Halloween Horror 2014: Cross Bearer (2012)

Description (from the IMDb):
Heather is broke. She has a soul sucking job as a stripper. Her live-in girlfriend Victoria has a baby and a coke problem. Her boss Harry is an abusive maniac. Life cannot get much worse… or so she thought. Determined to get out of this living hell, Heather and her lover, Bunny, plan to rip off Harry, ditch Victoria, and leave town to live out their days on the Greek islands in peaceful bliss. One big score is all they need, and Harry gives them the opportunity when he asks them to take care of a drug deal with one of his clients at an old warehouse. As Heather and her friends arrive, everything seems to be going fine until they make a grizzly discovery and are trapped inside by a rambling, religious maniac hell-bent on purifying the Earth of its sins through murder and destruction. Armed with a carpenter’s hammer and a fanatic passion, the Cross Bearer hunts Heather and her friends down one-by-one in a sadistic crusade to burn clean the filth of the world. Heather’s dreams are shattered and if she survives nothing will ever be the same. Unflinchingly raw, primal, and horrifying, Cross Bearer is a trip to the darkest, most vile side of humanity.

Major Cast:
Isaac Williams as Cross Bearer, Natalie Jean as Heather, Tim Cronin as Mark, J.D. Brown as Harry, Victoria DePaul as Victoria, Kacie Marie as Bunny

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Over 2 ½ Hours of Special Features

Written and Directed by Adam Ahlbrandt

For my Halloween Horror 2014, I decided to visit a film that I have heard a lot of hype for. I am in a few different independent and underground horror groups on Facebook, and for months on end (while I was on hiatus from writing reviews) all I was hearing was CROSS BEARER, CROSS BEARER, CROSS BEARER. So let’s see what all that hype was about.

CB got my attention right from the opening credits by doing something I normally hate, but making me like it. The opening credits are a bunch of mirrored images of apartment buildings and the like. Usually when I see this sort of image I think “funhouse” and I’m turned off, and on the first one my brain went there, but by the 3rd or 4th they started growing on me and by the end I was sold. I don’t know why this made such an impression on me, but it did, and such a simple little effect had a whole lot of pull. Also, to throw the slasher genre norms on their head, we start by seeing our antagonist sans-mask right from the get-go. And there’s nothing supernatural about him. He’s a dude that loves the Lord and has taken that to fanatical lengths.

Nothing says "classy place for a drug fueled threesome" like a mattress on the floor next to a vespa.

Nothing says “classy place for a drug fueled threesome” like a mattress on the floor next to a vespa.

After we get away from the intro, we star getting some of the plot, and getting introduced to the characters. I was impressed to see that our protagonist is a lesbian, but yet we had no gratuitous, uncalled for lesbian sex scene. This was actually much more restrained than I had expected from this film, especially after seeing Ahlbrandt’s promo for CB (link here). CB is a very interesting take on the slasher genre because there really is no truly “good guy” in this film. Sure, Heather is no serial killer or anything, but as the truly best, most wholesome person in the film it’s odd to think that she is a stripper taking part in a coke deal (that she was gonna bail on) set up by her slimy strip-club manager, and she is taking along other strippers for entertainment during said deal. This is the most “upright” character in the film, other than maybe (in his own head) Cross Bearer. So that’s our good guy; our bad guy is driven by the Lord to clean up filth, and he does so with a fucking carpenter’s hammer. That. Is. Brutal.

So simple, yet so damned creepy.

So simple, yet so damned creepy.

This movie could have easily been a throwaway piece of trash cinema that had no purpose other than showing a bunch of gore. And, to be honest, that’s not really TOO far off the truth. But what Ahlbrandt has done to lift it out of that gory gutter is to take serious steps to make the film FEEL big budget. The film itself is beautifully shot on what is obviously a HD or ultra-HD camera, with solid command of the skills it takes to wrangle said camera into creating beautiful pictures. Sure, the subject matter shown is very often far from beautiful, but it is always beautifully shot, with a deep depth of focus and wonderful composition of images throughout. This is more than aptly complimented by the lighting in the film. I really have to say that I was incredibly impressed with the lighting (and color correction), which ranged from naturalistic outdoor shots to something not far off from SUSPIRIA. The production value of this low-budget film is also boosted leaps and bounds by the sound design. From the dialogue recording to the oh-so-gross foley, to the score, everything sound-wise is immaculate. In addition to all that are the all-practical visual effects provided by Doug Sakmann, which are pretty damned gross. CB is just a great example of taking all the steps needed to make a movie look like a million bucks when it is much more modest than that.

Some of the amazing light work

Some of the amazing light work

The quality production design is bolstered by the quality in the acting and directing. Sure, you probably have not heard of anyone on the cast list, but the vast majority of the players in this film do a well-above-average job for a film of this budget and substance. The acting is exalted by the directing, and the directing brings out the acting. You can feel the love between Heather and Bunny, you can feel the crazy in Anton, you can see the fear in… well… everyone, and you can feel the righteous indignation the Cross Bearer is fueled by. It’s rare to see a film at this level that doesn’t have a few really shitty actors in it, but I just couldn’t find them in CB. Sure, the second and third strings of characters aren’t as strong as the leads, but even when we get into things like little throwaway scenes, there is solid acting and directing to be found.

I guess really my only big negative when it comes to CB s just the fact that I really didn’t care much for, or about, the majority of the characters. Heather had some emotional drama, and vicariously that lead me to care what happened to Bunny as well, but for the rest of the cattle to the slaughter, that is really about how much I cared about them. Cattle. They were just there to get killed. There were a few fun scenes here and there (especially the discussion of trash cinema in the car outside the warehouse… if you didn’t know what to expect in this film, that scene really laid it all bare for you), but overall the characters did not make me like – or strongly DISlike – them. Sure they’re a bit slimy, but then again you don’t expect boy scouts to make porn for their own private collections or girl scouts to be coke-dealing strippers. But they’re neither SO good, nor SO bad, that I really had little feeling either way when Cross Bearer came to call. In order to have a strong reaction when a character dies, I need to like that character. What I got from CB was a lot more visceral, gut feeling of “ooh that’s gross” than “oh, that sucks” because I actually cared what happened.

What a party!

What a party!

Overall, CB lived up to the hype. It is not the masterpiece that some of the people in the groups I am constantly laud it as, but it is a super solid entry into the independent horror canon. Cross Bearer is a creepy slasher character, and with a very simple getup he evokes visual dread. The film is extremely well made, and beautiful to watch, even when it gets real ugly. This is one of those movies that I actually liked so much that I am not satisfied with the screener copy, and went out and bought a DVD of because I want to support this person’s future endeavors, and if you are a fan of the more brutal end of the horror spectrum you should be supporting it as well. Very well done.

Overall 7.5 / 10

CB on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825728/

CB for sale: http://toetag.biz/product/cross-bearer

CB site: http://crossbearermovie.com/

Cross Bearer (2012)

Cross Bearer (2012)

Cool as Hell (2013)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
Rich wasn’t always a samurai sword wielding zombie slayer! He was your average comic book store employee, until he met a demon named Az. When Az came from Hell, he left the portal open and a soul hungry beast escaped. Rich and his roommate Benny used to have girl troubles, but that’s the least of their worries now. They have to stop the creature and the living dead that have crawled out of Hell. Who would have thought Rich would have to save the world just to get laid? “Cool As Hell” is a Horror/Comedy that features Tom Savini, Andrew W.K., Tommy Dreamer, Raven, and lead singer of Suffocation, Frank Mullen. A geeky romance blossoms in between the demon and zombie chaos. Don’t miss this bong hitting, side splitting comedy that is “Cool As Hell”.

Major Cast:
James Balsamo as Rich, Dan E. Danger as Benny, Billy Walsh as Az, Lauren Adamkiewicz as Ashley, Frank Mullen as Sal

Special Features:
Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Music Video

Written and Directed by James Balsamo

I had been in infrequent contact with James on Facebook for a while, to see if he wanted any flicks reviewed as they seemed to be something that might be right up my alley. This February I went out to Florida to meet up with one of my oldest buddies, and since we were going to be hanging out any, we planned it for the weekend of PensaCon. Walking around the floor inhabited with cosplayers, too-small-aisles, and Christine, I happened to turn a corner and there was James. I introduced myself, and after a couple minutes of talking, I walked away with a copy of COOL AS HELL in my hands for a review. Then, as many of my readers are probably aware, I dropped off the face of the reviewing planet. This was actually one of the very last movies I received to review before I stopped accepting new submissions, and I had promised that since he was nice enough to give me one in person, I would move it up the list and make it “soon.” Well, soon is now 8 months later (a big part of why I’m not taking new movies or music to review) and I finally sat down today to watch CaH.  Going in, the only things I really knew about CaH and Acid Bath Productions were that James was really good at self-promotion, there are generally a ton of cameos in his films, and apparently he knows people in the metal scene. I also got the impression that he probably learned a lot from Troma as well. That was about it.

