Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Classics

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
With a super busy weekend coming up for Halloween, I just wanted to give a little shout-out to some great movies that I love this time of year. See… I’ve mentioned it before, but Halloween is not one of my favorite times of year. Not for any particular reason either. It’s not like… I had a serious traumatic event that made me hate scary things… or it brings back repressed memories… and God knows that I love all the slutty and/or creative outfits out there. Sure I kinda think/know that it’s a materialistic holiday in a lot of ways & is really just a way to celebrate Pagan rituals and commercialism simultaneously… but you know Christmas is my favorite, so that’s not really it either. I guess when it boils down to it… I enjoy Halloween… but I’m not super pumped about it. For me, it’s just the time of year where pumpkin pops up in everything you can smell or taste… Reese’s PB Cups come in pumpkin & bat shapes… apple cider becomes prevalent once again… and the new awful horror sequels/rip-offs come out to make money on the opening weekend before everybody finds out it sucks but luckily it only cost like… $30 to produce. That’s about all it means for other than throwing together a costume in like 15 minutes before going to get drunk at a party or two.
This year though… it’s a little different. It’s Pumpkin Beer season… and we’ve got plenty of it. My ladyfriend and I are going with a new Halloween costume… but you’ll have to wait & see what it is… but I’m about 99.9999% sure that there won’t be anybody else at the party with these outfits… and even if so, we’ll just be hanging with the coolest mutha lovers alive. There’s not one, but TWO kickass keggers that we’re going to on this perfectly timed weekend. Yes, I’m a man in my thirties with a loving adult woman & I’m still excited about keggers. If you’re not excited about the idea of a kegger with good peeps… you’re pretty much dead inside. Also, we’ll be hosting our own little soirĂ©e Saturday morning for Learn to Homebrew Day… and all of which is pretty awesome… so yeah, good times.
This entry though, I just wanted to make like… a little list of the top dozen or so of my favorite movies to watch this time of year… and in no particular order other than maybe alphabetical. Great horror flicks that I think everybody should check out if they haven’t already… or if you have & liked it… check them out again. Always open for suggestions if you have any though…
·         Aliens” (1986) – Yes the original is good for the scares & building suspense… but this one has space marines. I’ll also watch the “Predator” movies (and have earlier this week even) at the drop of a hat.
·         Cabin in the Woods” (2012) – This fun new classic is just… absolutely amazing & an ode to just about all other horror movies in itself. If you haven’t seen this already, go check it out now.
·         The Descent” (2005) – I thought this was a pretty f**king terrifying little movie… but if you’re squeamish and/or claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you can deal though, check it out. Beautifully shot & absolutely terrifying.
·         The Frighteners” (1998) – We watched this one this past weekend… and I’m surprised that not more people love this movie like I do. Sure it’s kinda comedy-horror and has its super-campy moments… but it’s just such a good, weird, twisted story… and the special effects still hold up pretty well (thanks Peter Jackson) and if you haven’t seen it… it’s on Netflix, watch it now. You have no excuse.
·         Ghostbusters” (1985) – Not really a scary flick per se… but I watch it anytime for any reason. Classic.
·         Halloween” (1978) – I dig the “unstoppable force” kind of movies, especially when well done… so usually the original before it gets to a bunch of cheap cop-out sequels… but yeah, this movie is legend. Check it out. I even kinda liked the Rob Zombie remakes but… a lot of the characters in those were just retarded so I’d say check out the original.
·         The Haunting” (1963) – Just a good classic horror flick… and I’ll watch just about anything with Vincent Price in it like “Last Man on Earth”, “House of Wax”, “House on Haunted Hill” or anything like that. All the remakes can suck it though… hard…
·         Poltergeist” (1982) – This movie is one of those great little nuggets that’s a decent PG-13 scarefest that everybody should check out who likes to be scared but’s squeamish. I’d also recommend newer movies like “Insidious” or “The Conjuring” or “Silent House” if that’s your thing. Even though I really liked “Hostel”, I can definitely understand the lack of appeal to “torture porn” movies.
·         Psycho” (1960) – Really anything Hitchcock is just f**king amazing in my humble opinion… I have probably only seen like… 10-20% of the stuff that the guy has made during his illustrious career, but the vast majority of it has been incredible to watch and covers a LOT of genres… but this one of course is probably his most masterful. If you don’t know the premise/story, then you have been living in a cave with your eyes closed & ears plugged for over a half century so you’re probably not reading this blog… but go watch it… and then watch it again. Honorable mention to a little known flick called “Peeping Tom” that ALMOST stole this movie’s title as The Original Slasher but… alas… it was an English movie… and nobody saw it until later. Oh well… check it out too. Also, newer one about psychos you might like… “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” 80’s indie flick starring Michael Rooker.
·         Pumpkinhead” (1988) – I watched this & the first sequel with Izzy a few months ago… and yeah, sometimes you like to watch the really good bad movies… and you can basically throw about 95% of the horror flicks from the 1980’s into that batch… but this one at least had Lance Henriksen & a sorta alien-predator hybrid looking thing from Stan Winston (I like to think it was going to be the original AVP crossover that never came to be).
·         Quarantine” (2008) – Everybody knows that “Blair Witch Project” started the whole found-footage horror genre but… let’s be honest, it wasn’t scary at all (and the sequel was absolutely sh*t). This movie is basically a found-footage zombie flick… and it was actually pretty good. Check it out. Also, as far as found-footage movies that are kinda badass, I highly recommend “Afflicted” and “V/H/S” as well. Maybe even the first few “Paranormal Activity” movies too. I feel like the first two might be okay.
·         Troll 2” (1990) – As I was saying earlier, who doesn’t like a good bad movie? Well, it really doesn’t get more horribly bad yet awkwardly good than this movie. Check it out… and then maybe check out the documentary “The Best Worst Movie” and it’ll explain a LOT of what you just saw… except they didn’t mention the main evil witch lady in the documentary. I wonder what she’s been up to the past twenty years…
·         Zombieland” (2009) – As you know, zombie flicks typically aren’t my favorite… but I love when there’s a good dash of humor mixed in with it. Yes, I know that everybody else out there loves “Shaun of the Dead” ten times more than this flick, but that’s their opinion… and this is MY blog. No offense to “Shaun” but I just enjoyed this movie more. I’d also recommend checking out “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” or… for a real zombie experience, maybe some of the classics like “Night of the Living Dead” or “Dawn of the Dead” (heck, even Zach Snyder’s version if okay… and there’s a number from Richard Cheese).
I know there’s a lot of other great horror flicks out there like “The Shining”, “The Exorcist”, “Rosemary’s Baby” and all those too… but this is my list… and though those are great… here are some others to check it out if you haven’t already. Enjoy! Happy Halloween everybody!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giant Monster Movie Updates

