Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Brewvie Review: The Walking Dead

This will be the first Brewvie Review of a TV series, but it had to be done. And now that I've done it once, expect me to do it for some of the other shows the wife and I plop down to watch during the week.

But I'll start off with AMC's The Walking Dead, a startling good adult take on a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies.

Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by a zombie epidemic. The Walking Dead tells the story of the weeks and months that follow after the apocalypse.

After watching the first five episodes (of the initial 6-episode run), I can say that it's the best new show on television. Period.  Apparently millions of viewers agree as the first episode (which aired on Halloween night) was the highest rated cable show ever for those in the 18 - 49 age bracket.  Fran even loves it!  A total of 5.5 million viewers watched Sunday's episode, which is 15% more then the crowd that watched the fourth episode. The season finale airs this coming Sunday, but if you missed the Dead Wagon the first time around... don't fret. AMC will be airing all five previous episodes marathon-style before the finale on Sunday.  Check your local listings for the time.

TWD is based on Robert Kirkman's comic book series of the same name.  The television adaptation is written and executive produced by three-time Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont - he of the great Steven King versions of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist. Kirkman is executive producing with Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens), David Alpert, and Charles "Chic" Eglee (Dexter). So there's a bona fide kick ass creative team behind this show.

With zombies comes gore. It's a necessity. Much like malt and hops are a necessity to make beer. The great thing about this particular show is that they don't do gore for the sake of doing gore. There are some heinous scenes to be sure, but the series isn't about killing zombies in the most grotesque splatterirific way possible... it's about the living, breathing humans left behind in the aftermath of the apocalypse.  It's brilliantly executed and at times emotionally draining.

Sadly, AMC only half-heartedly bet on the success of TWD.  They're no doubt kicking themselves in the arse right about now for not at least doubling down and going for 12 or 13 episodes in the first season. Ratings for this zombie-fest continue to climb faster then the national debt and only a few weeks after the premiere episode AMC ordered an additional 13 episodes. TWD is such a hit that Fox International Channels also renewed the series after record-breaking premiere ratings in over 120 countries.

Aaaah, but there's a twist.  It's uncertain as to when those next 13 episodes will be ready for public consumption.   While AMC has not officially announced when the next season will go into production, rumors persist that it won't air until October of 2011 to coincide with AMC's annual Fearfest.

A word of advice to AMC:  this would not only suck badly, but would also be a very, very, very bad idea.

We all know that TV executives are, well... idiots. Every year they repeatedly prove to the viewing public that they have zero clue as to what we the people actually like to watch.  Let me reiterate that. The people I'm referring to are not the same sheeple who watch "reality" shows like Dancing with the D-List Has Beens, Sing for Your Supper Suckah, or The Hardashians.  In many ways TV execs are like politicians really.  So waiting an entire year to get new episodes of  The Walking Dead on the air would kill (pardon the pun) the incredible support - hell, let's call it a world-wide phenomena - this show has managed to garner in such a short time. And any exec at AMC who thinks differently should be forced to take a bullet to the head. Cuz everyone knows the only way to kill a zombie, politician, or TV exec is to put a bullet through their brain pan. 

Besides being a great show, there's a lot of interesting social networking going on around TWD as well.  The website is replete with behind the scenes pictures and video interviews with producers and actors. Games, contests and smart phone apps are also available. There's even a Facebook page, a blog and a podcast. Oh, but it doesn't stop there!  There are Twitter accounts for not just the show itself (http://twitter.com/WalkingDead_AMC), but many of the main characters (i.e., Sheriff Rick Grimes, Lori Grimes, Andrea, Glenn, Merle, Zombies, etc.) are tweeting as though they are really alive in a post-zombie apocalyptic world.  It's pretty damn neat!  You can see the list of TWD twitterers here.

With all that said... The Walking Dead gets a resounding FIVE BASHES TO THE HEAD!

Brew Suggestion for TWD

Much like Highlander "there can be only one."  And that one is Dead Guy Ale from the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon.  Could there be any beer more appropriate?  No. 

There's an interesting back story to how Dead Guy was born.  The logo was created as a tap sticker to celebrate the Mayan Day of the Dead for Casa U Betcha in nearby Portland, Oregon. The design proved to be so popular that Rogue decided to make it the label for their Maierbock ale.

Today, Dead Guy Ale is a German style Maibock that weighs in at a very respectable 6.6% ABV, and contains 40 International Bittering Units that gives it just enough hop kick to the head.

Dead Guy is made from malts with exotic names like Northwest Harrington, Klages, Maier Munich and Carastan - all of which could be places full of zombies. Perle and Saaz hops are added, along with yeast named after my favorite video game growing up as a child (Pacman).  It's all brewed up in nothing but free range coastal water.  Free range coastal water... get it?

