It’s that time of year…or has been since Halloween came and went. The dreaded holiday season (I saw Christmas stuff before Halloween *shrug emoji*). The bombardment of commercials, decorations, and a continuous loop of “Wonderful Christmastime” on the radio and in stores. Some people really get into it with their ugly sweaters (which at this point has probably gone into unironic status by now), gifting cars with giant bows on them (that only happens in commercials, right?), dressing like a Dickens characters and going caroling, over the top light decorations, SantaCons (nothing like a puking Santa), and *caps lock* COMPLAINING ABOUT THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS AND STARBUCKS CUPS ONLINE (relax, Aunt Belinda).
I’m probably coming off like a Grinch or Scrooge, but that’s not entirely true (eh, maybe). Having worked in retail during this time of year has dampened my spirit. You see an ugly side of people during a time that’s all about spreading cheer and caring. Despite all this I still look forward to the season because of some of the great beers that come out and revisiting some classic movies.
Since this is my first winter in Colorado I’m still getting acclimated to all the seasonal and holiday offerings. Some of them I’m know, as we would get them in San Francisco, but it’s been interesting navigating the unfamiliar. I picked up Wild Christmas Ale from Upslope back in November (there was one can left), and have been sitting on it for the proper time. And that time is, well, now.
As for Christmas movies, there are so many classics to choose from. There’s Die Hard, Scrooged, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, basically anything by Shane Black, Elf, Bad Santa, A Christmas Story (anyone catch the live performance?), Elf, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Trading Places, and Batman Returns. No It’s a Wonderful Life for me. I had originally thought about reviewing Scrooged as that is one of the movies I watch every holiday season, but it disappeared from Netflix recently (it’s available on Amazon). Then I thought about Bad Santa 2, but the reviews for it were kind of meh. When I was scrolling through Netflix’s and Hulu’s holiday sections everything seemed so hokey. Of course, one of the best Christmas movies Netflix has to offer wasn’t even in the holiday category. I had to go searching for it.
Wild Christmas Ale with Black Raspberries: The Basics
- Brewery: Upslope Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)
- Style: American Wild Ale
- ABV: 8.7%
Wild Christmas Ale with Black Raspberries: The Details
Sometimes Christmas beers can be predictable. You can find plenty of spiced ales, strong ABVs, dark beers, and sweet malty treats. I was looking for something that stepped out of the traditional thinking. I found that with this 14th volume of Upslope’s Lee Hill Series. This Christmas ale has been aged in Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey barrels for ten months, and soured with their house mixed culture. The ale was also refermented on 1,0000 pounds of black raspberries for two months. Upslope claims this is their most fruit-forward offering for the Lee Hill Series. Belgian candi syrup, spices, and Belgian yeast were also used for this peculiar Christmas ale.
This is a deep dark red of an ale. Almost blood like. I was reminded of a black cherry soda with the color and carbonation on the pour. There is practically no head. Maybe some slight lacing. After the tiny amount of bubbles subsided, it looked liked I had poured myself a nice glass of red wine. It’s darker than a Pinot Noir and a touch darker than a Merlot. The first thing I noticed on the nose was its tartness. That was followed by the fruity characteristics of raspberries and some other dark berries. This was finished off with some hints of oak and whiskey. This looked like a wine, and the smell follows suit.
The tartness makes itself apparent on the first sip. This tartness lingers a bit at the back of the tongue and on the sides. You know how they describe some Zinfandels as jammy? This ale has some of that. It’s not overly sweet. More fruity on the raspberry side with some possible blueberry. I love Sour Patch Kids, and was elated when they added the blue ones (candy code for raspberry), and the mix of tartness and raspberry brought this to my mind. I also got some hints of spice, either that be from the rye barrels or the mysterious spices used. There was also some oakiness to it. This tastes like a wine. Maybe not as bold as a Merlot, but stronger than a Pinot.
Wild Christmas Ale has a medium body with a slight fizz on the tongue. The oak characteristics on the flavor profile (and maybe the hops used) bring a sense of tannins to the mouthfeel. It finishes dry while the fruitiness of it doesn’t seem to linger that long on the tongue.
