Angel Olsen released Burn Your Fire for No Witness on February 18th to high regard. A somewhat boozy, melancholy entry, some of the first images and associations I felt were Jefferson Airplane performing “white rabbit” on the Smothers Brothers comedy hour. I thought of a Nancy Sinatra, a Diana Krall, or a smoky, crimson Lykke Li.
What is at times a churning and drum-driven anthem of love and scuzzed out tracks, “forgiven/forgotten,” is later a fragile song like “Enemy.” Angel Olsen alone with a caressed guitar; the sound of half-empty Sunday morning sheets where once the covers were filled with pillow talk on lazy days.
Angel whispers as often as she bellows. She hits those crackling high notes on her way through quivering tones like red wine, full-bodied.
Her voice and lyrics drip with emotion. Often is the singer or the artist that simply tells through instruments and words a tale. Rarely is the emotion, heartbreak, or defiance translated through the tone alone. Olsen sounds like each track feels.
Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a pure translation of the songs made during a life lived in Chicago. There was time before that era became an album, but with her producer’s support Olsen was able to simply create an album with little fussing over or meddling with those original, pure songs.
Songs to look forward to seeing live on the 5th: “Forgiven/Forgotten,” “Enemy,” “Stars,” and “Windows.”
Angel Olsen is joined by Irish guitarist and composer Cian Nugent. Inspired by genres from jazz to 60’s and 70’s singer/songwriters, Nugent paints scenes and landscapes with instrumentation that compels even though eerie at times; like walking up to your lonely cottage home in the hills to find the door you didn’t leave open, open.
Sun. March 2 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex
Mon. March 3 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall Wed. March 5 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Thu. March 6 – Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
Fri. March 7 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
Sat. March 8 – Moscow, ID @ Mikey’s Gyros
Mon. March 10 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Sun. March 23 – Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
Tue. March 25 – London, UK @ Dingwalls
Wed. March 26 – Paris, FR @ Divan Du Monde [LFSM Festival]
Thu. March 27 – Amiens, FR @ La Lune des Pirates [LFSM Festival]
Fri. March 28 – Koeln, DE @ King George
Sat. March 29 – Berlin, DE @ Hau 1
Sun. March 30 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
Mon. March 31 – Stockholm, SE @ Scandic Grand Central
Tue. April 1 – Oslo, NO @ Cafe Mono
Wed. April 2 – Goteborg, SE @ Pustervik
Thu. April 3 – Hamburg, DE @ Haus 73 / Kleiner Donner
Fri. April 4 – Leuven, BE @ Stuk
Sat. April 5 – Rotterdam, NL @ Motel Mozaique
Sun. April 6 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
Day 1 E3 was pretty much a disaster. With such a late start, I didn’t get as much time in with the event as I would like. Day 2 will be better, but here are a few observations from day 1.
Ubisoft is turning out the most interesting and anticipated lineup of the year. You’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting offering of games in the next 12 months than everything Ubisoft is championing at the moment.
Assassin’s Creed III looks and feels better than any I’ve played up to this point. With the conference demo of the single player campaign, and the chance I got to play the multiplayer, it looks solid from top to bottom.
The free running skills are very intuitive, and I didn’t find myself worrying about my path as much as I have in the path. It just moved fluidly. Multiplayer was an interesting take on domination. In a map populated by look-alikes, your team had to occupy three points to achieve a points total to win the domination of the map. It had three points to hold, and you found yourself running from one to the next. In these domination circles, you could blend in with people, as you do in the game, to hold the position, or just stand around. You would be alerted that an enemy was in the circle, and I was tense trying to watch each person’s movements to see if I could pick out the player from the AI populating the area.
I will admit, I got assassinated a few times, and found myself panicking and just killing innocent AI in fear that they might be an opponent. It was this action that often alerted my savvy opponents. It is an interesting multiplayer, and one that could hold up for a few months of play, especially if you can find a few friends that like the game as much as you do.
