buff) red-skinned warrior-maiden Dejah Thoris; Farm Girl Saison is, well, a farm girl. Not as exotic, not as well-pedigreed and certainly not as complex; but sweet, pretty, and a delightful comfort. I’d gladly be alone with either on a dark autumn night … on Earth or Barsoom.
In other news, I’m getting excited for eight genre-bending days at Fantastic Fest 2012, starting next Thursday. It’s my fourth time attending the biggest horror/sci-fi/fantasy/action/Asian/cult film festival in the United States. This is my favorite week of every year, and I’m sure once again it’ll be a blast. Great food, great movies, and great beer! What could be better?
One Drink Minimum: I see your Schwarz is as big as mine
Friday night was the inaugural screening of the Summer of ’82 film series at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Ritz location: John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian. Yeah, that’s right. That one, with Ahnold. With James Earl Jones as the snake god and Mako as the crazy wizard, and the lamentation of the women and all that. Oh, yeah.
I’ve been stoked about the Summer of ’82 series since I first saw a teaser for it, and the badge I scored is one of my prize possessions for the next few months. To kick the series off with Conan was an absolute blast. The (apparently brand new) 35mm print was astoundingly beautiful, and despite having seen it again and again, I felt like I was watching the film for the first time. Arnold Schwarzenegger owned that role (sorry, Jason Momoa, I’d ride in your khalasar, but you didn’t teach me what was best in life) and the film is much more intelligent than most people give it credit for. It’s a wonderful clash of the classic and the new: Conan is more or less your standard orphan-turned-legendary-hero, Siegfried meets Spartacus. But Milius knows his Joseph Campbell, and he tells a story that hits all the conventional heroic journey notes while still staying profoundly modern, with a screenplay so sparse in dialogue it’s almost high art, a post-Jonestown message about kids and cults that still resonates 30 years later, and a powerful female lead character who is a warrior first and a love interest second. I rooted for those characters like I’ve never rooted before, and James Earl Jones was so terrifying as Thulsa Doom on the big screen (those eyes!) that I only laughed a little bit when he told Conan he was his father.
To go with the Schwarzeneggerian splendor unfolding on the silver screen, I ordered a pint of Live Oak Brewing Company’s seasonal Schwarzbier. When asked what sets Live Oak apart in the exponentially expanding Austin beer scene, what comes to mind first is that they do a better job of replicating traditional German styles than anyone else around. Their HefeWeizen is a true hefe, full of banana and clove flavors, not the bland hazy wheat beers now rolling off the production line of every regional brewery. Their Pilz is a real-deal Bohemian pilsner, with crisp Czech malt and refreshing Saaz hops that fill every sip with flavor. These aren’t even styles I’m all that fond of, but I love that Live Oak does them well. I knew their take on the traditional German black lager known as a schwarzbier would be no exception.
The color was the deepest black, opaque. It seemed darker than most schwarzbiers and black lagers I’ve had, but that could have been the dim light of the movie theater. There wasn’t much aroma, but what I could pick up from it was dark chocolate and caramel, with the slightest hint of banana esters. Same with the flavor, which was subtle and refreshing, though chocolatey and with a little noble hop bite tapering off into a faint mocha java aftertaste. I found the mouthfeel a little thin for my taste, but I find that with black lagers a lot; I tend to be more of an ale guy, really, and perhaps my palate is still too calibrated for stout to really appreciate the thinner, more refreshing and crisp nature of a schwarzbier. But for all that, I enjoyed it. Once again Live Oak proved that they know German beer, and play with convention as well as any brewery in Central Texas.
The next screening in the Summer of ’82 series is Mad Max 2 (a.k.a. The Road Warrior). Since that show is not at an Alamo Drafthouse location, I’ve no idea yet whether there will be a beer available there that will pair as nicely and thematically with that film as this one did. If anyone can get their hands on some banged-up, greasy, post-apocalyptic cans of VB from the land of Oz, I won’t say no.
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.