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Saturday night, Izzy & I finally watched the “Godzilla” remake starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe & Bryan Cranston (for like four minutes). Basically the plot of the movie is that there are these giant monsters throughout the world that the government has been keeping from us in the South Pacific… and when I say giant, I mean absolutely epic in scope… like ABSOLUTELY UNREALISTICLY EPIC IN SCOPE!!! (clears throat) I’m going to warn you now that… I legitimately BOOOOOOOO’d a few times while watching this movie at home… so I have a few issues with it… that being said, I actually enjoyed some parts of it… but more on that later. So there are these giant monsters that the world’s governments have either been tracking or luring to certain areas because… they feed on radiation… whether it’s radiation from a nuclear power plant… or apparently deep in the oceans… don’t question it, just go with it. Well, in 1999, there’s a situation where a nuclear power plant in Japan is destroyed and everybody is evacuated from the city… but it’s not like a tsunami or earthquake… but the government quarantines the area… and a man who lost his wife (Cranston) is on a mission to find out. Fifteen years later, his son (Johnson) is grown up… and he may have some answers… so they break into the zone and… basically all hell breaks loose & the giant monsters are now loose. Enter Japanese scientist (Watanabe) and his poorly-explained assistant… and they talk about another giant monster who may be able to save all of humanity from these other giant monsters… and they call him… GOJIRAAAA!!! Okay, that’s the plot… if you haven’t seen it yet… you’re not going to… and if you like big scale action flicks, then… by all means go see “Pacific Rim”. It’s much better. However, if you liked “Pacific Rim” and need something to hold you over until the sequel comes out… check this movie out. Now… for the good… and the BOOOOOOOOO!!!
What I Liked About Godzilla:
·         It’s better than the 1998 version that they did – Granted, it’s hard to do worse… but what I really mean is… the 1997 version was meant to the next big blockbuster for everybody… from the guy who brought you “Independence Day” and such… and so yeah, it had the big epic scale, set in New York, CGI of the time, comic relief, odd love story, all that crap that pops up in those movies regardless of the subject matter. Why was Matthew Broderick the lead? I don’t know… Has the female lead been in anything of note since then? I don’t think so… and honestly, all I knew her from before that was that short-lived TV Sitcom “Partners” that she was in with Tate Donovan & Jon Cryer. Fun fact: According to her IMDb page, she was in “Natural Born Killers” AND “True Romance”… but was so unmemorable that nobody remembers. I’m assuming she was a quick fatality in both movies. Anyway, the 1998 version sucked save for a few songs on the soundtrack (NOT YOURS, DIDDY!!!) and this version keeps to the subject matter a little better… and the tone of the movie is more correct for the subject matter involved. No stupid “That’s a lot of fish!” lines or running gags about how stupid his f**king last name is. Apparently this isn’t really proclaiming the awesomeness of this movie, just saying the other version is a piece of sh*t.
·         Cinematography & Tone – Yup, I’m already reaching for this one… but yeah, beautifully shot in San Francisco (because yes, it’s a disaster movie… so they all must come here to start the Armegeddon) and a few other places… though I suspect there was a LOT of CGI involved there too. Izzy & I are still trying to figure out where their “OAKLAND, CA” location was because those trees don’t exist in the Bay Area but still… it’s dark, pretty evenly paced, build to crescendos well, take time for some characters to do their thing but it doesn’t seem to dwell like some of these movies can.
·         Keeping to Source Material – Apparently it did a little better as keeping it to the 50’s versions… and they at least tried to explain how these kinds of things could exist other than “sea iguanas + radiation = HOLY SH*T!!!” Oh wait… now that I think about it… maybe this point is a push.
·         Bryan Cranston’s Cameo – Let’s face it, that’s all it can really be called. He was only in the movie for a few minutes, but he acted everybody’s asses off during those 2-3 days of shooting. He started as loving husband / typical busy dad with a young kid he doesn’t spend enough time with… had the emotional breakdown scene when his wife died… he played a pretty good “I’M NOT CRAZY” a few scenes later when he popped up… and he was a convincing corpse (spoiler alert) all within about five minutes of screen time. As for everybody else in the movie, I’m just hoping that the goal of the director was to keep everybody as uninteresting as possible to keep the focus on the monsters (or rather the indication of monsters to come) and merely use characters as plot exposition explainers… because that’s basically what happened.
What I Absolutely Despised:
