Beer & Popcorn: Movie and Beer Pairings for Oscar Night

This Sunday is one of my favorite nights of the year.  Yes, I know that the Academy Awards and its ilk are self-congratulatory and rarely identify the "best" films, but I don't care.  I love movies.  And I love beer.  And if we pair food with beer, why not movies?

Enjoy your Oscar Night, with this as your guide.  Pick these up, have some friends over, and enjoy the show!

A Beer for Every Best Picture Nominee

Let's face it, you didn't watch most of these movies.  They're mostly sad, long, depressing stories with an absurdly high percentage featuring dead fathers or other relatives.  But you know who DID watch all of these?  Me. [...and my long-suffering spouse, who has little choice but to accompany me]

So, without further ado, a beer pairing for each of the nine Best Picture nominees (in ascending order by movie quality - not necessarily beer quality):

9. LionThe sad story of an Indian boy who falls asleep on a train and wakes up thousands of miles away from home, gets adopted and taken even FURTHER away, and then uses Google Earth to identify his home village based on landmarks as seen from space.  WHY DIDN'T HE JUST USE GOOGLE GOOGLE INSTEAD???  HE KNEW THE NAME OF HIS VILLAGE!  In any case, it's a predictable slog of a movie (apparently based on a true story, so I might one day hunt this guy down and ask why he wasted months looking at satellite pictures instead of typing into Google the name of his village and the name of the station where he got on the train), and it deserves a beer that's likewise generic, and not that interesting, and Indian, I guess.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Lion Beer (some of these just write themselves, folks)

8. Manchester by the SeaA lot of critics loved this movie.  I didn't get it.  Much like Lion, we have a cavalcade of cliches, not much originality, and a lot of grief - but at least it's long as hell.  Having said that, it does feature some gorgeous scenery and a competent performance from Casey Affleck (though a bizarrely horrible one from Michelle Williams, whom I usually love).  So we need a beer that's highly predictable and too much of it.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Sam Adams Boston Lager - and make everyone drink a 22oz. mug of it even if they just want one 12oz. bottle.

7. Hell or High WaterThis basically felt like the best TV movie you'll ever see.  A semi-interesting crime story about two brothers robbing banks to avoid foreclosure on a family ranch in Texas that's suddenly worth a fortune because of an oil discovery (and btw, they soft-pedal this plot point so hard in the movie that it isn't until the end that you realize it isn't just a joke made up by one of the brothers).  Competent, but not anything to write home about - and Jeff Bridges chewing so much scenery he probably could use a beer to wash it down.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: I know a lot of you are expecting Hell or High Watermelon from 21A, but that's actually a bit too original here.  Instead, since we're getting a movie that's really good for what it is but might not really be in the top tier, out of Texas, I'm gonna go with basically anything from Jester King.  It's great, but not clear if it isn't just a big fish in a little pond...

6. Hacksaw RidgeAn incredible true story of a pacifist who saved 75 Marines during a battle on Okinawa in WWII, this is a war movie that indulges in lots of cliches but gets by on the strength of its source material and a sterling performance from Andrew Garfield.  Directed by Mel Gibson, we need a beer that pairs with a movie that's kinda conventional but gets by on its charm, made by a recently-disgraced figure looking to get back into your good graces.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: I'm thinking one of our Big Beer Buyout people - Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager fits the bill (and Devil's Backbone sounds like a place that's just down the road from Hacksaw Ridge).

5. Hidden FiguresCharming and super-competent film about African American ladies being recognized for their contributions to the early successes of NASA.  Good fun, an important story, and well-made - it stops short of being great, though, and left me wanting to go home and watch The Right Stuff again (which lacks the diversity but delivers as an epic of the new Space Age).  PAIRING SUGGESTION: If you can get it, anything from Ninkasi's "Ground Control" series of space-traveled-yeast-fermented beers.  If you can't, Victory Moonglow Weizenbock seems like a good alternative...

4. MoonlightA touching story about a boy from a rough neighborhood in Miami who has to navigate a complicated childhood and a drug-addicted mother, told in three chapters at ages 9, 16, and 25 (give or take).  There's some great advice in this movie, particularly from Mahershala Ali's character: "Sooner or later, you just gotta decide what you're gonna be."  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Cigar City Jai Alai IPA.

3. Arrival: Aliens arrive to preach a message of unity and cooperation.  Collaboration for greatness - simple, beautiful, and impactful.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Russian River & Firestone Walker STiVO Keller Pils.

2. FencesThe movie adaptation of an award-winning Broadway play set in post-war Pittsburgh, this is a real showcase for the power of dialogue and ensemble performances.  The movie's complex family dynamics and statements on the nature of strength make it a great pairing with a complex beer.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Great Divide Barrel Aged Hercules DIPA.

1. La La LandAn outstanding modern fairy tale, love story, and musical about the need to care for the things you love even if you're the only one that believes in them.  PAIRING SUGGESTION: Your favorite beer, whatever it is, and even if other people think it's terrible or a waste of time.  