COOL AS HELL: a movie about a guy, his best friend, their demon, and shots.  Lots of shots.

COOL AS HELL: a movie about a guy, his best friend, their demon, and shots. Lots of shots.

Right from the onset, I could see that this is most certainly a very low-budget affair, and it immediately kicked my English-degree sensibilities in the nuts with multiple misspellings right in the opening credits! I don’t know for sure, but I really doubt that the $60,000 listed on IMDb is correct (unless all the cameos were getting paid, then maybe). The audio is pretty rough, and the video quality is really a lot lower than what I was expecting. Though, on the positive side, I was excited to see the opening shot actually being a crane shot of some sort that looked really cool and added some instant production value to the flick: the movie starts off and makes me think it’s going to be a zombie movie (as it starts at almost the end), then we back up and get the story and find that no, it’s not (really) a zombie movie. It’s a movie about a couple of roommates that enthrall a demon… by burning him with a cigarette, a goofy enough premise for a horror / comedy, to be sure. But right from this first plot point begins something I see a lot of in CaH: not understanding what is going on or why until much later when it is spelled out, if at all.

I wonder as I am watching CaH just how much of the dialogue is scripted, and how much is adlibbed. The movie suffers from a bad case of the fuck-fuck-fuckity-fucks and this is something that I often see when people without much improv experience are thrown into an improve situation. I could be wrong – it could be writing in the script hundreds of times – but many, many scenes really feel like it is coming off the cuff. What makes this worse is the fact that the scenes then are allowed to ramble, and are not edited down to a palatable length (as is the entire movie as a whole, which clocks in at 1:40 and could easily have been 1:15). A great example is when Frank is collecting from the bar owner. This scene goes back and forth (“Have a fucking seat.” “I ain’t got a lot of time here, you owe me money, I’m tired of fucking playing around with you Charlie. You owe me some fucking money.” “Sal. Let’s do a shot Sal.” “You love just pulling out fucking shots, don’t you.”) ad nauseam, and not one time is it mentioned how much is owed. Actually, unless I completely missed it, not one time is it ever explained what Frank is collecting for; is he a loan shark (they don’t usually collect their own debts), is he a shady business man (if so, what business), what? Like many other aspects of CaH, I just don’t know. And this is a problem that often arises when a script is adlibbed; important info that you as the viewer want to know is never brought up because the actors are just thinking about one scene at a time, and no one has build a script as a whole organism. The acting in CaH varies from pretty good (Balsamo, Adamkiewicz), to passable at best (Danger), to downright horrible (not going to call them out but you as the viewer will know who I am talking about). This is most certainly a film on the your-friends-and-neighbors level of acting ability, and generally your-friends-and-neighbors level actors don’t have improv skill.

Some of the fun, campy gore effects from CaH.

Some of the fun, campy gore effects from CaH.

The production quality on CaH, as I mentioned just slightly in the beginning, follows the trend established by the dialogue/acting. The video quality and lighting is pretty bad throughout, with many out of focus shots and scenes that are either really dark, or washed out with glaring brightness. It seems that this was shot on a decent camera, but for much of the film it was left on auto-focus instead of anyone taking the time to manually focus the lens. While this sounds like not a big deal, that lack of manual focus takes what could be a deep image with levels of focus throughout into a very flat image that loses that depth of field. The sound on the vast majority of the movie was obviously shot with the on-camera mic, or a very low-quality boom, as many, many shots are rendered nearly impossible to hear because of wind or noise. This is the thing that I learned the hard way, and I’ve said many times on this site: pay the money to get good sound. You can’t fix it later. Even the voice-over sounded as if it was recorded on a very low-quality mic. The production effects in the film were a bit better than the audio/visual, and ranged from decent to actually pretty cool. The gore effects were as I would expect from a low-budget horror/comedy, Az was pretty much just painted green with horns you get at Halloween but with very nicely done teeth, but for me the stand-out effect was the puppet of BooGar. He was hilariously well done.

BooGar!  Oh my God I want a puppet of this!

BooGar! Oh my God I want a puppet of this!

Now I realize at this point that it sounds like I hated CaH. I didn’t. It was not the worse movie I’ve ever seen, or even the worst movie I’ve seen this year. It most certainly has its charm, and I know that there is an audience out there for it. This movie has defiantly been cut from the Troma mold, and as America’s oldest independent studio they obviously have followers. There are some really good things about CaH: the geeky romantic subplot, that super-cool crane shot (and a smattering of other nice shots throughout), the kinky sex with canned green beans, lots of boobs (and they’re not all horrible to look at), and most importantly BooGar, the talking demonic snot. I mean, come on: TALKING DEMONIC SNOT. That is too cool. I was just expecting a lot more quantity and quality out of the movie because of the reputation that Acid Bath has built, the long list of cameos, and the amount of bands that attach themselves to this and all the other movies James makes. I’ve come to realize now that I put Acid Bath into the same category as Insane Clown Posse. I don’t like ICP’s music (I love hip-hop but they are a couple of no-talent assclowns when it comes to lyrics, and if you don’t agree that’s fine but listen to “Miracles” and explain please), but I give them a ton of credit for the fact that they have built the following and the reputation they have by hand, from the ground up. I think I feel the same way about Acid Bath (well, at least from this flick): I’m not much of a fan of what CaH did, but I am impressed by the following Balsamo has built, the people he enlists to appear in his films, and how much traction he can get out of them on the convention scene (seems like every other convention out there has him as a guest!)

Well lady, if you worked in a strip club that could actually afford a stage instead of putting a pole in the middle of the floor, guys wouldn't bump into you.

Well lady, if you worked in a strip club that could actually afford a stage instead of putting a pole in the middle of the floor, guys wouldn’t bump into you.

Overall, CaH is just not a movie for me. While it has the occasional flashes of brilliance (and I mean brilliance; there is some generally hilarious stuff in CaH that makes me believe that Balsamo is genuinely talented) there is just too much mediocrity surrounding those flashes for me. With some more time on the script, some better trained actors in key roles, more time pre-planning to make sure that all the scenes could be shot in a way that kept them from being so confusing, and a bit heavier editing hand, CaH could be a really fun film. I would like to check out some Acid Bath films in the future to see how Balsamo develops as an auteur, because I can see that talent there below the surface, I just don’t think it came out in CaH.

Overall 4 / 10

CaH on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2355462/

CaH for sale: http://www.acidbathproductions.com/store.html#

CaH site: http://www.acidbathproductions.com

Cool as Hell (2013)

Cool as Hell (2013)

Faust Brewing Company (New Braunfels, TX): Faust Golden Ale, Ginger Honey Wheat, Vinny’s ESB, Altered States

While in New Braunfels, I was also able to check out the Faust Brewery. Located in a historic – and supposedly haunted – hotel, Faust has been brewing up award winning ales in New Braunfels since 1998. I first met head brewer Ray Mitteldorf at an open house event for Guadalupe Brewing Co. quite a long time ago, and had been anticipating my chance to finally get to that haunted hotel and try some beer. Plus, I could actually get my wife to be excited to go with me, because she loves everything slightly related to ghosts. Win win. Ray set me up with a flight of testers, we ordered some lunch, and my day was happy.

faust logo

Faust Brewing Company, New Braunfels, TX

About the Brewery (from faustbrewing.co):
The Faust Brewing Company has been open to the public since 1998 in New Braunfels, Texas, a small town renowned for its authentic German heritage and culture. The German prowess of beer drinking and beer making is legendary, and The Faust Brewing Co. continues the tradition with its original and varied line of ales.

Faust's copper-clad brew kettles

Faust’s copper-clad brew kettles

Faust Golden Ale

About the Beer (from faustbrewing.co):
European Pilsner Malt and Czech Saaz Hops give this light ale the perfect balance and clean finish that will make you want to sell yours for a pint, too. You’ll not regret the trade-off; you might even be willing to do it again.

Style: Golden Ale
ABV: 5%
IBU: 16

First up was the FAUST GOLDEN ALE. If you read my beer reviews with any regularity at all, you probably know that I’m not much of a fan of this style… yet I seem to review it a lot. In general the Golden Ale is just a bit boring for me; it’s no American Adjunct Lager or anything like that, but as a fan of big, esoteric brews this style usually leaves me a bit flat.