·         COCKTEASES!!! – Okay, the number one reason this movie pissed me right the f**k off as opposed to … is they would do such a great job of keeping you interested… through all the ridiculous exposition & scientific mumbo jumbo BS that they cooked up… and have this huge, slow, lengthy, rolling buildup to what you’ve wanted for YEARS… you’ve given yourself to this movie with the promise of an absolutely epic battle between giant monsters… and just as sh*t is about to get REAL… they cut to a scene of a baby watching about three seconds of a grainy ass news report on a TV the size of a toaster like it’s in the background of an opening credit sequence. BOOOOOOO!!! I DEMAND MY EPIC BATTLE!!! This is the first time this happens in this movie… and then about a half hour later… they do it again… build to an epic battle… POV shot of humans being locked into a bunker… and fade-in to the destruction of the city AFTER the battle. It’s almost literally like you’ve been crushing on a girl in high school… after a while you ask her out, take her out, build a relationship… go to the prom… it’s after prom… tonight’s the night… making out… undressing awkwardly… you’re unzipped… pre-fellatio… and then SLAM!!! Somebody shuts a door & you wake up an hour later having not felt a Goddamn thing because your prom date was a ghost & you apparently time traveled. BULLSH*T!!! Sure, the final battle is decent… again “Pacific Rim” was better… but inexcusable.
·         Ultimate Suspension of Disbelief – At nearly every juncture of this film, I had to just… go with it. The bullsh*t science involved… the bullsh*t government coverups… the bullsh*t decisions that the bullsh*t characters make… you just kinda have to say “Okay movie… I’m shutting down my brain now… take me away!” and then it just goes along. Towards the end I wouldn’t have been surprised if they tied in the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the backstory and Goku taught Godzilla how to KAMEHAMEHAAAAAAA!!! By the way, in the spirit of the movie, I’m pretty sure that’s what happens OFF-SCREEN leading up to the finale.
·         SCIENCE!!! – Google that sh*t please. Do you know what happens to living creatures that feed on large amounts of radiation & nuclear waste? NO, YOU DON’T!!! Because they cease to be living creatures… not become giant lizards twice as tall as the Transamerica Building (and ten times as wide) or Starship Trooper bugs that just kinda tip-toe across the Las Vegas Strip avoiding giant hotels… that can also willy-nilly release electromagnetic pulses and/or ZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP out of f**king nowhere. Although, it would explain this badass T-shirt…
·         Lead Male – So back to the story elements, the only character that’s even kind of memorable is Bryan Cranston’s… and he’s only there a few minutes early in the movie. Every… single… other… human… in this… movie… is… dull… as… dull… as… dull… as… you get the point. Nobody seems really all that overly concerned about the giant monsters ripping the world apart. Sure, they chase after them in battleships & planes and try to track them (though apparently that’s like tracking a Malaysian Airlines flight & they just lose these moving land masses pretty easily). The son? He’s a douche & doesn’t really show any emotion… even when his father dies… and he just kinda goes along (with the rest of the audience) doing whatever it takes to be in the next shot of the movie whether he’s really invited and/or trained/allowed to be a part of the next military operation. “Who are you kid?” “My name’s Ford, Ford Brody.” “Well that’s just f**king stupid. Obviously your dad named you?” “My dad was crazy Bryan Cranston from a few scenes ago? You arrested me for trespassing & I should be in a cell somewhere but… well… I’m not. I have a wife & kid back in…” “Yeayeayeayea nobody cares… go home to your wife & kid. We’ll get you on the next flight back… couch… Tokyo to San Francisco direct. You’re welcome.” “I’m in the Navy.” “No sh*t. You were in the Navy? Cool, we’re going to jump out of some airplanes… wanna come along?” “No, I’m gonna take that train… but I’m sure we’ll meet up again later & you’ll let me into your super-secret government force without asking too many questions later on…” Yeah, it’s actually even a little dumber than that, but I’m a fan of brevity… and I assume all the real conversations or reasoning happened off-screen. Sad too… cuz I really liked Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the “Kick Ass” movies & “Savages” to a certain extent.
·         Human Characters (cont’d) – As I mentioned before… DULL!!! The wife (Elizabeth Olsen) is basically just there so you can see hospital scenes & people going to fallout shelters. The Japanese scientist (Watanabe) is there for exposition… and you kind of expect him to not show a lot of emotion other than absolute awe… but the assistant scientist (played by Sally Hawkins) is just… not explained… I don’t think she speaks more than a few words and… ugh… there’s just nobody to care about or connect with in this movie… and it’s not just that I’m an insensitive prick either. They just do nothing of interest to get a rise out of anybody. By the way, here’s my impression of what everybody’s reaction should be… and would be in real life. “WHAT THE F**K IS THAT? ARE YOU SEEING THIS??? AH!!! HE JUST STOMPED ON THE HYATT RESORT!!! THAT’S THE BIGGEST F**KING THING I’VE EVER… HOLY SH*T, WHAT’S THAT??? IS THAT A GIANT FLYING BUG FROM STARSHIP TROOPER??? HUMANITY IS F**KED!!! F-U-K-T FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKT!!!”
·         Fat Godzilla / Tyranitar – Okay, I knew about this one thanks to updates of websites like Dark Horizons… but the design on Godzilla was kinda bad. Now, I originally thought “Oh cool, it’s supposed to be like the clunky guy-in-a-suit kind of twist” and then I thought about it… “No, he’s just f**king fat! Wait, how could something that large be so f**king fat? What does it eat? Bad scripts?” Then after watching the movie, Izzy figured it all out… apparently what we were watching wasn’t a Godzilla movie… it was a Pokemon movie… Tyranitar vs. Palkia!!! The fight scenes could’ve also been broken down to Tyranitar uses Roar… Attack fails… Palkia uses EMP… Lightning power negated… Palkia uses Mean Look… Tyranitar can no longer escape from battle… okay, obviously I’m not big on the Pokemon terminology but… apparently she has it down pretty damn good… and it’s sad how accurate it was