Now that you know about the coolest new show on the Boob Tube, be sure to "Spread the Dead," cuz "The Dead has Spread!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beer is as beer does

It's not about what beer is, but what beer does.
That's a quote from Erik "Big" Boles, my business partner and the Founder/CEO of Beer Tap TV.  It's one of the many quotables he and I have come up with to nutshell our philosophy on the juggernaut that is craft beer.

Part of the reason we come up with these (sometimes) clever sayings is to keep everyone - ourselves included - focused on the simple facts:
  1. Beer is alcohol.
  2. Beer is fun.
  3. We drink beer to get buzzed and have fun. Don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

I'll admit, I don't always buy into some of the concepts Erik tosses around because he's not the "Beer Geek" of the group... I am. However, over the last year or so we've seen the line between "Beer Geek" and "Beer Snob" blur to the point that the two are dangerously close to becoming one and the same. The last thing the craft beer industry needs is a bunch of  elitist snobs turning beer it into something it's not. Making it less accessible to Jack and Jill Sixpack is not the goal here.

But I digress...

I want to focus on another big reason we all drink beer. Contrary to the great George Thorogood, most of us do not like to drink alone. Most of us drink with our friends, or the person sitting next to us at the bar, the bartender, or the like-minded sports fan across the bar. Anyone that's within earshot really. We do so because it's part of our DNA. 

You may have seen the many news reports lately trumpeting beer as the lubricant that brought about the rise of civilization. For many beer lovers, this is not news. Heck, it's the reason I started "Confessions of a Beer Geek" in the first place. Indulge me for a second while I quote my mission statement, which I wrote over three years ago:
Beer is the elixir of the gods. A refreshing beverage made of hops, barley and a pantheon of other delicacies that when looked at properly - through beer goggles perhaps, has quite literally changed the entire course of human history.
A mash tun of scientific evidence is accumulating that now backs up that statement. Beer did in fact play a very important role in mankind's evolution from nomadic hunter-gatherers to a settled, civilized people.  Man discovered that planting crops allowed him to control his own destiny. No longer would he be held under the cruel thumb of Mother Nature, moving to and fro aimlessly across the continents in constant search of food.

But growing grains and cereals, and turning that into viable sustenance, wasn't as easy as walking down to the corner market. Making food was daily, back breaking work. Unlike today, early man - Man 1.0 if you like - was accomplished at using every last bit of everything he had. "Waste not want not" was a reality, not just a quaint phrase from olden days. The skill of farming begat the skill of brewing... probably quite by accident. Let's take a peak into the past to see what that first encounter with beer may have been like:

In the Beginning

Ancient Man 1, let's call him Ahikibani:  (paraphrased from ancient Sumerian) "Oh no!  I've left this pot of grain out in the elements overnight.  The wife is going to kill me!"

Ancient Woman 1, who happens to be Ancient Man 1's wife, Nakurtum: "You donkey ass!  I told you to bring that in last night. Why don't you ever listen to me!?!"

Ahikibani: (under his breath) "Because you're a Harpy."

Nakurtum:  "I heard that you stanky, good for nuthin' Elamite!  Now it's ruined!"

Ahikibani, resigned to a life of name calling and perpetual "Honey Do Lists," picks up the fermenting bowl of liquid gruel. Not being sound of mind or body he slurps deeply from the bowl.

Ahikibani: Nom nom nom nom

Nakurtum: "What are you doing?!"

Ahikibani:  "I spent eight hours grinding this $#!* up with a rock. Figured since it was 'ruined' I might as well get something out of it, right?"

Nakurtum:  "You're stupid."

Ahikibani: "Tell me something new..."  nom nom nom

As Nakurtum drones on an odd thing happens: her  voice slowly fades and Ahikibani becomes dizzy, and... a bit numb. The endless pain of a perpetually hard life suddenly vanishes and Ahikibani experiences, perhaps for the first time -  unadulterated joy.  The first happy man in history slurps more of the now tasty gruel from the bowl and lets out a burp that resonates down through history.

The End.

E. Michael Smith / Wikipedia
An Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt.
A most peculiar thing happened when these wandering bands of scavengers settled down and and started farming and brewing:  they came into contact with other groups who discovered the exact same thing.

Now, with man being the inherently fallible creature that he is, these groups probably beat on each other with clubs and spears for a while, but they most assuredly partied (feasted) with each other too. Back then a feast had an entirely different meaning though. Stuffing your gullet at the local Golden Corral for under ten bucks this was not.
Feasts are essential in traditional societies for creating debts, for creating factions, for creating bonds between people, for creating political power, for creating support networks, and all of this is essential for developing more complex kinds of societies," explains archaeologist Brian Hayden at Canada's Simon Fraser University. "Feasts are reciprocal — if I invite you to my feast, you have the obligation to invite me to yours. If I give you something like a pig or a pot of beer, you're obligated to do the same for me or even more.

