Saturday, November 24, 2012

Beer: Shock Top, Heavy Seas, and Leinenkugel's

Ahh, time to relax with some top-notch craft beers, right? Especially after the ushering in of the retail workers' nightmare season. So here's three beers reviewed. A shame I didn't care much for any of them. Surely next round will be better. 

Ratings, as ever, range from 1 (bottom of the barrel) to 5 (perfect). So what you see here are some mediocre beers. Give them a try and see what you think, though. And let me know how far off base I am in my tastings!

Yes, this is a thiny-disguised Anheuser-Busch/InBev product (corporate beer alert!), but with the apocalyptic theme and addition of chilis and chocolate malts, I had to at least give this one a trial spin.

Cloudy ruby, with tan head. No discernible lace. Nose is quite unusual -- chili and spice are first to make their presence known. I also get a bit of fruitiness in there, but it's subtle. Taste is chocolate, with a hint of heat from the chilis and spices. 

It's a different kind of flavor, and unlike anything else I've had, but at the same time, not one I'd care to revisit, either. 

If ever there were a need for a beer with a need for a facelift, it's Heavy Seas, makers of the deilcious Hop3 IPA (which I've been a big fan of for several years). Their bottle designs don't lure me in, and they seem somehow drab. But anyway, I hadn't tried this "Uber Pils", so now's as good a time as any, right?

Pours a clean golden. with thick 3-finger head of off-white carbonation. Beautiful lace. Nose is grains, typically lager-like. Not bad, not outstanding. Taste is malty and nearly sweet at first, followed by a tangy, chewy, nearly boozy finish. I get a limited hops presence here. 

While this is definitely an "uber-pils", it's not one I'd chase down again.

Yes, Leine is another craft owned by the corporate SABMillerCoors conglomerate. Got this one as a gift, so let it be known I'd never spend my money on Leinenkugel's uniformly uninteresting brews. This one didn't change my mind.

Pours a deep, dark ruby. Thick head of quickly-dissipating fizzy tan bubbles. No lace. Nose says chocolate, cocoa nibs, and maybe a hint of vanilla. Actually it's more like a vanilla Coke. Weird. Taste is equally like a vanilla Coke, with an odd artificial sweetness. The finish shows this best of all. Not good. At all.

"Beijing Punk" DVD (director: Shaun M. Jefford)

Director Jefford did a wonderful job on this feature-length documentary, delving deeper into the burgeoning Chinese punk rock scene. What's so cool about this is that these underground artists in Beijing are truly underground, as their oppressive government certainly opposes their individuality and message. They are under constant threat from their government more than we in the Western world can imagine.

Skinhead/punk band Misandao, indie band Hedgehog, and classic punkers Demerit are the main focuses here, as Jefford accompanies them to clubs, shows, and on the streets of Beijing, where they are truly outsiders in their leather jackets, mohawks, tattoos, and studded jewelry. The bands' attitudes and thuggish behavior (especially in Misandao and Demerit's cases) may seem juvenile and stereotypical for an English or American punk band, but these artists are at the forefront of a new attitude in China, expressing themselves socially and politically -- a radical step in such a restrictive state. "Beijing Punk" shows a new awareness in a culture, looking at democracy from an outsider's viewpoint. These bands have plenty to shout about, and this documentary is inspiring and engrossing. (Seminal Films via MVD Visual)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beer: A Rogue Thanksgiving!

Rogue Ales, out of  Newport, Oregon, is a legendary craft brewery (and craft distillery), with pretty far-reaching distribution and a generally well-respected name. I've had several of their brews before, but nothing has really moved me. I recently found myself with a couple of bottles, courtesy of bzach. Remember when scoring at home, the scale is from 1 (swill) to 5 (swank). 3 would be average, and a score below 3 entails one to avoid.

As with the following bottle, this one wasn't dated. Take that into consideration.  Without bottle dating, I can't say how fresh or stale these Rogue brews were.

Pours a deep, dark brown (nearly black), with subtle ruby highlights. Average head, and minimal lace. Nose is a little roasty. I get a hint of mocha, but it's not strong at all. Taste is deeply roasty, with hints of dark chocolate, coffee, burnt fruit. This is a rich porter, definitely with a heavy character, and the mocha tones come out better as it warms a bit. 

Still, not a favorite of mine, and not one I'd care to try again.

This popular brew (likely more for the name) was among my early craft beer enticements. How can you NOT resist trying "Dead Guy Ale"? I'm mixed on this one, as my initial review was pretty positive, but a recent bottle left me disappointed. More on that later.

Pours a handsome amber, with thick head. Nice and ornate Brussels lace. Malty nose, bready... Flavor is instantly sharp on the palate, with a toasty graininess. I get some warm fruit hints, as well. And, a little alcohol burn in the finish. Enjoyable, with plenty of flavor. Superb!

As an added note, the last bottle I had was suspected of being out of date. It wasn't very good.

"The Color Out Of Space (aka "Die Farbe")" DVD (director: Huan Vu)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name, this German indie was shot in stark black & white, effectively adapting Lovecraft's tale into a wicked and weird sci-fi/horror crossover.