Welcome to the Faust

Welcome to the Faust

When I received my flight, the FGA looked as I pretty much expected it to: a light gold hue with a brilliant white head that disappeared pretty quickly and left behind little trace that it was there. There was not really any lacing to speak of, so once the head was gone it was gone. Taking of whiff of it, again what I was getting was pretty much exactly what I would expect to get. The FGA had a slightly sweet malt backbone, with little to no hop on the end; it is your average golden in the eyes and in the nose.

Faust Golden Ale

Faust Golden Ale

Taking the FGA to my lips, I was a bit happier than I expected to be. It carries with it a good, crisp sweetness, but it’s not sticky or overly done. There’s almost no hop flavor (as would be expected for the style), but the sweet malt is still balanced and not overly done, which can be a common error on the Golden Ale. The malt keeps from being heavy on the swallow as well, so that the FGA has a light and tangy mouthfeel that would make it easy to put away in larger quantities. Overall, FGA is a good representation of a style that I’m just not a huge fan of.

Overall 6 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/faust-brewing-co-golden-ale/51629

Ginger Honey Wheat

About the Beer (from the Brewer):
An American Wheat made with fresh ginger and local honey for a hint of spicy sweetness. ABV 5.4%, IBU 16 from Kent Goldings and Falconers Flight for a touch of Citrus

Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 16

Up next on my trip down Faust Lane was the GINGER HONEY WHEAT. Just upon hearing the name I was intrigued, and had to see what this was all about. Ray warned me that often times people either feel that this beer carries way too little ginger, or way too much… as a fan of ginger I was excited to see what was going on in this taster glass.

The Faust: a designated Historic Place.

The Faust: a designated Historic Place.

To the eyeballs, GHW comes off as a very solid, very true to style Hefeweizen. It has a hazy golden color topped by a fluffy white head, which sticks around for a good long while and leaves a definite record of the strata as it recedes down into a halo topping that elixir. The nose, however, disagrees with the eyes. “This is not a Hefe!” my nose tells my brain, “it’s damned ginger ale… wait, it’s ginger ale MIXED with a Hefe!” The ginger aroma is prominent up front, but behind it lurks the esters one would expect from any decent Hefeweizen.

Ginger Honey Wheat Hefeweizen

Ginger Honey Wheat Hefeweizen

My tongue makes my brain more confused, as what I get is that ginger (expected), lemon (unexpected), honey (expected – it’s right in the name!), and a touch of bitterness on the exit (unexpected in the style). The fusion of ingredients ends up with an amalgamation that I don’t think I’ve had before in a Hefe. Really, this mishmash takes GHW away from true Hefe territory into something much more interesting to my palate. It’s more bitter than I would expect, and a lot more flavor, and these are not bad things. The body is still in that Hefe range, being smooth and thin (but not too thin), with mild carbonation. The flavor is such that I don’t see myself sitting down and drinking a whole ton of these, but the first one or two would be very refreshing and welcomed.

Overall 8 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/faust-brewing-co-ginger-honey-wheat/664348

Vinny’s ESB

About the Beer (from faustbrewing.co):
Don’t let the name fool you, this beer might look bitter, but is quite nice. With a balanced alcohol and hop character, this English lion comes off toasty and fruity. For authenticity, this beer was created after a trip to England by our Brewmaster Ray and Vance Hinton.

Style: Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 6%
IBU: 42

Extra Special Bitter is a style that, along with Altbier, I need to get to know more of. It’s just not something we see a lot of here in the states, and it intrigues me. I love the fact that the word “bitter” is in the name, though it usually tops out at 50 IBUs. It’s just an interesting style that I need to experience more.

Living up to the creepy factor...

Living up to the creepy factor…

VINNY’S ESB pours a sparkling ruddy reddish-brown with a slightly off-white head that fades slowly. When it has finally taken its leave, there is a beautiful lace adorning the walls of my glass to remind me what once was. When I analyze the aromas, what my brain whispers to me is “Märtzen,” but I say “shut up brain before I poke you with a q-tip again.” While I know it’s no Oktoberfest, the mild, malt-heavy aroma tries to trick me into believing it may be. For something called a “bitter” I am again surprised at just how little hoppiness I get from the aroma; but, this is just because it is an ESB, not because of any flaw in this particular beer. The BJCP for Style 8C says that the “hop aroma [can vary from] moderately-high to moderately-low” and this is certainly on the latter part of that scale.

Vinny's ESB Extra Special Bitter

Vinny’s ESB Extra Special Bitter

Once VESB hits my tongue, I am a bit more surprised. Up front I get smooth, watered-down caramel, and a bitter hit on the end that my nose failed to warn me about. This is still no IPA or anything, but there is a distinct bite at the end of the sip that makes me understand the style’s name a bit more. The body for VESB is a nice middle ground between thick and thin, and it serves the flavor components well. There is prickliness to the carbonation that I get a bit in the back of my throat and up into my nasal cavities, and I enjoy it. It’s just again there to remind me that I really need to get to know this style more, and with each sip I enjoy it more. This is not a style that I usually have as a “go-to” in any way, but now that I have enjoyed a fresh, not-shipped-over-the-ocean-in-a-warm-container ESB, I want more. Thanks Vinny, for opening my eyes.

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/faust-brewing-co-vinny-s-esb/533078

Altered States

About the Beer (from faustbrewing.co):
We all need to change our perspectives every now and again, and, ab und zu, take a little trip to the dark side. This Dusseldorf-styled ale is the quintessential Altbier, attaining the duality of a light-bodied ale with dark, malty flavor and color. Let it bring out the devil in you.

Style: Altbier
ABV: 5%
IBU: 25

ALTERED STATES is another foray into a style that I just don’t drink much of. Overall I’m not too much of a lager guy; I prefer the more complex esters and flavors that the ale yeasts provide. But there are times that a nice, crisp, clean flavor profile is called for. I keep trying to break my bias to lagers, but I am usually disappointed when I drink one, then I head back to the ale side of the fence. Though Altbier is kind of a lager (brewed with ale yeast, but lagered at colder temps to keep the fruity ester production down), I wanted to give AS a good chance so I decided to just dive right in, fences be damned.

It's a hotel.  You don't HAVE to go home!

It’s a hotel. You don’t HAVE to go home!

To look at it, I would guess it were a Porter or maybe a thin Stout, not an Alt. Without backlighting, AS is a deeply hued brown, but when you take it to the light it gives up it’s much more radiant roots. With some glow behind, AS comes off a rich mahogany color, topped with a light khaki cap. The head fades somewhat slowly, and leaves good remnants behind. My nose agrees with my eyes; this is much more roasty than any Alt I’ve stuck my snout into before, and again if I had to guess I would say I was partaking in a Porter.

Altered States Altbier

Altered States Altbier

My tongue, however, tells me this is not a Porter. AS is certainly an Alt, but a much deeper, roastier Alt then I’ve ever had before. This makes for an interesting flavor dichotomy as I’m drinking the AS. It’s got that bitter caramel on one hand that I would expect from an Alt, but on the other end of that spectrum I also have that deep roast that kept tricking my brain into thinking Porter. I’ve never had an Alt that is this heavy and thick, and I really wonder if this was lagered, or if it has been brewed as an ale. The ale-like Porter flavors are up front, and the caramel and bitter are on the exit. The build on my palate, to make this a more bitter beer than its IBU count would have you believe. What it doesn’t do is come off crisp and clean like what you would expect from a beer style that is usually lagered (even though it is generally brewed with an ale yeast strain). Weird. The body is also a bit thicker, smoother, and velvet-ier than what I would expect from an Alt, which again makes me wonder if it was lagered at all. Though I will say this, this is a pretty easy to drink beer for being as deep and roasty as it is. It’s an interesting take on an old style.

Overall 6 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/faust-brewing-co-altered-states/45913

Brewery site: http://www.faustbrewing.co

New Braunfels Brewing Co. (New Braunfels, TX): HimmelWeiss, Shiva’s Tears, LuftWeiss / LSD

I recently made the not-too-long trip up to New Braunfels, TX, to check out an up and coming brewery I had been hearing more and more about, New Braunfels Brewing Co. When I got there I met Kelly Meyer (co-owner with his wife Lindsey, an head brewer), who was kind enough to tell me about NBBCo and let me sample some of the beers. As of right now the brewery is very small – 15 Barrels – but they have aspirations on growing, and as quick as their bottles sell out (they brewed 18 DIFFERENT beers in the last year) I’m sure it won’t be long. Kelly describes his plans on having an “estate brewery” where he can eventually get as much of his raw ingredients from his own land as possible; right now NBBCo works on getting as much Texas (and even as much Comal county) grown product in their beer as possible. His beers harken back to New Braunfel’s German roots, and he uses all 85% wheat in his beers, and all of them are brewed with the same yeast, which adds a nice uniformity across the brand. But even with so much of the beginning of these beers being “the same,” they are very different in the end.