Bottom line:  people settled down and started growing grain (and making beer), which in turn led to the establishment of communities where people sat down with each other over a meal (and a beer), which in turn set the foundation for... say it with me now: CIVILIZATION!  Beer is as much a part of our DNA as hairy backs and thunder thighs. Deal with it.

Can you imagine the consternation going through the ranks of sphincter restricted, neo-Prohibitionist types at this revelation? I have to LOL!

Here are some fun facts to funk with your mind:  Humans have been brewing beer for thousands of years.  The Mesopotamian "Epic of Gilgamesh," one of the world's oldest works of literature, contains multiple references to the elixir of the gods.  Besides being the oldest alcoholic beverage on the planet, a Mesopotamian recipe for beer is the oldest written document we currently know to exist. Yes, Virginia... even the ancients were doing keg stands like frat boys.

In the end it really isn't about what beer is, but what it does - every day, to every one, in every place. Whether at the beginning of time, or last night at your local brewpub. And based on what it's done for us in the past... can you imagine what it will do for us in the future?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hallelujah to homebrew and Westvleteren 12

From the depths of the Communal Confessional...

Laura Deibler sent an Email to tell me about a beer song her husband Dan wrote.  He took the Leonard Cohen song, "Hallelujah," and changed up the words so it spoke heavenly volumes about the uber hard to get Westvleteren 12 the St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium.  In the video he not only sings (and plays guitar marvelously well), but does a side by side comparison of his homebrew, appropriately named Hallelujah, to the Trappist Treat.

Let me just say... I'm jealous of you, Dan.  I have yet to to taste a Westy!  

Oh, and Dan... if you're up to it, send me a bottle of Hallelujah and I'll give it a go on Beer Tap TV


Friday, November 12, 2010

Beer blogging on the go was a no go

Right now I'm sitting at my desk, exactly a full week removed from day one of the Beer Bloggers Conference I referenced in last Friday's entry. As you can see by the lack of even one single entry between that post and now I:  1) didn't remember to blog, and 2) was in fact not sober, which 3) directly affected my ability to even want to write. So ya... blogging on the go = epic failure.

I think that post was more of a test to see if the Android Blogger app for my Droid X works (it does, very well actually), combined with the recent burn out I've been experiencing for well over a month. I now know what my buddy "Chipper" Dave Butler, he of the blog Fermentedly Challenged, felt like.  Being entrenched in the beer world - day in and day out - for over three years has finally caught up to me.  It's a big reason I haven't been around, or as I like to refer to it in a cool Jack Baueresque sorta of way - I've been off the grid. But I think I've finally turned the corner and see the light at the end of the tunnel, the bottom of the beer glass, etc. and so on.  I'm getting the writing bug again and it feels good.  Almost as good as downing a great dark winter beer. Mmmmm.... beeeeeer.

The mega event that is the Great American Beer Festival had something to do with that. This year it was far more work then fun, but in the end, well worth it.  We live streamed nearly a dozen hours of footage from the event itself, which you can see here on the BeerTapTV.com website.  Everything from our trip to Falling Rock, to the Rare Beer Event at Wynkoop, to the entire member's only awards ceremony.  It's well worth a look.

Last weekend we covered the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder and over the next week or so we'll start posting some of the talks we filmed, including Greg Koch's keynote speech, Jay Brooks talk about the future of beer blogging, Erik Boles energized rant on how to monetize this niche, etc.  As I suspected it was a very informative and helpful conference and the 100+ bloggers from around the country (and one from England) look forward to next year's conference... in Portland, Oregon!

Now comes the Holiday season, and a much needed respite before we journey far north to the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in mid-January.  Having never been to the 49th and largest state, it should be a whole lot of fun. We're looking forward to hanging out with the gaggle of brewers from "The Land of the Midnight Sun."  Huge props to fellow beer geek Bill Howell, the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year and author of Drinking on the Last Frontier for helping to get us up there. Alaska... in January.  It should be veeeeery interesting indeed! ;)


Friday, November 5, 2010

Beer blogging on the go

Right now I'm sitting in the passenger seat of the Beer Tap TV beer wagon on the way up to Boulder for the first ever Beer Bloggers Conference.

Despite what Andy Crouch might think of beer bloggers l think this conference will be fun, informative for the bloggers while simultaneously giving some degree of Ilegitimacy to the industry.

With that said... I'll try to do so updating live from the conference. Providing 1) I remember, and 2) Im sober. We'll be live streaming some stuff on Beer Tap TV, so go check out our site for details.

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