There are breweries whose theme, be it styles of beers or artwork, is all over the place, and then there are others that are easily defined. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse has a very distinctive and recognizable theme. I don’t feel the need to point it out for you, but if you do need a refresher here’s a basic rundown: German and European-style beers with names and artwork inspired by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
One day I was at the liquor store when I noticed an opened case in the beer section. One bottle had already been taken and I was curious to see what was inside it. Luckily, it wasn’t closed or I would have probably missed out on grabbing this beer from Grimm Brothers. Inside the box was a bourbon barrel-aged barleywine. But the unique thing about this beer is that it stated it was a German-style barleywine (on brand for the brewery). I’ve never had a such a style of barleywine before. In fact, I never even considered such a style existed.
As for the name of the beer, 13th Door, I was unfamiliar with the Grimm reference. Apparently, it refers to the tale of “Mary’s Child” or “Our Lady’s Child.” This fairy tale is about a young girl that gets taken to heaven to be raised by the Virgin Mary, and one day is left alone. Mary gives a set of keys to the girl and tells her she can open twelve doors but not the thirteenth one. Well, as kids usually do when they’re told not to do something, the girl opens the thirteenth door. Her finger is stained with gold and upon the return of the Virgin Mary the girl lies and lies about what she did.
The girl is banished back to earth and finds herself in the forest. There she has to fend for herself. After some time, a king finds her and marries her. In the following years, the couple have three children (I’m assuming the girl had become a woman by now. If not, Roy Moore would love this story.). After each birth, the Virgin Mary would pay a visit to get a confession. Each time the queen would refuse to tell the truth so the Virgin Mary would take the baby to heaven. The townsfolk started talking, and a rumor spread that the queen ate the babies. The queen would be sentenced to death. At the stake, the queen finally wishes to confess and the Virgin Mary returns her babies, the queen and her family live happily ever after.
I thought long and hard about what kind of movie to pair with this beer. Should I go with a German film? Sure, but I felt that didn’t really suit this beer from Grimm Brothers. The better idea would be a Grimm adaptation or a fairy tale. The Grimm adaptations I came across were cheap, gritty versions, and the fairy tales were more directed towards little kids (there are also numerous Beauty and the Beast adaptations, but I wasn’t having any of that). I decided to go with something that sounded like a modern fairy tale or fable.
Bourbon Barrel Aged 13th Door: The Basics
- Brewery: Grimm Brothers Brewhouse (Loveland, CO)
- Style: German-style Barleywine
- ABV: 13%
Bourbon Barrel Aged 13th Door: The Details
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I uncorked my bottle. On the brewery’s website, 13th Door is stated as an English and German-style barleywine. German and English malts are used for the distinct malty flavor, and German hops are added for an earthy finish. I did notice the sound, or lack thereof, when I twisted the cork out.
A tag that hangs around the neck of the bottle gives some background info on the beer. For thousands of years, beer was served flat (or still on the tag) because there wasn’t a vessel that could hold pressure. This is Grimm Brothers nod to history and they mean it. 13th Door has no head with the slightest trace of lace. The hazy, brownish-red appearance passed the eye test for a barleywine.
The nose on this is a nice balance between the base barleywine and the barrel aging. The caramel malts stand out with some, I’m gonna go with, prunes. From the barrel I got some light bourbon whiskey notes as well as oak and coconut. This beer has a very mellow smell. It doesn’t burn the nostrils like some barrel-aged beers that have an ABV like this one.
Barleywines are one of the few styles where I welcome its malty presence, and this beer holds that end of the bargain. There are notes of caramel, toffee, dried stone fruits (PRUNES!), figs, and some dark chocolate. The bourbon notes also don’t go unnoticed as there is vanilla and some oak. The heat is only noticeable when it pricks at the back of the throat. Otherwise this is a smooth, medium-bodied beer that slides over the tongue with no discernible carbonation.
I initial reaction was to state that the 13% ABV (I would like to say it’s pretty fitting) doesn’t seem noticeable, but then I when I got around to finishing the bottle I was definitely feeling it (I took my time with it). After awhile you start to notice your body slowly warming up, and then before you know it you’re feeling pretty damn good.
American Fable (2016)
- Director: Anne Hamilton
- Genre: Thriller
- Total Running Time: 1hr 36mins
- Rating: TV-14
- Availability: Netflix and Amazon
Netflix describes American Fable as: Fairy tales, family secrets, and fear of the future combine on this otherworldly thriller set on a Midwestern farm. Firstly (that sounds pretentious), if you follow this feature you might be saying, “Another film set on a farm?” I know, I know. It was only two weeks ago I reviewed 1922 that was set on a Nebraska farm. Secondly, from the description you might be expecting something like Pan’s Labyrinth. Don’t get your hopes up. There are some fantastical elements, but not as much as I was expecting.
American Fable takes place during the Reagan Era when farmers were experiencing a great sense of turmoil. Gitty (played by Peyton Kennedy) lives on such a farm. Her father (Kip Pardue aka Sunshine from Remember the Titans) is under a great amount of stress trying to keep the farm financially afloat. Gitty also has a psychotic older brother that torments her and her pet chicken. The catalyst for the story is a silo on the family’s land that Gitty is transfixed by. Despite her father telling her to stay away Gitty is drawn towards it. One day after checking out a nearby abandoned house Gitty finds herself at the silo. It’s there she finds a man, Jonathan (Richard Schiff from The West Wing), being held prisoner inside.
This film has a very fever dream quality to it. Director Anne Hamilton interned for a year on Terence Malick’s Tree of Life, and you can see that experience with Malick rub off on her. American Fable is filled lush visuals set on the farm and the cornfields. Daylight scenes have an ever-present golden hour hue. There’s a scene of the local kids capturing lightning bugs in jars at night that is, on a visual scale, quite appealing. There are some surreal elements to the film that also stand out, like the horned figure on horseback who haunts Gitty. I just wish there was more of it.
Peyton Kennedy does a wonderful job for such a young actor in depicting a character like Gitty, who is imaginative and resourceful. Gitty has two strong bonds with two characters in this film: her father and with Jonathan. Jonathan, who might be being held captive for a ransom by her family, appears to grant Gitty’s wishes as long as she does simple tasks for him. Over their short relationship he teaches her riddles and how to play chess (which she uses to one-up her brother). But Gitty must make a decision: save her new friend or her family.
I really enjoyed Bourbon Barrel Aged 13th Door. The best way I can describe it is that one strong ale you cracked open towards the end of the night after many strong beers when you probably shouldn’t have. So, now you’ve got this beer that you can’t finish and don’t want to waste. Maybe you try to put the cap back on it, or you have one of those rubber corks, and you put it back it the fridge before stumbling to bed. Then the next day you open the fridge to find a little treat. Sure, it’s a little flat but it still tastes good.
American Fable is an impressive debut by the director but still felt like a letdown compared to the description. It has a very strong visual sense but there are story elements that get brought and dropped, or aren’t that well-developed. At times I was reminded of Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, but American Fable is not as weird or dark. And seriously, Gitty’s brother should be committed, and if he wasn’t by the end of the film then I fear for the rest of the family.
There hasn’t been a cinematic adaptation of “Mary’s Child” but some of the story’s elements have been use in other tales. One famous one is “Bluebeard.” This tale has been adapted countless of times and one intriguing one is the 2015 film Ex Machina. If you love science fiction, I highly recommend it.