Anyway, it’s a movie… see it if you want… or go see “Pacific Rim”… at least it’s only a little racist…
Sunday night, we watched “Grizzly” which was apparently the first in MANY animal-villain films following the success of “Jaws” in the mid-70’s. Why did we check it out? Well, it’s apparently the best of those… and it just came up as a recommend somewhere… and why the hell not? What’s not to like about MAN-EATING BEARS??? Okay, so this movie is allegedly a blatant frame-by-frame rip-off of “Jaws” and… I mean… if you’re going to rip-off a movie, at least they made it a good one. Basically the story is about Labor Day weekend in a national forest… all the campers are out… and then a few hot chicks go missing… and long story short, they’re torn asunder by a bear… but not just any bear… a 15-foot, one-ton Grizzly!!! Well, a few other hot chicks get eaten… and then they bring in the big guns to get him… but the story follows a park ranger, a helicopter pilot & a naturalist as they go looking for this man-eating behemoth. Now… for being pretty low budget, I actually really liked this movie… and one thing this has on “Jaws” is that they had to use a real bear (because the robotic one was left out in the rain during shooting). The cinematography was great… dialogue is lacking but it’s the 70’s… it’s kinda your typical slasher flick from back then… Anyway, I say totally check it out if you’ve got nothing better to do… not a bad premise at all I guess… just low budget & rushed to capitalize on Jaws’ success… there’s some good potential there… oh, what’s that IMDb?
THEY’RE REMAKING “GRIZZLY”!!! Holy sh*t… and check out this cast! Thomas Jane from “Punisher” & “The Fog”? James Marsden from the “X-Men” movies? Scott Glenn from “Alien” & “Pumpkinhead”? Piper Perabo from “Coyote Ugly”? Adam Beach from “Windtalkers”? BILLY BOB THORNTON??? From “Inside Your Mama’s Panties (and Angelina’s lest we forget)”??? HOLY CRAP!!! When does this movie come out? I’m gonna… let’s face it, I’ll hafta wait for Netflix or something because there’s no way a movie this awesome will be a worldwide release… limited release only… but HOLY CRAP!!! I WANNA SEE THIS!!!
Anyway, that’ll do it for tonight, just wanted to let you know about a few movies… and I’ve rambled on long enough. Just interviewing new roommates & getting ready for the epic Halloweeen weekend… have a great day everybody!!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Tuesday night was the SF Homebrewers Guild Meeting where we had a guest speaker from Cerverceria de Mateveza, which is a small brewery here in the Mission District. We’re doing another collaboration brew with them this year & we discussed ideas for a Brown Ale that they would “mass produce” (I think 3 barrel system) with our help & consultation… and then people interested in watching how the brew is made can check it out & we would have a release party several weeks later when it’s ready. More details to come but it sounds like a lot of fun. Aside from that, we’ve had a LOT of interesting in our Learn to Homebrew Day next weekend so with the new Guild members, family & friends, we could have anywhere from 10-30 people showing up. I’m guessing more around 10-15  based on past RSVP’s but still, it should be a lot of fun.
Wednesday, I stayed at home sick as a dog. Basically what happened was I went to work on Tuesday & by lunch time, I had a little something in my throat… like if you slept with your mouth open, just a little dryness… then about the time my shift was over, I was sneezing a little bit… and then by the end of the guild meeting, I was starting to get cold shakes & stuff. Yup, your boy got ebola. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad… but even after drinking a bunch of juice & medicine, I wasn’t going anywhere Wednesday morning. I tried, but the ladyfriend was looking out for me… and my coworkers… by making sense. So I basically rested all day, drank juice & was back to work on Thursday (still about 80%) but perfectly fine by Friday. Yay!