They are shoving Just Dance 4 down your throat like crazy. I can’t blem them, though. It is the best-selling dance game of all-time. The center of the Ubisoft booth was a series of dancers playing the actual game. What sets this game apart is the super pop music and the fact that it’s not a particularly hard game to play. Just Dance 4 won’t shit in your corn flakes and tell you to get off the floor. It encourages you to just get up and dance. There is a winner in each game if you’re in a group, but really there is no failing with this game. I think that’s the big pull for dance game fans for this series. It’s just a good time with few rules or fail screens…the same can be said for dancing, I suppose.
Far Cry 3 is vicious. We’ve heard of the massive design, and the freedom for discovery, but it is the interesting and tactical gameplay that got me excited. It is not just a traditional shooter with a destructible environment. There is an emphasis on a mix of stealth and balls out action.
The demo we got to play was the same demoed at the press conference. From memory of the conference, I knew what way there was through the map, but as I watched a few others playing before me, it was clear that there were at least three different ways through the level using a mixture stealth, open attack, and use of the environment. You can shoot the tiger cages to release the animals to kill enemies. You can grenade the gunner, or shoot him. You can go left through the house, going right has less cover. Forget doors, just smash a window or two and cut your own path around the action to ambush enemies. The choices are yours.
If this demo is any indicator of the game, and I’d like to think that it is, then players are in for an amazing game chock full of nudity, coarse language, and a lot of takedowns and a high body count.
They aren’t messing around with presentation. Games are highlighted with everything from ten-foot tall statues to destroyed city busses. SEGA even has an actual alien prop from the 1986 film Aliens to promote Aliens Vs. Predator Colonial Marines. Besides that, SEGA has a lifter fighting an alien that you can get in and have your picture taken…something I will be doing tomorrow for sure.
I know this is a trade-show, but it feels like a fanboy’s wet dream at times. Get your photo taken with cosplay hirashuku girls, or just sexy booth babes. Get your photo taken with Nathan Drake or some colonial marines complete with armor and an M41-A pulse rifle.
It is a lot of standing around. It’s like the Disneyland for gametards–new word I’m trying out. You get excited for the demo, and you go stand in line for an hour or more in some cases, and then you get a few minutes of excitement, and then you leave. There you go. Hope you had a great ride, and enjoy the rest of your day at E3.
Lines everywhere. Of course they are longest at the biggest titles and most seizure-inducing displays. Seriously, between the lighting in that place and the music in some booths I might as well have been at a rave. It would be the world’s worst rave seeing as everyone is sitting down playing video games, but a rave nonetheless.
It is so damned big. It will take every ounce of effort and free moment to play even half of what is being offered here. I can’t even imagine what a full day Wednesday will be with lines and demos as far as the eye can see. With so much stuff going on and so much to look at, it took me a good hour to just walk around and get my bearings for where everything is. It is huge, but then again it is the LA Convention Center and it is E3, so I should expect as much.
We will be doing a full recon of everything tomorrow, and throughout the week we will be doing more gaming articles of the quintessential who won/who lost E3 awards and highlights. We are going to dig deeper with more detailed articles and our impressions of what direction thing are going in and what new tech we can’t wait for and what we can certainly wait for. This is gaming week on Project: Poppycock, and so we will be doing our due diligence to give you everything that one man can, given the circumstances. Wednesday brings a full day at the event, so stay tuned for live tweeting and blog articles for the rest of the week.
With E3 just around the proverbial corner, we are turning our sights to exactly what we expect and hope to see. Starting Monday with press conferences from Ubisoft, Playstation, and XBOX E3 kicks off with a bang on G4 with live coverage of some of the biggest news in gaming. There is a lot to cover this year more so than in the past with the growing clamor and rumors of the next generation of consoles. Whether we will get a look at anything from XBOX or Playstation, we will see what kind of thought Nintendo has put in to the U–we’ve already seen photos of a redesign controller since the first announcement from Nintendo.
We will see games…lots of games. That’s not all this reporter wants though. This is our top ten wish list for things we want to see at E3 this, our first year covering the event.
1. The reign of the sequel
Assassin’s Creed III, Crysis 3, Gears of War Judgment, Borderlands 2, Halo 4, BioShock Infinite, Kingdom Hearts 3D, Black Ops II, and GTA V. I’m looking forward to seeing if these games can reinvigorate their respective series’. With the money involved in this industry–triple-A titles running as high as 100 million for development–There is a great fear to try a new IP when a sequel can move units on name recognition alone. I get this, but if you’ve got to reanimate some of these narratives with some familiar faces, I am going to need more than a clever co-op mode and a redesigned HUD. Let’s hope these upcoming titles can live up to the hype.