New Braunfels Brewing Co., New Braunfels, TX

New Braunfels Brewing Co., New Braunfels, TX

About the Brewery (from nbbrewing.com):
Around 1850 Julius Rennert began brewing in New Braunfels, Texas. He is widely credited as brewing the first beer in Texas. In 1915 or so the New Braunfels Brewing Company picked up the brewing torch and mashed it’s first batch of local brew. Even through Prohibition, NBBCo still brewed the good stuff and bootlegged it. But 1925 brought down the local brewery when authorities raided them and found the illegal brew. The reincarnation of our New Braunfels Brewing Company started as a dream in 2010. We’ve located our nano-brewery in historic downtown New Braunfels and are available for tours and tastings. We approach our brewery project as a labor of love. Our beers are designed to reflect our community, refresh your palette and be a heck of a lot of fun! We believe that beer and life should be enjoyed and savored. That’s why we say: Here’s To Life!

The brewing system

The brewing system

HimmelWeiss

About the Beer (from the literature at the brewery):
(hee mul) HimmelWeiss, the TX Saison, is crafted from 85% TX grown wheat. Notes of vanilla, lemongrass and happiness will throw a party on your tongue and invite all your rowdy friends. Sweet, spicy and lovable, like the way you picture yourself.

Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 27

Saisons have quickly moved up the ranks in my personal beer ratings this last year or two. They are not as in your face as IPAs or Stouts, they are not as laid back as Pilsners, they are not as pedestrian as Ambers, they ride that fine line in the middle, and when done right they can really surprise you. Generally, Saisons are made with a certain yeast that gives them much of their signature flavor, so I was very surprised to find that not only is HIMMELWEISS 85% wheat like the rest of the NBBCo line, but it is also brewed with the same Hefe yeast. It doesn’t taste like it.

A beautiful day in New Braunfels, Texas...

A beautiful day in New Braunfels, Texas…

Pouring HW into the glass produces a gorgeous lemony-yellow color that is not sparkling clear… and shouldn’t be. This citrine liquid is topped by a raucous gleaming white head that stays around for quite a while, and when it finally leaves, it has tagged the walls to let its homies know it was there. Taking a big sniff of what the HW has to offer, I get a lot of what I’d expect from a Saison – some vanilla smoothness, a tiny touch of tart – and then something I wouldn’t expect, that very banana like ester that comes from the Hefe yeast. It is an interesting olfactory impulse, something I would not expect from a beer labeled as a Saison.

HimmelWeiss Saison

HimmelWeiss Saison

Taking that first sip, the HW reads all Saison. It’s really odd to me that NBBCo could brew a Saison with Hefe yeast. Talking with Kelly, it comes from the temperatures that the beer is fermented at, as well as additions of lemongrass and vanilla bean, that make this beer be what it should not. It’s smooth, it’s refreshing, and it’s very Saison-y without being that traditional Saison. And I really like that. It’s got a good medium-body – not too thick and not super-thin – and a great, somewhat creamy mouth feel that really accentuates the vanilla. Overall, this is just a super-cool Saison. It’s a beer that is more than the sum of its parts, and one I will most definitely be drinking again. Soon.

Overall 8 / 10

Beer page: http://texaswebdude.com/NewBraunfelsBrewingCompany/page2/index.html

Shiva’s Tears

About the Beer (from Untappd):
According to Hindu faith, Shiva, the god of destruction and rebirth, was called upon to rid the world of an evil demon named Tripura. After meditating for 1,000 years on how to kill Tripura and contemplating the evil he wrought on Earth, Shiva winked his eyes and tears fell. From those tears grew a tree who’s fruit satisfies thirst. It’s seeds are used for meditation and prayer. Our Weizenbock is a study in power and grace. Surprising smooth for a high abv powerhouse, Shiva’s Tears is our pathway to beer truth. Meditate on a few of them and you may just cry of few tears of your own.

Style: Weizenbock
ABV: 9%
IBU: 27

You have got to love the name of this beer. SHIVA’S TEARS: WEIZENBOCK OF THE DESTROYER. That’s metal; Hindu metal. Is there such a thing as Hindu Metal? If not, there should be, and this should be its official beer. ST assaults my glass as a nearly black-as-a-metal-guy’s-soul-should-be elixir, topped off with a ferocious tan head. It’s somewhat amazing to look at… if I didn’t know better I would think that this beer is on nitro. But it’s not, just regular-o. Allowing the goddess to enter my olfactory cavities, I am again surprised, because it is not nearly as roasty and toasty as what my eyes we preparing my brain for. ST has a bit of roast to it, but not anywhere near what the visual makes me expect. That 85% wheat body really makes this much more mild than I was prepared for, which is not a bad thing. It’s nice to be surprised.

My taps for the day, all designed and/or hand-drawn by Kelly

My taps for the day, all designed and/or hand-drawn by Kelly

Taking a sip, my tongue follows my nose. It is heavy, yes, but we’re talking radio-friendly heavy, not death-metal heavy. Less Cannibal Corpse, more Staind. Now, if we were actually discussing music, this would be bad (to be honest, I’m not a fan of either, but if I had to swing one way or the other it would be CC), but since we are discussing a Weizenbock, this is nice. I like how this beer is somewhat undercover; it makes you think it’s going to be deep, roasty, thick, and heavy, and it’s really not. It’s light-bodied, with a tinge of roastiness, and very easy to drink for an 8.5% ABV beer. The aftertaste is nice, with just a little bitterness to compliment the mild roastiness, and it builds as you get deeper in the glass. In the end, it’s a bit light for my tastes (this is a time I’d prefer maybe Deftones) but not bad at all. This would be a decent brew to prove to your friends that only drink pale ales that not all dark beers are big and heavy. Except on the ABV part of the equation… tread lightly, ST might destroy you if you’re not careful.

Shiva's Tears Weizenbock

Shiva’s Tears Weizenbock

Overall 6.5 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/new-braunfels-brewing-company-shiva-s-tears/533983

LuftWeiss / LSD (LuftWeiss in the Sky with Diamonds)

About the Beer (from Untappd):
LuftWeiss: LuftWeiss (literally, SKY Wheat Beer) is made with very pale malts to lighten the body and make the beer more drinkable and refreshing. A very small amount of pale wheat malt is combined with white wheat and pilsner barley malt, resulting in a straw color and a light body. The Perle and Cascade hops add just the right amount of bitter snap and a hint of citrus (so no need for lemon in this one). The real flavor comes from the choice of yeast strain. It is a very old yeast from Germany that produces a myriad of flavor compounds. Our fermentation schedule creates yeast phenolics (flavors) that combine mild spice and banana tastes.

LSD: LuftWeiss dry hopped with Cascade and wormwood.

Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 18

I found this to be an interesting experiment, as these are two versions of the same beer. LUFTWEISS is NBBCo’s Hefeweizen (any good German styled brewery has gotta have at least one) and LSD (LUFTWEISS IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS) is a dry-hopped version of the same beer. I am a fan of messing with styles. Don’t get me wrong; it is important as a brewer to be able to make solid representations of styles that any good beer geek is going to immediately recognize (like Hefe), but it’s also cool to take that immediately recognizable style and tweak it in a way that’s all your own.

LuftWeiss Hefeweizen

LuftWeiss Hefeweizen

LW pours a very light lemon yellow, with a thin brilliant head that takes off quickly but leaves a memory behind staining the glass. The aroma is very classical hotter-fermented Hefe – some banana, a little clove, some sweetness, and an overall easy drinker. The body is thin and easily quaffable. This would be a good summer beer to have in a can on the river, if I were the type of person to ride down a river with a can. The mouthfeel is light and zesty, and the banana comes through throughout the sip, with a nice crispness on the end. Overall, a very classical Hefe, and if I was a big fan of Hefes I’m sure I’d be a bigger fan of LW.

LuftWeiss in the Sky with Diamonds Dry-Hopped Hefeweizen

LuftWeiss in the Sky with Diamonds Dry-Hopped Hefeweizen

LSD on the other hand takes that idea of an “average” Hefe and kicks it in the ass. Instead of the light lemon yellow, the LSD comes off a much deeper, cloudier hue. There is little to no head, and as one would expect there is little to no lacing (but somehow a tiny bit sticks around, grasping for life on the glass’ walls). The aroma is hop-forward and almost medicinal from the wormwood – which, if you didn’t know, is one of the major ingredients in Absinth (but not the one that gives it most of its flavor) – with a background player of lemon. The flavor is not completely unlike LW, but with some additions that take it out of the area of the average Hefe and into somewhat unknown territory. The hops do not change the flavor (other than what your brain tells you from the different aroma), but the wormwood does play a part in upsetting the status quo. The bod also seems to gain something from the dry-hopping, as it feels smoother and almost even slightly velvety, compared to its much thinner brethren. Overall, if I were given the option, I would choose the Diamonds any day.