While resting up, I watched a movie from 1990 that I really hadn’t seen before called “Darkman” starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand & directed by Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead” trilogy & “Spiderman” trilogy). Basically from what I understand, this movie came out a year after the original Batman with Michael Keaton & Tim Burton… and the whole dark superhero thing was looking to be capitalized on… and there was this director guy Sam Raimi who made these weird & innovative action movies with the first two “Evil Dead” movies (third one “Army of Darkness” came shortly after)… and he wanted to do something like Batman… but even darker. Apparently Raimi wanted to make “The Shadow” but couldn’t get the rights… and wanted Bruce Campbell to play the lead Peyton, but the producers didn’t think he was big time just yet… so basically he had to improvise and came up with the character of Darkman. The plot is that there’s a scientist named Peyton (Liam Neeson) who is working on synthetic skin in his home laboratory / studio where he occasionally hangs with his business suit girlfriend (McDormand). Girlfriend finds memos about her boss bribing zoning commissioners or something, tells her boss that she has the proof at home… and so boss sends hired muscle to get it… beating the crap outta Peyton, then blowing up him & his lab in the process. Now, horribly burned & disfigured, Peyton is taken to a hospital as a John Doe… they disconnect his nerve endings because the pain would be too much… but the lack of pain gives him both super strength… but also leaves his brain a bit of mess constantly feeling rage, sorrow & all kinds of emotions… so basically like Wonder Woman on the rag… but if she were the dude from “Taken” twenty years younger & horribly burned. Now, Peyton wants VENGEANCE!!! Oh… and to get his girlfriend back… so he uses his synthetic skin technology that only lasts for 99 minutes in the light to A) Set a tangled web of vengeance against those who destroyed his life; B) hang out with his girlfriend at carnivals & ice cream shops & sh*t; and C) Continue tangled web of VENGEANCE!!!
Now, with my new format, I’d usually tell you what I liked & what I didn’t like… but honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot that I didn’t like about this movie… especially by 1990 standards. I suppose the main reason that it wasn’t a bigger hit was that it was rated R due to some pretty violent imagery & some adult language (“TAKE THE F**KING ELEPHANT!!!”) that doesn’t really appeal to kids but fine if you’re an adults. Overall though, it was a pretty intriguing story, even if it was kinda hastily thrown together in response to Batman. Sam Raimi’s style is VERY prevalent with the wild & excited cuts and angles that we know from the Evil Dead & Spiderman movies… but maybe even on steroids a little bit here to give you a sense of what Peyton’s going through. Some of the effects are a little wonky by today’s standards… but this was 1990 so you can easily look past most of it. Liam Neeson does a great job of acting… and my only remark is that… the accent’s pretty bad at this point still. I mean… it works out pretty well when he’s Darkman, you know, not having lips & stuff… but some of the dialogue in the first act is like Lucky the Leprechaun trying to sound like he’s from Jersey or something. You know who REALLY steals the show in my opinion? The bad guys! The muscle man is named Durant, played by Larry Drake… and he’s just pure badass. He’s imposing, has a collection of fingers, has a kind of smooth, suave sophistication to his heinous brutality… and apparently he’s so badass that even though (spoiler alert) he gets blown up in a helicopter/tunnel collision, apparently there’s a sequel that I’ve yet to check out called “Darkman II: Return of Durant”. That’s right, in the sequel, the hired goon gets as much billing as the hero. That’s like the sequel to “Batman Begins” being called “The Dark Knight: Joker, B**ches!!!” Heck, even the girlfriend’s boss character who hires him is basically a perfectly sleazy, cheesy, smart, brash, cruel 1980’s businessman who not only hires goons to kill people in order to get a piece of paper… but within minutes is trying to console the “widowed” girlfriend… and then in the end, you find out that he’s actually a pretty street-wise little badass in his own right. Anyway, I highly recommend that you check this movie out if you haven’t already. It’s pretty damn good in my humble opinion.
Saturday night, we kegged our Pumpkin Ale & it looks pretty magnificent...