Opening with some bad digital/green screen effects, "The Color" quickly picks up steam, telling the tale of a young man searching for his father in beautiful rural Germany. The son eventually tracks his father down, and uncovers a mystery dating back to just after World War II, involving a meteorite, a bizarre colored substance, and mutations on the neighboring farms.

Despite a shaky opening, "The Color Out Of Space" succeeds (despite a microscopic budget) in capturing a sinister, off-kilter vibe. The acting is solid, as is the cinematography. Director Vu has crafted a must-see for serious Lovecraft fans, as this one captures the vibe well. (Brinkvision)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beer: Winter In Colorado (Odell, Boulder, and New Belgium)

Ah, Winter in Colorado. Here's a series of themed beers, all from the wonderful state of Colorado, and all worthy of your taste buds. 

I've been reading and hearing about Odell Brewing for some time, but it's not available in backward Indiana. So I managed to snag a some bottles during a recent trip to St. Louis' impeccable Wine & Cheese Place. And I'm glad I did.

This beautifully-designed bottle (as all of Odell's beers are lovingy housed in) pours a clean, rusty amber, with thick, foamy off-white head. Exquisite and fine lacing. Aroma is malty up front, followed by some pine hoppiness. Good. Taste is pine hops, with plenty of body and a heavy malt presence to balance it all out. Overall, this is a remarkably well-balanced session pale ale, with a superlative taste and nice body. Better than many breweries' IPAs!

This is Odell's seasonal Winter ale, and as with all of Odell's other beers, it's a beautifully-designed bottle, and perfectly palatable contents inside, too. 

Pours a murky ruby-amber, with a large head of tan bubbles. Extensive and detailed spider-web lace. Nice. Nose is a malty caramel-toffee in character. Pleasing enough. Taste is similar -- heavily malted, with tones of toffee and caramel, and a light hoppy finish. This one drinks like a heavier amber ale, and holds up well as a heavy-bodied night-time session brew for the colder months.

Boulder, Colorado is a wonderful place, but I've not been a huge fan of legendary Boulder Beer's products. This seasonal Winter ale is quite nice, though.

Deep amber, with a thick head of off-white foam. Beautiful lace! Nose is sweet and malty, with definite caramel and toffee tones. Taste is heavy on the toasty malts, with more caramel and sweet toffee. Seems heavy on the body, almost thick & sticky in mouthfeel. Finishes with a slight dryness. Overall, a decent Winter Warmer, but not one I'd return to.

I fell in love with this seasonal last year. This is the second year for Snow Day, and I'm saddened to learn that New Belgium will be replacing it next year, with something called "Accumulation". I'm hoping it's a hopped-up version of Snow Day. But I will miss this one.

Dark caramel/amber, with a fearsome 3-finger head. Lace just about as extensive and impressive. Wow. Spectacular presentation. Aroma is fresh pine, floral, and citrus. Hoppy happiness. Taste is complex, beginning with a mild roasty malt, followed by a subtle citrus/pine bite in the middle. The finish brought a slightly bitter hops character, though by no means a hop bomb. Balanced well, this enjoyable ale really impressed me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Grindhouse Hostage" 2xDVD

This 2-disc, 3-movie set of 70's-era hardcore misses the mark more than it hits, but that doesn't mean there aren't some entertaining scenes here and there. All three films are centered on hostage situations, as the title implies, but all three are vastly different.

Up first is "Virgin Hostage", which would've worked if not for the male characters' saggy, limp performances. And I mean that in every sense. As in the actors can't get, uh, interested in the ladies. It's a tale of a gang of bank robbing fools who abduct several young ladies, and attempt to mount them. Sad, really.

"Play Only With Me" fares much better, as a girl (Kris) has a one-night stand with unwitting Richard, who doesn't realize (until it's too late) that Kris is an obsessive, gun-toting stalker, possibly homicidal, and threateningly jealous of Richard's serious girlfriend (played by the fine Desiree West). This one has some fair dialogue, some solid action, and some well-endowed ladies. No problems there!

The final film here is a Danish import, and overdubbed. It's called "The Blue Balloon", and is a tale of a ruthless lesbian white slave trader who sells a hapless young wife to a series of awful men. It's a sad and lonely tale of a woman broken and degraded, and in today's climate, this is a tough one to watch.

So, in summation -- win some and lose some. If this weren't enough to convince you, there's a plethora of trailers as an added bonus on disc 2. (After Hours Cinema)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Slave Girls On Auction Block 1313" DVD (director: Bob Gonzo)

Not sure where "Bob Gonzo" comes from, but from the looks of this micro-indie sleazefest, he's possibly from the porn world. But this softcore sexploitation film offers only breasts galore, and an overabundance of hammy over-acting, awful characters, and ludicrous sets. Not much to see here.

Not much to say about "Slave Girls On Auction Block 1313", either, other than it's a tale of a sordid group of kidnappers who auction off lovely lasses to the highest bidder. The girls do their thing (unconvincingly), flash some flesh, and that's it. "Private Dick" "Rod Danger" comes to the rescue, complete with sexual innuendo overload. This one's pure trash cinema, with no apologies, but it doesn't have the titillation or storytelling to inspire much more than yawns of indifference . (Video Outlaw/Alternative Cinema)