I can’t wait to play some of these titles. I want demos, betas, full levels, and some chances for some Q &A on these titles. I need to play some games. I am here to review and preview mostly, and I want to get my fill of actual in-game action. BioShock Infinite is tied with Dishonored as the games I can’t wait to molest via controller. The Last of Us is up there, too.I hope the lines are short and the levels are bug-free–it is a wish list, after all.
After some research, I am now on-board with those out there hoping that this year brings good coffee and food. There’s a lounge and a media center on the floor map, but I am beginning to get nervous that those names have an implied wink. As the desire for decent coffee and comfortable chairs is noted more than once, I’m beginning to hope the amenities are at least slightly higher than a police station at 3AM.
4. Console announcements
I’m not talking WiiU–we’ve all heard the almost ambiguous nature of Nintendo’s next offering, but I want at least a timeline from Microsoft and Sony. I don’t need an actual box, that’s impossible at this time as we have heard that Sony and Microsoft are each still deciding what CPUs and processors to put in these things. I’ll pass on the box, but I need some kind of teaser. What I fear is that this is the last year at E3 where it is exclusively current generation support. This will be the last calendar year where consumers will tolerate the milling of rumors without some confirmation on what is to come. Go ahead, be silent on when we can get what you’re making, but this is absolutely the last June you get without a title lineup and a sweet-ass console inside a plexiglass box on stage.
5. Kinect II
It’s all rumors as far as I know, but I want to see what the refined Kinect will be able to do. I have heard facial recognition. A better camera can recognize more subtle movement and can even read your lips and infer your mood from tone of voice and facial expression. Maybe it can even respond to my commands verbally? I know this sounds a little too 2001 to keep your skin from crawling, but it’s not like it will become sentient. If the Kinect II is as cool as I hope I might have to get one…and I’ll call him HAL. One way or another, at least Siri might have someone else to talk back to.
6. Free shit
I want free stuff as much as the next poverty-stricken writer, but I really want cool crap. I know a Master Chief bobblehead is a lot to ask, but I need things. I don’t care if it costs a nickel to make and comes with dangerous levels of lead in it’s paint. I want trinkets, key chains, laniards, maybe a shirt or two, stickers as far as I can see, and maybe a beer koozie. Look, it’s a trade show, not Comic Con, but I am looking forward to designers, developers, and third-party companies looking to impress. It’s not bribery, really, but it’s close enough that I will be disappointed if I don’t go home with an Umbrella Corporation-themed Snuggie. Just sayin’.
7. Everyone showers
We can say ‘professionals’ as much as you want, but most of the people coming to this thing are going to be guys that are, or are not far from, being bloggers in their mother’s basement. They might be serious movers and shakers, trendsetters even, but most of the guys wearing badges are going to be nerdy as shit. All the more power to making a career out of nerdy, but let’s hope that by day three that the LA Convention Center doesn’t begin to smell a little like a post-Katrina Superdome. Too soon? I get it.
8. Booth babes
It’s a bucket list thing.
9. Someone likes my shirts
I am designing a couple of ubernerd shirts and I’m just hoping I get a couple of nods for how cool they are. Screw you, I’m really putting in the work on these things.
10. A genuine damned surprise
Of all the things I wish for from E3, this one takes the cake. Everything is “leaked” before these things–we know everything before this show even starts. The new GOW was “leaked” this week. We got a vague teaser for Elder Scrolls Online. We have heard about console rumors. BioShock Infinite has been talked about before its release as much as BioShock was after its release. We know a lot about Halo 4 and can infer some of what we’ll see in Assassin’s Creed III. There is little that will genuinely surprise the gaming community. These leaks–seems every company is riddled with moles and loose lips–have taken much of the steam out of the E3 reveal possibilities. We know what is coming, now all we have to wait for is the details. This event has been cheaply hyped, but I don’t think the payoff will be there; no money shot. I want just one thing that will melt my face and blow up the Twitterverse. I want one thing, completely shocking that will send preteen boys through puberty. It can be a brand new IP or some awesome new peripheral or software update to online marketplaces–XBOXLive goes free? Probably not, but I’ll take anything! Just please drop a couple of bombs on us like we’re named Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Too soon? I get it.