Also, see how much of our Imperial Stout has already blown off? It's only been a week...
...and a few humble brags about the view by my apartment on a beautiful World Series day, free of monsters & megamovie megadisasters here in the Bay Area...

Things are looking great for Learn to Homebrew Day next weekend with about 25 RSVPs (so about a dozen may actually show) and it’s going to be a great mix of new or interested homebrewers, a few seasoned vets, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and just beer enthusiasts in general. That will also be the filling of a Halloween Party sandwich on Friday night & Saturday night. No rest for the wicked… but hey, wicked people have the most fun. Have a great day everybody!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

State Comp Prelims & BIG BEER BREWING!!!

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Saturday morning, Izzy & I headed over to Faction Brewing to help out with the California State Homebrew Competition preliminaries, as hopefully the SF Homebrewers’ Guild will be taking over a major part of that in the years to come. It was a great learning experience to see how homebrew competitions happen behind the scenes, network with BJCP certified judges and experience homebrewers alike, and even gave us some insight into future entries. There were a bunch of great guys (and a few ladies) and it was a pretty damn interesting time. We also happened to help with one of the more interesting categories, Specialty Beers… which from what I can tell is basically the category for all beers that don’t really match with the BJCP guidelines 30+ other beer types. These are where you get a bunch of hybrid beers like “bourbon barreled aged vanilla porter with pumpkin pie spices, lemongrass, curry & caraway seeds” where obviously some of them really just have to many things going on… and can suffer from what I like to call Dr. Pepper Syndrome, where you have so many flavors going on, that you really only get one flavor from it. However, there were a lot of interesting examples submitted and while some weren’t particularly good to my particular unrefined palette, others were pretty interesting & well-made. Again, the whole process was very interesting… but perhaps I should get a little training in the field before I start waxing poetic about it to you. I’d hate to misinform you and have this all just be my opinion… though obviously I’d throw it in from time to time.