- Director: Joe Dante
- Genre: Comedy/Fantasy/Horror
- Total Running Time: 1hr 46mins
- Rating: PG
- Availability: Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes
I’m not really sure what kind of cultural status Gremlins has with those damn millennials (coming from someone who, depending on findings, is too young for Gen X and too old for millennials), but for those of my age and older it holds significant meaning. My first true introduction to Gremlins was at Christmas (possibly 1984 as the film was released in the summer). My uncle gave me a bendy toy of antagonist, Spike. I hadn’t seen the movie so the monstrous character with a white mohawk, sharp teeth, dark green scaly skin, and slightly moveable body parts horrified and intrigued me. I believe this was a catalyst for interest in film monsters and creatures even though I was too much of a weenie to watch the movies.
Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), was of the films that helped create the PG-13 rating, is about Billy who is given a furry mogwai as a Christmas present from his inventor father. There are three simple rules for a taking care of a mogwai: no bright lights, do not get it wet, and, most importantly, and do not feed it after midnight. Of course, these rules are broken and all hell breaks loose on the small Norman Rockwell town.
Gremlins, to me, has this weird timeless quality to it. Kingston Falls has an idyllic 1950’s Hollywood vibe to it while being shot in the tone of the sci-fi films of the Atomic Age. Yet it also feels of its age with inventions of Billy’s dad (some that would become a reality). The horror that follows subverts the idealistic image of small towns and the holiday, especially during the Reagan era. There is a dark undercurrent in this film that deals with depression during the holiday season that many people experience.
Joe Dante caught the attention of producer, Steven Spielberg, with The Howling (Tim Burton was once considered…that could have been intriguing). Dante has predominantly dabbled in genre fare: the Roger Corman classic Piranha, Innerspace, The ‘Burbs, the Gremlins sequel, Matinee (check this one out if you love movies by John Goodman, William Castle, and 60’s paranoia), and numerous TV shows. While writer Chris Columbus went from writing Gremlins and The Goonies to directing Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter films.
One of the things I love about Gremlins is the casting. Zach Galligan (playing Billy Peltzer) actually looks he is the offspring of his parents (Hoyt Axton and Frances Lee McCain). McCain does a wonderful job of portraying the strong, put-upon wife of a struggling inventor, and the first individual to take on the nasty gremlins (by blender and microwave). The dog that plays Barney is hands down one of the best animal actors of all time. The way the dog interacts and reacts in scenes kills me. There’s also Phoebe Cates who played a part in a lot of young people’s sexual awakening (see Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and Jonathan Banks way before he became known as Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad.
The musical aspects of the film are also outstanding. There’s the traditional Christmas songs being broadcasted by the local radio station, the but the theme song and Gizmo’s little ditty have been engrained into my brain since my first viewing. Both are very catchy. Gizmo’s song has an innocence to it, while the theme has a mischievous playfulness to it.
Watching Gremlins there are nods to previous iconic genre fare from Hollywood’s past, and some other fun tidbits. Billy’s father attends a inventors convention, and in the background , he main prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen to only have disappeared in the next shot. Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet also makes an appearance. Chuck Jones, director of many Looney Tunes shorts, plays a barfly. There are references to Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In one scene Billy and Gizmo are watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers that transitions to the mogwai/gremlins in their pupil stage. Also, Howie Mandel voiced Gizmo. The 80s was a strange time.
I’ve written a few times about beers that could entice your snobby wine friends and family over from the dark side, and Wild Christmas Ale might be the one the comes the closest. Some of the beers I’ve reviewed had some characteristics of wine. but this wild ale is deceptive. I shared this beer with some wine lovers and they commented on how much it resembles wine and doesn’t taste like beer. Casting aside the wine comparisons, I found Wild Christmas Ale to be very enjoyable. Does it make that connection to Christmas (spices and what not)? Maybe not, but it’s worth checking out just for the experience of it. It takes an off-beaten path for Christmas beers, and that is welcomed.
I could really write so much more about Gremlins. Like how do they survive without water? Is there no water in their bodies? If contact with water makes them reproduce, wouldn’t drinking beer have the same effect? How are the gremlins so quick to pick up how the way things work? I love Gremlins. It depicts a loving family, full of holiday cheer, has a sense of humor to it that can be traced back to Looney Tunes, and is dark and violent. There aren’t too many films like this. Good news for fans of the franchise, the third film has been written by original writer Chris Columbus.