There’s our wish list for E3. We decided not to mention parking, though we can only hope it’s not a total clusterfuck. Not to mention the hope that I can avoid the traffic from a damned Kings game. Shit. Well, nonetheless we’d like to hear what it is you’re looking forward to seeing most. Drop us a comment if you feel like voicing your opinion. I can’t imagine that a gamer would want to vocalize their opinion on video games, but there’s a first for everything.
Starring Owen Wilson as Gil, this film is set in modern-day Paris as Gil and his fiancé tag along on a business trip to France with his future mother- and father-in-law. Gil is a successful script writer in Hollywood, but longs for the struggle and fulfillment of publishing his novel. Gil is also obsessed with Paris as a city, and what it must have been like, the magical and creative times, of Paris in the twenties.
After boring tourist trips, and getting a bit toasted at a wine tasting with his fiancé, in-laws, and the pedantic Paul, Gil walks around the city and ends up lost on a small alley road. As the clock strikes midnight with rhythmic chimes, a classic Duesenberg rolls up the street, stops, and the occupants beckon him to jump in. Gil, half-drunk, decides to ride along after not being allowed to decline, and is whisked away on a trip through Paris…in the 20’s.
Before Gil can wrap his head around the scenario, he meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the Fitzgeralds. Sitting at the piano in the main room is none other than Cole Porter. He later sits down at a table over wine with Ernest Hemingway, who says he refuses to read Gil’s manuscript, but will put him in touch with Gertrude Stein, the only person he trusts with his writing.
By day, Gil struggles with his in-laws, his fiancé Inez (played by Rachel McAdams), and his own desires that run contrary to those of Inez. She likes that he is paid well to write scripts, and doesn’t want to move to Paris to live in an attic apartment with a skylight. Gil wants his passion, his struggle, and to give a real shot to being a truly great writer.
By night he meets Stein, Hemingway, Adriana, the Fitzgeralds, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, Degas, T.S. Eliot, and others. Every artist is cleverly and comically fleshed out. I laughed at Dali and his obsession with the Rhinoceros form. I loved Hemmingway’s drinking and his dead pan delivery of great quotes. “You want my opinion on your book? I hate it…Either it is good and I am jealous, or it is bad and I hate it anyway.” Gil rubs elbows with his idols in his romanticized era. Gil always thought he was born too late. Through his meetings with Adriana, he falls for her, and the time.
In an Inception moment, on a street corner in 20’s Paris, a horse-drawn carriage arrives and they are beckoned to board. They are now taken back to Adriana’s favorite past era…1890’s Paris. It is here that Adriana wants to stay, and Gil realizes that everyone romanticizes a past time. He can’t stay with her, he wants her time, she wants this one. He can’t stay. They don’t have medicine, it is a great, but primitive time, yet these great artists in the 1890’s yearn for the Renaissance. No one is satisfied with their era. He leaves Adriana in the 1890’s and returns to his time begrudgingly.
Gil knows what he wants, what he needs out of his life, and playing the part for Inez cannot be that life. He decides to stay in Paris, breaking off the engagement, and living his life as a writer now.
Woody Allen wrote and directed Midnight in Paris. This is a fantasy of magic and nostalgia in the city of lights. Paris at midnight is magical, and the fun and imaginative wares of movie making are on display in this understated and creative film. For a writer, much like Gil, I was just elated with this film. Getting it from Netflix by mail, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to watch it once it was at my house. I’d popped it in the queue because it was Woody Allen and it was recommended 4 1/2 stars for me. I trust Netflix most of the time, and it certainly did not disappoint this time.
So many people, including myself, have a romantic ideal of an era in the bygone past. For me, it is the Sixties in the Hashbury. Beat writers like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson. The protests, counterculture, the division, the passion, the wars, the fascinating times and writers that inspired me. It is not better than my time, but romanticized by the passage of time and the boredom that comes from living.