After helping out, we grabbed some BBQ@Lux food truck’s Sticky Icky Garlic Ribs (delicious) and decided to try some of Faction Brewing’s selections… ranging from their sampler with their staples like Pilsner, IPA, Belgian, etc. and even their Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter & award-winning Purdy Porter which actually won 3rd place for a Robust Porter at the Great American Beer Festival these past few weeks (and we actually tried at Elevation 66 last week) and it’s pretty fantastic. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the Alameda area… and their location has a beautiful view of San Francisco… and the airfield that fans of “Mythbusters” may recognize…

Sunday morning, we brewed our first attempt at a REALLY BIG beer… our first Imperial Stout that we’ve basically already dubbed $teve’s Birthday Cake since because of the extremely high sugar content and the rate that it’ll convert those sugars to alcohol, it won’t be fully ready for about 5-6 months, which puts it right around my birthday… but then it should also be around 11-12% ABV. Okay, so what makes this beer a little different? Well, with the vast majority of our brews thus far, the time involved in turning them from brewpot to ready to drink is about 4-6 weeks. That’s because the amount of sugars & yeast involved can convert enough in that time to produce a beer with about 4-6% ABV. We’ve had a few like the Winter Warmer & Bourbon Barrel Porter that took slightly longer because they had more sugars to convert into alcohol in order to produce about 7-8%. The problem is that for most yeasts, once they reach that high of alcohol content in the wort/beer, they start to die off because it’s too high of a level for them to survive… or it just takes them a lot longer to convert because there’s not as much sugar for them to eat. You may be asking right now, “$teve, exactly how much sugar are we talking about in order to get this kind of alcohol content? Are you making moonshine or something?” Well, for a five gallon batch that we’re making… it’s roughly 13 pounds of pure sugar total, in the form of dark dry malt extract, pure cane sugar, molasses and what is pulled from a few pounds of specialty grains. That works out to roughly a quarter-pound (120 grams) of sugars in every twelve-ounce bottle… that has been converted into alcohol. Mountain Dew & other sodas have about 45 grams in the same amount… but these are just different sugars & have been converted. Just something to think about…

Also, because of the high levels of sugars, you’ll need a lot more yeast than normal & constant aeration the first few weeks to start the conversion process as best you can, so that you can avoid problems with the yeast going stagnant and having to repitch halfway through... similar to our mead that we started last year, which by the way, we should see if it's better now. Less than 24 hours after throwing in the yeast, here's how active it has been already... luckily we started with the blowoff tube this time...

That being said, with the extra ingredients, monitoring for the first few weeks, longer fermentation times & everything else involved with these BIG Beers, they can REALLY be worth it when it comes to flavor. You can probably find some great examples of these kinds of beers at your local brewery… but some of my favorites are North Coast’s Old Rasputin, Heretic’s Imp & Fifty Fifty’s selection of big beer releases.
Anyway, that’ll do it for this weekend… join us next weekend to catch up on another exciting week… and yes, Pumpkin Beer season is almost ready for the full fruition of Halloween Extravaganzas & National Learn to Homebrew Day coming up with plenty of surprises (even to us) along the way. Have a great day everybody!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fury & Foamy

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Monday night, Izzy & I finally tasted our Pumpkin Chocolate Porter, as we couldn’t wait any longer (and it’d had plenty of time to carbonate in the keg) and let’s just say that Halloween party-goers are in for a treat. It’s a nice Baltic style porter with a little pumpkin puree in the malt bill & chocolate malts leading to some interesting characteristics. It’s not too heavy and has a good mouth feel to it… easy to drink all day, or more than likely night. Hopefully there’ll still be some left to share at the Learn to Homebrew Day Party too, but we shall see.
Wednesday morning, we also helped brew an East Bay IPA at Elevation 66 Brewing with Big Ben & Don Jon (Super Dave has had some late nights with the Giants’ playoff run) and it was pretty standard. We did share some of our homebrew (Bock, ChocoNut Stout & Cali Common) and got some good feedback on how to improve them in the future, but overall they said they were pretty damn good… and we’d have to agree.
Wednesday night, Jackie D & I visited a new establishment called Hopwater Distribution on Nob Hill which boasts a 30-tap selection, all of California-based craft breweries… and it’s actually a VERY nice place. It was much quieter than I would’ve expected with the Giants game going (then again, it might just be because nobody knows of the place yet) and the selection was impressive with everything from a saison to an IPA to milk stouts and everything in between to choose from. They also had some… decent snacks. Not exactly enthralling but… decent. I’d highly recommend checking it out before it becomes super-douchey. It definitely has that kind of potential.
Later, we were invited to a special preview of the new blockbuster “Fury” starring Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf & Michael Pena… directed by David Ayer (“Harsh Times” & “End of Watch”). It’s a pretty simple premise, set during the closing days of WWII in the German front, there’s a five-man team of tank operators with a tried & true leader (Pitt), three men who’ve served years with him, and then the new kid who’s only been in the army for two months & is an innocent soul. Well, War is Hell as you might’ve guessed… and from the harsh director of “Harsh Times” comes a pretty gritty & grimy yet realistic story about this team going through the last mission when Germany is absolutely desperate, and to save thousands of lives, these men have to protect a major crossroads to the Allied trade route… and German tanks are FAR superior to American. Basically, the atmosphere set in this movie is pretty f**king amazing. You feel like you’re in the tank with them. It’s always dirty, grimy & gray (save for one scene that starts out pretty damn clean… and then ends as grimy as it gets, you’ll know when you see it). The personal conflicts going on with the leader & the noob are done pretty well… and the other three main characters have their own minor things… but they’re essentially there for exposition & showing what noobs can turn into after three years in the sh*t… and Pitt’s character trying to save the new kid from that… but also realize that until he’s sent back home, their lives depend on them being focused Nazi killing machines. The movie is intense. If you liked “Saving Private Ryan” but thought it had it’s moments of being a little too Spielberg-y, then this is the movie for you. It’s definitely a guy movie… lots of blood & guts… but Jackie D enjoyed it as well, just mentioned that it was really harsh. I highly recommend that you check it out if you like the genre… but be warned, don’t take the kids… even if tanks are pretty f**king cool.