Overall LuftWeiss 6 / 10 LSD 7 / 10

Beer page: http://texaswebdude.com/NewBraunfelsBrewingCompany/page2/index.html
http://untappd.com/b/new-braunfels-brewing-company-lsd-luftweiss-in-the-sky-with-diamonds/740066

Brewery site: http://nbbrewing.com/

The Forbidden Four (2012)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
Tim; a writer suffering from block retreats to a dark, isolated cottage in hopes of letting his creative juices flow but gets a lot more than he bargained for when a mysterious lobster get his pincers on his brain! Securing Tim in his grip, the Lobster proceeds to tell him four tales of dream-like horror fantasy that will change Tim’s outlook on life, lobsters and creative writing forever!

Cast:
Jim Heal as Publishing Chief, Bobby Parker as Publishing Chief, Shane Moroney as Donald, Lee Partridge as The Clown, Corina Harper as Antigone / Sleeping Girl / Owl Entity, Matilda Harper as Ismene / Narrator, Louret H. Sametter as Polyneices / Blind Prophet / Death, Tristan Rowley as Creon, Derek Worlock as Manufacturer, James Underwood as Jerome, Luke Coates as Wealthy Man / Middle Aged Man, Kim Moody as Clair, Bryan Rider as Pagan Priest

Special Features:
Short Films, Music Videos

Written and Directed by Thomas Lee Rutter

I watch a lot of movies. A lot. Sometimes I get to the end of a movie and I think to myself, “that was weird.” Sometimes I think, “that was really weird.” And occasionally I think, “what the hell did I just do to my brain?” THE FORBIDDEN FOUR was a brain-assaulting entry into this year’s movie log. I like weird flicks – on more than a few occasions I’ve had to explain to others what a masterpiece LOST HIGHWAY is, and this is one of the less weird films that I could think of – but TFF just takes weird to a whole new level. As Jules says so perfectly in PULP FICTION, “ain’t the same fuckin’ ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport.” That’s kind of my reaction with TFF and weird flicks: not the same sport.

Obey your lobster overlords!

Obey your lobster overlords!

TFF opens with a writer, Tim, who has been given an ultimatum on finishing his novel, and is seriously stressed about it. A fellow writer offers him an idea: a secluded place to get away from it all and writer without distraction. Unbeknownst to Tim, there’s a weird semi-demonic lobster (yes, lobster) waiting in the darkness of that cabin in the woods to slice open his head and feed him stories. From there, we go into the anthology bits of the film… so there’s that. The stories within TFF are about as odd (insomuch as how they relate to each other) as the wrap-around story that frames them.

Up first is “Antigone and Polyneices,” based on Sophocles’ tragedy. This story is basically told as a silent film, with no dialogue at all, just video then screens of text. This really bugged me. I am a big fan of having as little exposition in your film as is needed to get the audience to follow what’s going on, and in this story it’s all exposition – and even worse, it’s exposition that is written down for you to have to read (and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for most people to get through the paragraphs before they go away). This makes “A&P” a very slow, very boring story indeed. Another big issue I have with this chapter is the fact that making a period piece is incredibly hard to do well on a low (or no-) budget film, and they went back to ancient Greece. This does not work. It’s very cool that it was shot in Greece, so that helps, but the ruins would not have been ruins, the clothes would not have bra straps hanging out of the back, the characters would not have cool little wrist tattoos; there’s just so much that takes this story out of that setting and reminds you that it is NOT ancient Greece.

One of the more interestingly composed shots in TFF

One of the more interestingly composed shots in TFF

Up next is a quick and creepy entry, “A Child’s Toy.” This is a bit better subject matter for the no-budget film, a weird B&W story of a woman’s doll that is apparently some sort of a cenobite and tears forth her fetus (also a doll… not sure if it was supposed to be a real baby or not) for the Manufacturer (only know that because of the credits) to take. There’s not too much to say about this one; it was short, it was creepy, it had good atmosphere, and – like most of the rest of TFF – it was completely confusing.

I'm crazy, you can tell by my hair!

I’m crazy, you can tell by my hair!

The third story, “The Catalyst,” was by far the best one. This story actually had some plot that could be followed (and it was interesting plot at that), it had dialogue, and it had a lot of elements that could actually put together a good little ride. Jerome is a painter, and is popular, but is told that he really doesn’t have the darkness in him to paint such dark images, that they seem false. This statement rattles around in his brain and makes him a bit crazy, and he ends up taking the darkness into his own hands, and paints a masterpiece from it. This story had some definite pros going for it; you’ve got a nice descent-into-madness story, good artwork (I was sad when the owl painting hit the water, I would have hung that up in my house!), and though I saw most everything coming in this film, it worked well. “TC” would be a great story to expand upon and make into a whole movie (probably not a feature, but a longer flick than this) that could stand on its own.

What's going on in Solstice?  I don't know either, and I watched it.

What’s going on in Solstice? I don’t know either, and I watched it.

Finally, there is “Solstice at the Midlife Circus.” This is really less of a story and more of a visual art piece, and as such it really makes little sense to be included in an anthology.

On the production side of things, TFF is a bit of a muddled mess. From the first moments of the movie, the lack of quality of the video is readily apparent. The film seems to be shot on an older video camera, and that’s hard to deal with as a viewer these days. It’s not good enough to appeal to most, and it’s not bad enough to feel retro or throwback. The video needs de-interlacing, and the face that it is letterboxed on 1:33 ends up with the viewer having a big black box around the film. In the days of widescreen TV, this is very apparent. Aggravating the poor image quality is the lighting, which varies from decent to bad to horrible. There is many a scene that is so dark or so bathed in harsh shadow that the viewer cannot tell what is going on at all. Then comes the biggest production issue: the audio. Oh, the audio. I have little to no issue with accents, but I couldn’t understand vast swaths of what was being said in TFF. From either way to quiet with too much background noise (the scene with Tim being offered the cabin – which is an important scene and I couldn’t understand a damn thing that was being said for 85% of it), to way too processed (the Lobster – again important I’d assume but I don’t know because I couldn’t understand the majority of it), to having too loud of a score over the top (much of the rest of the movie), the audio has just been beat to shit. I’ve said it many times on this site: audio is going to make or break your low/no-budget film (it broke mine), and TFF is another example of this.

So there are some shots that are a little dark...

So there are some shots that are a little dark…

Overall, I just could not get into TFF. From the production issues to the production design (bad effects, bad costumes, etc.) to the overall feel of the film, it just pushed me away. It really felt like it was weird just for weird’s sake, and that is no good. There needs to be a motivating factor, a payoff, something for me as the viewer to deal with the oddness I am being presented and there just isn’t any with TFF. I even watched all three of the shorts included on the disc to see if it would help me understand at least the style more, and that did nothing for me. I do have to give Rutter some credit for his editing skills, because that is the aspect of TFF that is the strongest by far. There are some ideas that are good, there are some nice shots here and there, and there are the building blocks for what can be a good movie in TFF, but they are way down deep beneath the surface. I would love for Rutter to take “The Catalyst” and run with that; when he’s not going for super-duper-ultimately-weird, he can obviously make an interesting story come to life, but there was just too little of that in TFF for my tastes.

Overall 2.5 / 10

TFF on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2154188/

TFF for sale: http://carniefilms.bigcartel.com/product/the-forbidden-four-dvd

TFF site: http://www.carniefilms.blogspot.com/

I’m Back!

Hello all.  After taking a little time off from the site, I’m back.  I’m still not accepting new movies or music reviews (and won’t be for quite a while), but I am accepting new beer reviews.  I’m going to work my way through this backlog of things I have to review, and then I’ll be looking for new stuff again. 

I decided that since there was some time off, I’d revamp the overall look of the site, as well as posting larger images to go along with the new reviews. So it’s with a new look and a new feeling that I will be doing my future reviews. Overall, the format is going to stay the same though. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy!

Music and Movie Hiatus makes Ryan a Sad Panda :(

Hello everyone.  Today I am a sad panda.  I have come to the realization that without help I just can not keep up with the demand.  I have so many submissions to review, and I want to give each one the time and attention it deserves.  I don’t write short little blurbs, I take the time to watch/listen closely and write an in-depth review.  I don’t want to just gloss over your movie or music, I want to take the time to explain why I felt the way I did, what you did good and bad, why others should take the time or money to check it out for themselves.  With having a family, and a full time job, this has become increasingly difficult.