Shorts

Some quick hits for other noteworthy or nominated films, for the real film geeks out there:

  • Jackie: Sawtooth Amber from Left Hand ("Back, and to the left...back, and to the left..."  Too soon?)
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: Hitachino Nest White Ale (because for some reason a story set in feudal Japan features a ton of white voice actors...)
  • Deadpool: Anything from Unibroue in honor of Canadian Wade Wilson
  • Sully: 21A beer in cans, obviously

Call in sick for work on Monday, really make a night of it, and stay up right to the bitter, played-off-the-stage end.  

Keep it simple.

JJW

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Waiting: The Oddly Divisive Phenomenon of Standing in Line for Beer

I don't care if you stand in line for beer.  It's your time on this planet, and you can choose to spend it pretty much any way you want.  Liberty, you know?

This is one of those things, though, that lots of people seem to like to weigh in on, criticize, laud, judge, defend, or justify.  I'm not interested in taking sides here, but that doesn't mean I don't have anything to say on the question.  What I'd like to do is draw a distinction between two different kinds of beer-waiting (at the brewery and at a beer festival) and suggest a general approach.

Staking Out the Brewery

I know some who do this, and if you're that committed, go for it.  I don't, but I also wouldn't wait in line for Super Bowl tickets even though I'm a big football fan: I have a less-challenging option (watching at home) that gives me about as much utility for a lot less cost and a lot more convenience.  Same thing with beer.  I might not get that super-rare bottle of whatever, but I can get something that's probably really close to it (or better, if I'm lucky) without the wait.

If you are going to wait in line for beer at a brewery, I have to say that in my mind the only kind of beer that it makes sense for is for an especially hop-driven beer that needs to be consumed right away.  In that one instance, you're presumably getting it as fresh as can be, which matters if we're talking something with hop character as a defining attribute.  So get your bottle(s), cool to serving temperature, and enjoy!  That seems rational to me.

But as I said, if you're just a devotee of a particular brewery, or really like the novelty of limited-release beers, or just want to show up your not-as-committed beer friends, then that's an end in and of itself.  Set up your folding chair and enjoy.

The Beer Festival Queue

This is the much more fluid and fascinating scenario: what's your general approach to lines at a beer festival?  

I'm an "opportunity taster" at the beer fest.  I don't wait in line for anything.  I'll be there for a couple of hours, and I almost certainly won't get to every booth no matter what I do, so I'm looking to maximize the number of different breweries I can "touch" in the time I have, since I look at these things as a way to test-drive breweries I haven't experienced or check back in with some I have experienced but just didn't like that much.***  If I'm waiting in line at Brewery A, I'm missing my chance to hit Breweries X, Y, and Z in that same span of time.  I know that this could mean that I'm self-selecting my way into less-popular beers or breweries (since maybe there's no line there because their stuff sucks), but I'm happy to balance that risk against the counterbalancing likelihood that these breweries aren't bad as much as they are unknown, and thus don't draw a crowd.  

Which doesn't mean it's irrational to wait at the festival.  It makes sense to me to wait in line if you're at/from a place that doesn't get a big selection of highly-regarded or popular beers.  We're spoiled here in/around Philadelphia because we get damned near everything (hell, during Philly Beer Week you can get two-dollar six-ounce pours of Dogfish 120 and World Wide Stout, Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig, etc.).  But if you're from Nebraska and don't see as much of this stuff and you see a booth that's offering something you might not get access to, then it makes all the sense in the world to wait for it.  

It also makes sense if, like my wife, you have very specific tastes in your beer/alcohol products.  At the Opening Tap Beer Festival at last year's National Homebrewers Conference, Barbara basically just camped out in the Moonlight Meadery line to get a steady-but-small supply of their braggot.  Hell, in that case I was grateful for the line - if it wasn't there, she'd have likely been hammered by the end of the night...

Though, as I said, it's your time and your glass.  Do what you want.  Heck, if you're a line-waiter, you're actually helping us non-waiters, creating a symbiotic and helpful beer fest ecology.

Let It Go

[You're hearing the song in your head now, aren't you?]  In any case, though, maybe don't spend time thinking about this or expounding upon it, either to express your disbelief ("Why would anyone wait hours for a just-OK DIPA?") or disparage the action itself.  And if you're a "waiter," maybe don't take umbrage when your "Been in line since last night!" social media post isn't an immediate hit.  

There's lots of beer out there, and lots of ways to get it, and lots of ways to approach it.  My advice isn't to wait, or not - it's to make a choice and take a deliberate approach to it.  Make a decision about what and how you want out of beer, and then do what flows logically from that.  

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).

***And no, this doesn't make me a hypocrite.  I know that only two weeks ago I argued against the idea of judging beers based on a 2-ish ounce pour of them, but at a festival I don't have any other option.  Requesting a full pour would result in a "Sideways"-esque scene, and/or endangering someone's liquor license or insurance.  But I'd note here that I don't make determinations at festivals - it's just data for the computer, and I'd never write off a brewery or even a single beer based on that one pour at the fest!