It might be my literary bias, but the film and the characters got to me as a viewer. It explored my obsession with times passed. It explored my desire to live my passion despite the struggle, while I still write what I knew people liked, despite that those works are not my proudest accomplishments. I see in Gil the same struggle I have with balancing my love for the work I want to do, and the life people want me to have. That quiet desperation that comes from the conflict of balance is something that struck close to home. I may not be the biggest Owen Wilson fan, maybe the casting could have been better in this role, but the film is a perfect example of the fantastic ability film has to realize the dreams we all have. Forget the theoretical science behind time travel, the butterfly effect, and the details of the sci-fi aspect of the film and just enjoy the Duesenberg ride to a sweeter, awe-inspiring time, and the character driven moments of levity and drama. A fascinating glimpse through the looking-glass of man’s nostalgia, Midnight in Paris is for dreamers, among whom I count myself, and I venture to say that most of you can do the same.
Talk about a weird ass film. Trainspotting is the story of a drug addict in Edinburgh trying to get out of the scene but constantly being pulled back in through a series of event. Heroin, the drug of choice, rules everyone’s lives. This is both a horrifying, tragic film while it is cartoonishly hilarious and represents that filmmaking style that inspired the likes of Guy Ritchie (Snatch), David Fincher (Fight Club), or even Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream).
Ewan McGregor plays Renton. Along with Spud, Sick Boy, Tommy, and Begbie, make up the main host of characters for this film. From squatting in a practically condemned apartment to cleaning up only to relapse, to selling drugs to some heavy characters, there is nothing this group doesn’t do. They are manic, crazy, dangerous, twisted individuals who seem to want more than the drug life, but simultaneously celebrate it as they wallow in the world they inhabit.
The cinematography is the thing that gets me. The scene of crawling in to the toilet. I loved the scene where Renton lowers into the floor, pulling the rug with him. The freeze-frame style intros, the narration–though sometimes thought to be a cheap story device–works perfectly with Renton and fits the film style in what we see.
A lot of people may have heard of Trainspotting, especially since Ewan McGregor became a star, but not that many people saw it back in the day; it only made 16 million in theaters. I never saw it then, I was 12, but as soon as I was old enough, I rented it. I recently watched it probably three times last year and will see it again. I like to think that this is a cult classic. There is a heavy fan base, but it is not all comedy. This is heroin and that isn’t pretty. Things get darker, tougher, stranger, and you really care for many of the people you meet. You hope the best, are shocked, and hurt when disaster befalls characters.
I can’t suggest this film enough if you’ve got the stomach for this type of film. It will change your mood after watching it. So be ready. If you’ve got the taste for this kind of movie, then it’s a can’t miss classic that you can see influenced films to come, like Fight Club, Requiem, Snatch, and many more. This film represented the late 90’s well, and it still holds strong some 16 years later.
This week we are talking vampires. Okay, not sparkly vampire, but we’ve got a love story…it’s just not what you think.
Let The Right One In (2008) is the story of Oskar, a 12-year old boy in a small village, who is tormented by Conny and his minions every day. Oskar fantasizes about getting his revenge one day, but his fear keeps him from fighting back. The bullies are awful little children. Oskar even has a knife he dreams of using to kill them.
Everything changes for Oskar once he has a few chance meetings with the new girl in the apartment next to his, Eli. She is an odd girl who can solve a Rubik’s Cube on command, and her “father” covers the windows of the apartment. Oskar and Eli begin to be friends, despite Eli telling Oskar that they can’t be friends. Once Eli has moved in to town, there begins a series of murders that keeps everyone in town on edge.
Eli is, of course, a vampire. Her “father” is quickly revealed to the viewer as the murderer, collecting the blood from the victims for Eli to drink. He is getting old though, and sloppy. His age has caught up to him and Eli begins doing her own killing, leaving witnesses, and even a poor woman who is not killed at feeding, turning her in to a vampire.