How I feel today

How I feel today

Right now, the time between when I receive your movie and when I can get a review up is averaging about 18 months.  A year and a half.  That’s craziness, and as a filmmaker I know how much it sucks to wait and wait and wait for a review.  For music it’s somewhere between 10 – 12 months.  Also crazy.  So I have decided that I am going to stop accepting new movies and music to review until I can catch up a bit.  Every time I add a new movie to the list, that time to wait gets a bit longer and a bit longer.  So, I just need to stop adding to the list for a while.

Just don't want to feel run over anymore...

Just don’t want to feel run over anymore…

I will continue to review what is already on the list.  So if you sent me a movie or music, do think it was in vain.  It will just take (as I told you when you emailed me) a very, VERY long time.  And since they take a lot less time, I will continue to do new beer reviews.  But as of today, I am not going to be able to accept new movie or music reviews.  And I am a very sad panda.

Pensacola Bay Brewery (Pensacola, FL): DeSoto, Blackbeard, Black Treasure, Li’l Napoleon, Big Napoleon

I went to visit one of my oldest friends, bartender extraordinaire Justin Roads, in Pensacola. We got together to go geek out at the Pensacon, but I knew that if I was coming in town I needed to find some good local craft beer, so I asked my bartender buddy what’s there. He pointed me to Pensacola Bay Brewery. I contacted them via their website – the day before I would be in town – on the slim chance I would get in touch with someone about doing a review. To my surprise, I got a return email in not long at all from brewmaster/co-owner Mark Robertson telling me he’d be glad to show me around. The day before the con, Justin and I went over to PBB and were met by Mark who was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the brewery and serve me up some beer to try. I love this job.

Pensacola Bay Brewery, Pensacola, FL

Pensacola Bay Brewery, Pensacola, FL

About the Brewery (from pbbrew.com/history/):
Once upon a time, two guys who had never met, had a glass of beer.
Who knew that years later, their love of beer would bring them together.
Elliott Eckland and Mark Robertson started this journey in 2009, and in October 2010 opened the doors of the Pensacola Bay Brewery. Focusing on local Pensacola landmarks and lore, the Pensacola Bay Brewery mixes a little Florida history in each pint.

 

DeSoto

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Refreshing and tart. Made with Bohemian pilsner malt, white wheat, and Mt. Hood hops. Napoleon himself dubbed the Berliner Weisse Ale the Northern Champagne. You will create your own endless summer with a pint of our DeSoto Berliner Weisse Ale brewed with raspberries.

Style: Raspberry Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.4%
IBU: 62

 

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: I love sours. They are seriously one of my favorite styles of beer (which is kind of a misnomer, because you really can “sour” any “style” of beer) and I don’t get to put them in my face often enough. When I got to PBB and saw they had not only a sour, but a raspberry sour, I did a little happy dance in my mind… and maybe with my feet whilst they hung from the barstool. You don’t know, you weren’t there. Seeing the DESOTO fill that glass with coral deliciousness topped by a tiny white cap that quickly disappeared to only a faint halo, I did another happy dance. It was beautiful, and it was going in my face.

Yes.  Yes it is.

Yes. Yes it is.

Taking a whiff of DESOTO, it was pretty much what I was expecting it to be. Berliner Weisse is one of the least-sour sours, so I wasn’t anticipating a face full of lemons or anything like that. What I got was a slight tartness accentuated by a hint of raspberry that brought it back from smelling truly sour. Taking that first quaff, I was actually a bit surprised, as the bouquet and the flavor did not really go hand in hand. DESOTO actually comes off more sweet than anything else, which was really unexpected. It starts off with a nice fruity floral sweetness, and on the backend of the swallow is where that sour I was expecting pokes its head up. Berliner Weisse is often very mildly sour, but I believe DESOTO to be the mildest sour I’ve had so far. Which makes it a great introduction to the idea of messing up perfectly good beer with random yeasts and bacteria for those people considering getting into this odd offshoot of beer. The flavor on this one is very delicate, and the sweetness is a little strong, but mostly balanced by the slight tartness on the exit, and would be pretty easy to enjoy for most people… this might even be the beer to get your significant other that only drinks wine into drinking beer.

DeSoto Raspberry Berliner Weisse

DeSoto Raspberry Berliner Weisse

At 3.4%, DESOTO is almost the definition of a session beer. Truly, this would be a great beer in a can at the beach, or outside while grilling, or sitting on the porch after mowing the lawn in Florida (or Texas) heat. The flavor is very crisp and clean and would beg your palate to imbibe more. This is the beer version of a Lay’s potato chip, and there’s no way you can just have one. The thin, sprtizy, lightly carbonated body makes this one easily drinkable. Hell, this one would be easily chuggable, and I don’t chug beer. But if I HAD to chug a beer, pass me a DESOTO.

 

Overall 8.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/desoto/

 

 

Blackbeard

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Dark and delicious, made with malted, roasted, and chocolate barley with a soft finish.

Style: Stout
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 34

I am so glad that as a beer drinking society here in the US, we are no longer defining what a Stout should be based on imported, not fresh, bottled or canned Guinness. Fifteen years ago, if you asked anyone other than the most hardcore of beer nerds, they would be tough-pressed to name three other stouts I think. Now, when I have friends that are just starting to dip their toes into the wonder that is the world of craft beer, I can offer them hundreds of options to that Guinness that they normally drink… and they are all going to be better. Don’t get me wrong; in Ireland, fresh, on tap, I know we are talking about a completely different beer than what we get on this side of the pond, but here there is no reason to settle for a Guinness when there are options like BLACKBEARD at your fingertips.

The bartender.  Well, the bartender's assistant.

The bartender. Well, the bartender’s assistant.

BLACKBEARD slinks into my glass as a deep inky black oil with a relatively think khaki head on top. While there wasn’t a whole lot of whipped cream on top of this sundae, the bubbles that were present stuck around for a good long time, and left very definite mile markers of where my beer had been in my glass. As the volatile bits rise up and pillage my nose, I get what I hope to get from a good stout: a nice deep roastiness that is heavy but not burnt or smoky, some good coffee hints that go with that roast, and even a hint of semi-sweet chocolate hiding in the back. Really, classically, stout.

Blackbeard Stout

Blackbeard Stout

Once that wave of darkness finally assaults my palate, I get what those buccaneers in my nose foretold. BLACKBEARD brings to my mouth a very nicely roasted by not burnt malt base, interwoven with chocolaty goodness (more on the dark chocolate than the semi-sweet spectrum). While this is not a Sweet Stout or a Milk Stout, it does have a nice underlying sweetness from the malt that rounds out the beer and balances that dark roast very nicely. I was also happy to find that BLACKBEARD doesn’t bring much of the bitter, which is how I personally prefer my stouts. This would be amazing with a scoop of ice cream floating in it, preferably a strong vanilla bean flavored dollop. Looking at the beer itself, it comes off as bigger and badder than its body actually is; it seems like it would be a very thick beer, but it is actually somewhat thin with a lightly milky/oily feel to it. As I consume a bit more of it, the heaviness builds on my palate, and the bitterness does a bit as well, but that scoop of ice cream could easily remedy that. So, PBB: beer cream float days?

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/blackbeard/

 

 

Black Treasure

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Made with seven different grains, this beer is smooth with a slight chocolate flavor and the aroma and taste of whiskey. One or two of these and our may think you’re in Tennessee sitting next to Jack Daniels himself.

Style: Imperial Porter aged in Whiskey Barrels
ABV: 8%
IBU: 42

 

I like Imperial Porters (ok, let’s be honest, I like Imperial Anything’s), I like whiskey, I like dark beers; I was really expecting a lot out of BLACK TREASURE. While everyone likes to age their stouts in bourbon barrels, the idea of a porter in a whiskey barrel intrigued me. What’s so different, you may ask; and to you asking I would say: a lot, ya dumb jerk. No, I’m not really like that (unless of course it’s on the end of the tasting day), but truly there are some big distinctions in these related styles. First off, whiskey is a spirit made from distilled grain (could be corn, barley, rye, wheat, etc.) aged in oak. Bourbon is a distilled spirit made from AT LEAST 51% corn, and aged in new, unused, charred oak barrels. It’s that corn that gives you the sweetness that bourbon is famous for, and that charred oak that imparts all of those vanilla/caramel type flavors. Porter vs. Stout is a similar discussion, they are both dark roasty beers, but have their own slight differences as well (that I think I have discussed before so I’m not going to go into them again on this review.) So, Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout would have you expecting sweet, vanilla like notes in your beer. I had never had a Whiskey Aged Porter, so I had an idea of what I thought would be there, but it was just an idea.

