Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Beyond The Pale - The Story Of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co." by Ken Grossman


"Beyond The Pale - The Story Of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co." by Ken Grossman (2013 Wiley Publishing, hardcover, 6.25" x 9.25", 248 pages)

A true American success story, Sierra Nevada Brewing continues to set the pace among the exploding craft beer world. This is the "straight-from-the-horse's-mouth" story of founder Ken Grossman, who, in true American maverick style, began his business back in 1980 as little more than a hobby, literally out of garages and with makeshift supplies. 

Grossman, as it turns out, is nearly as good at writing as he is at brewing. Well, that one's debatable. Anyway, his humble beginnings are detailed here from his upbringing in California, as are the numerous business and personal hurdles he has faced to create his recognizable brand. Grossman's writing style is relaxed and focused, delivering a fairly straightforward presentation that is effective and to-the-point.

Keep in mind, in 1980 there WAS no such "craft beer" or any semblance of a scene or support for Grossman's intensely-hopped pale ales. Only industrial lagers and expensive imports littered the wastelands of America. Grossman's teenage home-brewing experiments and tinkering with production methods are amazingly inspiring, and this story is the definitive tale of Sierra Nevada's growing pains in the earlier, leaner years, as well as a twinkle in the eye towards the future.

Now, as unquestionably one of craft beer's most influential and respected brewing companies, Sierra Nevada continues to innovate and exemplify the brotherly (and sisterly) craft beer world, sourcing ingredients naturally and sustainably, and teaming up with like-minded breweries (like the recent Beer Camp Across America series of beers and festivals). "Beyond The Pale" is a book any serious craft beer fan should read. 

As a side-note that must be mentioned: It's also remarkable that even after 30+ years, Sierra Nevada's flagship Pale Ale is among the best out there. 




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Clockwork Orange County" DVD (director: Jonathan W.C. Wills)

Superb punk doc

This is a well-done documentary focused on the early rise of West Coast punk rock, dating back to the early 80s. Director Wills got in touch with the right people to interview, to be sure. Included here are conversations with members of T.S.O.L., the Adolescents, Social Distortion, Circle Jerks (Keith Morris), Dead Kennedys (Jello Biafra), Black Flag (Henry Rollins), and plenty of others. 

As it turns out, the SoCal punk scene was indebted to the small club owned by Jerry Roach called the Cuckoo's Nest, which supported most of these early punk bands in a time when punk was considered threatening and dangerous, and fights with "rednecks" and the police were commonplace. "Clockwork Orange County" features plenty of first-hand accounts of this era, when punk was new and idealistic. Wills even deemed it worthy to include some new bands to discuss this classic era with, all of whom admit a tremendous debt to these punk pioneers. It's a fascinating and well-presented documentary, and something any true fan of American punk should see.



Monday, July 7, 2014

"Peter Simon's Through The Lens - Celebrating 50 Years of Personalized Photojournalism" 2xDVD

Impressive set of photos from celebrated artist

This deluxe set of DVDs serves as both an intro to the extensive and impressive career of photojournalist Peter Simon, as well as a sort of travelogue of his 50 years covering America and the world. 

Hosted and narrated by Simon himself, this set details his childhood inspirations and follows his life through the tumultuous sixties (Simon was a part of the hippie community and even co-founded an impromptu commune back in the day). From there, his friendships with many artists, musicians, and other celebrities (Walter Cronkite and family were close friends, even) are highlighted, all with some amazing photography. Simon has had quite a colorful life, meeting people as gaining the trust of celebrities as diverse as Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Bob Marley, to name just a few. His coverage of Jamaican reggae culture is stunning and groundbreaking for it's era, and the photos featured here (there are hundreds presented in this set's 3+ hours) prove to be a lovely and inspirational journey from a man who's seen and done it all.

A perfect set for any aspiring photographer, "Peter Simon's Through The Lens" is a wonderful journey for anyone interested in the world around them. Peter Simon should be a household name, without question.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Sternweisse

HACKER PSCHORR - STERNWEISSE (Munich, Germany) - 4.25 (exceptional)

The second of four small-batch releases from this legendary German brewery, Hacker-Pschorr's Sternweisse is a dark wheat beer/hefeweizen that pours a cloudy, murky amber in my Hacker-Pschorr hefe glassware. I get a rich, frothy head of off-white carbonation and some minor lacing.

The aroma here is strong on the spices. I get wheat, caramel, coriander and some traces of clove. Very promising start, indeed!

The taste is sweet but well-balanced. It's a malt-based beer, of course, but the touch of spice adds some depth. I get some dark fruit underneath it all, too, before it finishes with a citrusy lemon spice hint. 


This is an exquisite, complex, and very very drinkable brew, light enough for Summer (or anytime) enjoyment.

"B.B. King - The Life Of Riley" DVD (director: Jon Brewer)

Definitive bio of blues legend

All hail the King! Here is what will unquestionably remain the most comprehensive and definitive documentary on the life and times of Riley B. King, aka B.B. King. Tracing his days as a poor child in Mississippi up to present day, "The Life Of Riley" fluidly combines some fantastic old footage and photos with recent interviews, and includes candid conversations with King himself, as well as relatives, bandmates, friends, and admirers. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film includes interviews with everyone from Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr to Bono (there he is again!), Bruce Willis (huh?), Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, Bill Wyman, Joe Walsh, and tons more. That alone tells you how much time, effort, and love went into the making of this. 

His story is a great one, beginning with a broken family life, hard times as a segregated orphan, and continuing his thirst for the blues through decades, and befriending everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones to U2. He may be a comfortable guy now, but he's had to fight hard to reach that point, and this tale is simply inspirational.

King himself is still active at 88 years old, and his presence on the music scene is a sign that not all is lost. He remains a true gentleman, and despite his profile (and the admiration of multitudes across all demographics), he stays humble and benevolent. B.B. King is an American treasure, and "The Life Of Riley" is a must-see for anyone interested in American music.



G.G. Allin - "(Un)Censored Live 1993" DVD

More bootleg nihilism and degradation

Does the world really need another G.G. Allin live bootleg? Probably not, and anything after the extraordinary and unforgettable documentary "Hated" seems to be nothing more than extraneous and excessive. 

Comprising 4 brief shows on Allin's "Terror In America 1993" tour, this 110-minute DVD includes all the staples of Allin's infamous live shows -- shitting (and shit-throwing, and shit-eating), pissing, masturbation, fighting, and self (and audience) abuse. Why these clubs even booked Allin and his band, the Murder Junkies, is beyond me. The low-rent primitive punk music itself was merely an afterthought, and a backdrop, to Allin's controversial and confrontational antics. Was he a rock legend? Possibly. But this is stuff only for hardened souls -- raw, unfiltered, and absolutely vile. Nihilistic misanthropes beware, as this is base-animal rock, as sick and dirty as it can be. Approach with caution.


GG Allin dot com

"My Boo" DVD (director: Erica Hayes)

Mediocre indie thriller

This indie film is the tale of a young lady (the lovely Ashlee McLemore) who is unwittingly drawn into the world of her old high school admirer who quietly moves in across the hall from her. The stalker, played creepily by Revon Yousif, uses video feeds he installs into her apartment to spy on her, and finds ways to keep boyfriends and acquaintances cum rivals at bay.

Reminding me often of a bad Lifetime TV movie, "My Boo" has some awful acting (though McLemore is solid in her role, thankfully), terrible audio (the quiet parts I couldn't hear, the louder conversations had to be turned down), and a pretty pedestrian plot. There's little here to recommend, no nudity, and just not enough to make this one more than a struggle to sit through. No, thanks.