Thursday night, I received a few goodies in the mail… more books about homebrewing!!! I obviously haven’t read through them yet… but first up is “Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery” which… as is pretty self-explanatory, a book about Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione (star of the briefly ran show “Brewmasters”) and his adventures in turning a hobby into a multi-million dollar business venture that’s ever expanding & lessons that he learned along the way. Obviously I’m a little interested, though I’m sure things/laws have changed since he started out. The other two books are “CloneBrews” by Tess & Mark Szamatulski & “Brewing Classic Styles” by Jamil Zainasheff & John Palmer, both of which are essentially recipe books for making nearly 300 different beer recipes ranging from standard stuff you can find in any supermarket to award-winning homebrews to exotic & experimental recipes that the experienced authors just tried at home. I’ve taken a quick glance through some of their offerings… and you may be seeing them made on this blog pretty soon.
Well, I’ve got some reading to do… so until next time, have a great weekend everybody!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sacramento Storage Weekend

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
This Saturday, Izzy & I spent most of the day clearing out her storage unit and moving things from Sacramento to Richmond. We headed up early (cuz I didn’t want to be there midday in Sacramento) but using a Jeep & a Honda Pilot, we did have to make two trips to clear out unit. Other than that though, it was pretty easy-peasy… so we stopped at a few places along the way to make a day out of it… here are some pictures of us slowly but surely cleaning out the unit...

irst stop was for a little lunch at Heretic Brewing in Fairfield… and yes, we do tend to stop there when we head to Sacramento, you may have noticed that. They have some fantastic beers like their Chocolate Hazelnut Porter, Incubus Imperial Stout, and even a few barrel aged & sour options that are always delicious. We basically just had a few samplers and a sloppy joe… here are pictures…

Between trips, we dropped off a few entries into the California State Homebrew Competition at Oak Barrel, so in about a month we should have some great feedback on our Bock, Torpedo Clone & our California Common… and who knows? Maybe a few ribbons or medals to go with the feedback if we did good enough. We also staked up on supplies for out next two batches, which will be an Imperial Stout this weekend (won’t be ready until Spring) and then the beer that we’re going to make for Learn to Homebrew Day on November 1st… which is a secret… but you can come see it done firsthand if you RSVP.
On the way back from the second trip to the storage unit, we stopped by Sudwerk Brewing in Dixon and enjoyed their samplers (though I think something might’ve been wrong with their lines?) and some nachos while watching a little of the Giants game… pictures…

Sunday, while the rest of San Francisco was having Fleet Week complete with several marathons & the Blue Angels… we spent the afternoon doing homework (Izzy) and then we transferred our Pumpkin Ale from primary to secondary fermentation… and here are some pictures of that…

Cleaning out the carboy afterwards...
This weekend should be good and busy… as we’ll be helping at the California State Comp preliminaries, brewing our BIGGEST BEER YET the Imperial Stout, taste our long-awaited Pumpkin Chocolate Porter, and even work in a little social life… so yeah, usual weekend stuff. Have a great day everybody!!!

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