The list for my day at PBB

The list for my day at PBB

Looking into the void, BLACK TREASURE is a deep heavy brown with a very thin top that very quickly reduces to a cordon worn on the breast of this noble pirate. But that corona that tops BLACK TREASURE leaves behind very nice lacing, and helps to remind you that you have drank how much of this beer?! After a couple of these, you may need reminding. Taking a sniff, that whiskey scent is prominent and even dominant, which I expected but not really to that intensity. Behind the spirit, I get sweetness that I did not expect from a Porter.

Black Treasure Imperial Porter

Black Treasure Imperial Porter

Once I finally submit to my urge and take a sip, the BLACK TREASURE hits me right in the face with the whiskey. Seriously whiskey. If you like whiskey, this is the beer for you type whiskey. The body of BLACK TREASURE is a nice middle ground between a thick stout and a lighter porter, and balances that body well. As that initial liquor fades, BLACK TREASURE brings a very heavy sweetness that really makes me think more Barleywine than Porter. I know some of this is because we are talking “Imperial” here, but still it is not at all what I was expecting from this beer. Which is not necessarily a bad thing (I love Barleywines, one of my favorite styles), just an odd turn of events. This was followed by another odd turn of events, a flavor I have run into many times in the past and it always turns my palate in weird ways: “band aid.” There is really no other way to describe it, other than band-aid, and it is not a good thing. I have had this in Adroit Theory’s TENEBRIS (here), I have had it in Dogfish Head’s IMMORT ALE, and there have been other offenders along the way. It’s just not a pleasant pungency to find in my beer. There is a saving grace though: this flavor usually diminishes with age… too bad for me I was having this fresh on tap. This beer is most certainly a sipper both from that elevated ABV (and it tastes even stronger than it is with that heavy whiskey essence), and with that unfortunate wallop of the plastic variety in the backend of the palate.

 

Overall 5.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/black-treasure/

 

 

Li’l Napoleon

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Napoleon never set foot on Florida’s shores, but if he did, we’re sure he’d be looking for a way to conquer the land from coast to coast. He’d probably have some supporters – after all, the French helped settle Pensacola. Our Li’l Napoleon ® was christened in the name of all short bastards – the good, the bad and the infamous. Strong and hoppy, Li’l Napoleon ® can sneak up on you if you let it. With a smooth caramel and honey finish, you’ll want to have a second. And probably a third. Take time to savor the good ole days, when the French had power and Florida was a territory waiting to be developed. We reckon Napoleon would be proud of the IPA that bears his name. (Aside from his hatred of all things English, naturally).

Style: IPA
ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 70

 

For anyone that regularly reads these reviews, you are probably painfully aware that I loves me some IPAs. While it might not be my very “favorite” style, it is most certainly my most prolific one. I love that hop aroma, and I don’t mind the bitterness (though I’m much more about the late addition/dry hops than the early addition ones). It’s just an amazing style, and there is good reason that it is continually one of the most popular to many a beer geek. As a matter of fact, I may or may not be drinking one right now as I type these words… you’ll never really know. Ok, I am.

Some of PBB's award winning beers

Some of PBB’s award winning beers

Seeing that PBB had two different plays on the same beer (I assume by nomenclature), I was excited to get in and play. LI’L NAPOLEON is the smaller of the brothers, so let’s start there I thought. In the glass, The Little Corporal is a peachy apricot hue topped by a brilliant white bicorne that is quickly swept away in the wind and leaves behind just a whisper to remind you it was once there. When The Ogre pushes forward into my nasal cavity, I am a bit sad to say that what he brings with him is a regiment of malt, which sorely lacks the hops hit I hope for. It’s a lot of malt sweetness, and very minute amounts of floral goodness on the far, far back end of the sniff.

pbb ln

Li’l Napoleon IPA

When ol’ Boney finally reaches his destination, what he threatened in La Vallée du Nez comes to fruition on the battlefield of La Langue. LN is a very malt-forward, malt heavy IPA with just a touch of hops on the backend, but what those flowers bring is just bitterness and very little aroma to match. The body on the LN is not too thin and not too thick, but the very heavy malt and bitter without the nose to go with it makes this not the easiest IPA for me to put down. Talking to Mark, he said he likes Midwest IPAs… apparently I don’t. But I know that’s not 100% true, because I can easily rattle off a list of Midwest IPAs that I DO like, so I’m not sure where the disconnect comes in here. But I don’t like this. Way too malty, too bitter without the balance of the aroma, and overall just doesn’t read as an IPA to me. What I would call it, I don’t know; but not an IPA from what I have had before (many, many times before). However, as I have said many times, that’s what’s great about beer: what I hate you may love and vice versa.

 

Overall 3.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/lil_napoleon/

 

 

Big Napoleon

About the Beer (from Mark Robertson):
Big Napoleon s a scaled up version of Lil Napoleon with a slightly different dry hopping due to it’s increased alcohol level.

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
IBU: 80

 

After the LN, I had to step up to his elder statesman, the BIG NAPOLEON. As much as I like a good IPA, I like an Imperial IPA even more. Like I said earlier, Imperial Anything almost always equals happy me. So after being a bit disappointed in the LN, I was hoping the BN would be more my style. In the glass it is obvious that this is a much beefier beer than it’s li’l brother. Instead of the pale orange previously presented, BN pours a deep ruddy brown with a touch of orange on the edges to remind you where it came from. While the bicorn quickly escaped from the LN, the BN has a much bigger noggin to affix that cap to, so the not-so-brilliant white cap sticks around a little bit longer, but not an extended time by any means. The halo left behind when that cap does take off persists throughout my experience, and leaves much more evident lacing than its little brother’s does. Smelling this one, the malt backbone still dominates. Sweet and more sweet (unlike Mr. Bonaparte) dictates, but there is a distinct but not overly pronounced bitterness (like Mr. Bonaparte) that does accompany this bouquet.

Where beer comes from, if you didn't know.

Where beer comes from, if you didn’t know.

When the Bigger Corporal assaults La Langue, it is a more pleasant experience than what I got from his little friend. Still, BN is much more malty and much less hoppy than I would prefer, it is easier defined as an IPA to my palate. There is a nice spicy hop bite, some citrus notes (as I’d hoped from a Florida IPA), but seriously heavy malt holding all of that up. Hard-pressed, if this was put to a blind taste test, I’d guess it was a light-bodied Barleywine. The body on BN is smooth and silky and a bit thick, as I’d hope from a beer of this gravitas. In the end it is not the easiest IIPA to drink for sure, as what it builds to is very hoppy and very malty, but missing that third element of the aroma hop to balance those dichotic instances.

Big Napoleon Imperial IPA

Big Napoleon Imperial IPA

As a side note, while I was at Pensacon I had a PENSACON IPA which was made by PBB, and I enjoyed it much more than either of these two I reviewed… I wish that had that one at the tasting room so I could have written it up!

 

Overall 5 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/pensacola-bay-brewery-big-napoleon/468671

Brewery site: http://pbbrew.com

Scream Park (2012)

Description (from wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html):
The Fright Land amusement park is on the verge of closing its doors forever. But the park’s owner, Hyde (Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley), has one last plan to sell more tickets… murder. Hiring two backwoods maniacs to break into the park and hack and slash all his employees, Hyde thinks these killings will create a media sensation, but he has just unleashed a horror that no one can survive. Also featuring Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre.

Major Cast:
Nicole Beattie as Missi, Kailey Marie Harris as Carlee, Dean Jacobs as Tony, Tyler Kale as Rhodie, Ian Lemmon as Ogre, Alicia Marie Marcucci as Allison, Carrie Lee Martz as Attendant, Kyle Riordan as Roy, Steve Rudzinski as Marty, Wendy Wygant as Jennifer, Nivek Ogre as Iggy, Doug Bradley as Mr. Hyde

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Director Commentary, Bloopers, Trailers

Written and Directed by Cary Hill

 

SCREAM PARK has so much potential… so, so much potential. Stupid underage kids drinking, partying, and having sex where they shouldn’t be? Check. Run down dilapidated location with lots of danger of its own that happens to be locked up tight with the kids on the inside? Check. Killers in creepy masks out to slaughter? Check. 80’s throwback vibe but with a new story, instead of a remake or reimagining or sequel or prequel? Check. Doug holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-Pinhead-is-in-this Bradley? Great gaping ginormous check. So what happened?

On paper, SP sounds like something that I would love. I am a big fan of the slasher sub-genre of horror, and also its precursor the Italian giallo, because there is just something really fun about the whole premise. It’s kind of like a car accident; most people really don’t want to see people hanging out the windshield misshapen and bloodied, but we all rubberneck anyway. That’s the feeling with the slasher: we don’t really wish a camp / park / sorority / whatever to be slaughtered by one or more maniacs possibly wearing masks, but when it happens on film we’re enthralled. It also comes back to that feeling when you ride a roller coaster… you know your chances of getting hurt are infinitesimally slim, but that chance brings on the adrenaline. You know these masked monster can’t hurt you from the other side of the screen, but what if that were you trapped in that situation? The best slashers make the view take that leap into the film, and then become truly scary because of that what-if.

One of the nicer shots in SP

One of the nicer shots in SP

The problem with slashers is that if the audience doesn’t make that leap, it becomes very unintentionally silly and boring. To suspend that disbelief, to make the audience truly feel for the characters and get that sense of imposing dread, the slasher has to be made really well. Now, I’m not saying there has to be a ton of money involved (as often the slasher film is one of the most effective low-budget genres), but there does have to be talent, time, and effort. SP just did not draw me in. I never felt for the characters, and I never felt the dread, and this resulted in the movie falling way flat.

The illusion of fear begins on the production side. You can make a slasher for not a lot of money without big expensive equipment, but the equipment you do have has to be used correctly to make up for that limitation. SP felt very digital (this may be a fault of the screener copy, as I did not receive a production DVD to review) and very prosaic. The colors were muddy, and the shots were seemingly often done with autofocus on the camera, which left the images looking flat and without any depth or any way to move the eye where you want it to go. The lighting overall was not bad, with just a few exceptions of harsh shadows or weird “where did that light source come from” shots. While the video itself was not the vest quality, there were quite a few well composed shots in the film, where the images on screen were obviously put together with thought and brought something pleasing to the eye, so it wasn’t all bad. To exacerbate the visual issues, the audio was also lackluster. The music and the foley / effects were good overall, but the dialogue was hard to hear. I don’t know for sure, but based on what I saw / heard in a lot of the shots I would not be surprised to find this movie was shot with an on-camera mic… at least, that’s how it seemed.

Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.

Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.

In order to grip the audience and get their hearts pumping, the film also has to have characters that we either can relate to, or care about, and the actors create this connection. Again, SP faltered on this front. The acting ranged from awesome (well duh, Doug Bradley, for his 2 minutes of screen time), to good (Wygant’s Jennifer), to mediocre (Ogre’s hillbilly, Riordan’s Roy), to really bad (just about everyone else). A lot of the delivery felt like someone reading a line for the first time, and with others it was so bad to be laughable (in a “laughing at you” not “laughing with you” sort of way). This dichotomy on the acting abilities really made the move come even more out of that suspension of disbelief realm, as Wygant does her best to get the audience to feel for the last girl, while everyone else around her does their best to make you remember this is a really low budget movie that apparently spent all of its money on the two actors whose name you might have heard of before. That may not be true, but that’s how it felt.

Doug MF'in Bradley.  Pinhead all up in here!!!

Doug MF’in Bradley. Pinhead all up in here!!!

Finally, the slasher staples that one would expect in this sort of movie: blood and boobs. If you are a fan of this genre, you know that almost without fail a slasher is going to have some girls getting naked (often for ridiculous reasons) and it’s gonna get gory. SP does have one girl get naked (eww, gross, sex in a toilet that has obviously not been cleaned in a really long time), so that check mark is filled in. There could have been more on that front, as we are talking about drunken horny teenagers here, but they at least got a little cleavage exposed. On the gore, it’s got some, but I was not impressed. The kills in SP are nothing new whatsoever, and when they are shown the gore is amateur hour. If SP was supposed to be a parody, and not an homage, the violent effects might have been more appropriate, but that is not the tone the rest of the movie carries. It’s trying to be straight 80’s styled slasher, and with all of the leaps in makeup techniques in the last 25 years, I really expect more than this.

Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)?  Actually, she wasn't one of the worst...

Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)? Actually, she wasn’t one of the worst…

Please don’t take this as an “all bad” review, because SP is not an all-bad movie. As I mentioned earlier, it gets major props right away for not being a remake or a reimagining or a sequel or some other sort of knock off of something that has come before. While the story is not overly original, at least it does attempt at something new. While the acting was not very good overall, there were a few standouts and come on… DOUG BRADLEY. Seriously. Doug Bradley. He’s not in it enough to save it, but I always love seeing him sans makeup. While the video side of things was not great overall, there were some interesting shots and angles that made the movie fun enough to watch. SP is not a great slasher, it’s not even a very good one, but it does have heart and originality, and that puts it above most of the dreck that is coming out of the Hollywood horror system any day. I think of SP as an introduction to some talent that I think needs more time to develop but may just make a really good movie one day. One day.

 

Overall 4.5 / 10

SP on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2336104/

SP for sale (as of April 22nd): http://www.wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html

SP site: http://www.screamparkmovie.com/

Scream Park (2014) DVD Cover

Scream Park (2014)
DVD Cover

Scream Park (2012) Theatrical Poster

Scream Park (2012)
Theatrical Poster

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)

Bio (from cdbaby.com/cd/markadamssonofbill):
Blending downs and acoustic guitar sounds with ups and big muff overdrive, this debut album is fueled by strong song writing without pretense, and does well to appeal to fans of the early 90’s sound.

Musicians:
Mark Adams (Vocals, Guitars, Bass), Spencer Powers (Drums), James Tristan Redding (Bass on 3, 8, 10, Drums on 2, Piano on 5), Christian Hansen (Drums on 3)

 

If you were old enough to appreciate music in the early 90’s, NOREPINEPHRINE will sound very familiar. I received this album to review from a friend, Don Adams (editor of many a Full Moon feature and some higher class fare, and director in his own right), who is also Mark Adams’ uncle. He described it as “very grunge,” and Mark himself lists Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana as influences… well, for anyone who has heard grunge before, I would have to say “duh.” This album is so 1991 it’s amazing. And that’s a good thing.

Nirvana was one of my first “favorite” bands, and NEVERMIND was the first CD I ever bought when I was upgrading from cassettes. Upon first listen to NOREPINEPHRINE, it struck me as an album that Nirvana could have made somewhere in-between BLEACH and NEVERMIND; even Mark’s voice has a bit of Cobain to it. The more I listened to it, I started to realize that it’s not as Nirvana as I first thought, especially with the acoustic/electric juxtapositions that Mr. Adams likes to do quite often throughout this album. Then Dinosaur Jr. came to mind. Funny thing was, I had not seen Mark’s CDBaby page yet (which is where he lists these influences), so to see these two band there in black and white made perfect sense.

Mark, under a bridge...

Mark, under a bridge…

NOREPINEPHRINE is most certainly a lo-fi album. It’s not quite the tapes that Cobain made in his house lo-fi, but there is not a ton of sheen or polish on this album for sure. It sounds like a garage band got a little extra money and recorded an album, and while to some that might sound like a bad thing, for this style the grunginess of the recording only accentuates the music. It’s not badly recorded at all, it’s just garage band lo-fi (think earlier White Stripes), and that’s just fine by me. Adams has a tendency to do the quiet-loud-quiet song structure, often starting with an acoustic riff that builds to a heavily overdriven chorus on electric, and then back to acoustic. This dynamic made me think a bit more of early Smashing Pumpkins, who were really more of a shoegaze band but were lumped in with the grunge guys as well. It’s familiar, it comforting, and the music makes me think of high school in a good way.

Lyrically Adams seems to also be taking a page out of Cobain’s book. A lot of his lyrics are dark; some are just plain dark and some dark in a playful way. In “Cutting-Edge Independent Rock Band” (a title that reminds me instantly of “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”), Adams sings “let’s form with an ad on Craigslist… / must have grown up in the suburbs / to know all the struggles I’ve had / and my influence is: lots of bullshit / pretend that you’ve heard of Black Flag / make sure that you love karaoke / and whining a lot.” Adams’ lyrics are not quite as nuanced as what Cobain was writing back in Nirvana’s heyday, but then again who’s were? There is a reason that he was as influential on a generation as he was. However, Adams’ lyrics are a lot heavier than a majority of what’s on the radio today, easily.

All flannel and hair.  So 1993.

All flannel and hair. So 1993.

Overall, I really enjoyed NOREPINEPHRINE. It brought back fond memories of a time when I was really getting heavily into music for the first time in my life (I liked music before that, but this is when I grew to LOVE music), and that automatically gave me some warm and fuzzies even though this is a pretty dark album overall. NOREPINEPHRINE would have fit very comfortably on Sub Pop or Geffen in the early 90’s, and for anyone that is listening to those bands this would be a good addition to your collection. “You got old, you feel like me” Adams sings on “Paramedicare,” and yes I got old too, but I do feel like you.

 

Overall 7.5 / 10

NOREPINEPHRINE for sale: http://markadamssonofbill.bandcamp.com/

NOREPINEPHRINE site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Adams-son-of-Bill/195991403762493
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/markadamssonofbill
http://www.reverbnation.com/markadamssonofbill

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)