I don’t want to give too much away, don’t want to spoil too much. This film is less about vampires and more about a coming-of-age tale of Oskar finding his confidence and the girl who helps him do so. He loves her, though it is never truly spoken. They see one another at night, a long time passes before he discovers her vampirism. The film centers around Oskar and Eli. Lore of vampires is never gone in to too deeply, except when it naturally comes about. I love that this film does not explain to death all the ins and outs of being a vampire.
From the respect of filmmaking, I think this is brilliantly done. The tone of the film matches the pace and mood of the script. Music is sparsely used, almost zero. When it is used, it doesn’t foreshadow action, which often times ruins a scene and can even distract from what is going on. I love the restraint in the music. The cinematography is great with creepy panning shots, wide shots of scenes, and the lighting in most interior scenes is terrifying. There is none of the clichéd shadow shots and over dramatic lighting effects. This film doesn’t try too hard, which avoids the caricature that vampires often fall victim to in cinema: Twilight, Daybreakers, Blade, The Lost Boys, et al.
As for any contrasts from the US and Scandinavian versions, there are a few, and they are pretty stark.
For those that don’t enjoy dubbed audio or reading subtitles, there is the very good (if not superior) Let Me In (2010). Same premise with some differences. Same bullied 12-year old (Owen) and the same 12-year old vampire (Abby). There are some structural differences though. For frame of reference, the setting’s year is vaguely placed during the Reagan administration, placing it in the eighties. The Scandinavian version feels more late 70’s to early eighties, but as far as I could tell there was no clearer frame of reference than clothing, cassette player, and the 45 record player.
Outside of potential timeframe differences are location, but this is a moot point. The settings are the same in their rural nature and cold climate.
The opening scene of the US version is the ambulance occupied by a man who is suspected of murder being rushed to the hospital to treat self-inflicted chemical burns. The original opens on Oskar in his room, and the snow falling. Basically, the US version starts in the middle, and then back tracks with the tired “Two Weeks Earlier” device. This is probably to get the viewer hooked because US audiences, in my opinion, are not as patient as foreign viewers seem to be, based on the structure of their films.
Another huge difference is that there is a detective investigating the man in the ambulance and the series of murders in the area, even after his death. This character does not exist in any manner in the original. There is this whole device of the nosey detective just doing his job that is only partly existent in the original in the form of a concerned friend of a murdered victim.
Among other differences is the complete absence of anyone near the role of Virginia. In the original, Virgina is turned by Eli during an interrupted feeding. This character’s equal is completely absent from the US version, for better or worse. I am not quite convinced either way.
The US film ends the same, starts differently, explores much the same lore and character development (though totally void of the distracting relationship with Owen’s father that Oskar has).
They are different films because of the devices that are used to advance the story in either version. There is more music, foreshadowing, and more gore in the violence in the US version. Much as US versions will do, there is a bit too much detail for the viewer when the foreign version shows restraint in certain ways. Yes, there is violence and a bloody-mouthed 12-year old girl in both versions, and other scenes of blood and murder, but I just felt that the original used this device sparingly, which made the sight of the gore that much more disturbing.
Is one better than the other? I don’t think so. The foreign version used a slower and quieter manner of telling a truly horrifying story that gets under my skin and leaves me with mixed emotions at the end. The US version has the detective I get to like a bit, and creates a bit more tension of being “found out”, but there isn’t anything more in the US version than the original, it’s just different. I say watch them both. I saw Let Me In before I saw Let The Right One In, and what struck me about both films was the basics: The fascinating story, the focus less on defining lore (and Eli’s past), and leaving the focus on the relationship of Oskar/Eli-Owen/Abby.
If you are a horror fan then this is a definite watch. I was riveted through both films, and the very subtle music let the scenes really speak for themselves instead of knowing how you should feel at any moment based on the sound design. I loved these films. There is no list of truths of vampires, but what is true about Eli/Abby is revealed naturally through the film. Neither will spell things out too clearly, though the US version clubs you over the head just a bit more, and uses tired devices to keep you engrossed. Yes, the US version might have taken some queues of subtlety from Let The Right One In, but it’s not distracting. I loved the casting in the US version a bit more than the original, but that is about regional stardom, though the eyes of Eli trump that of Abby, but Abby is a more disturbing character based on her porcelain doll look…maybe this stems from my phobia of creepy kids in films, but you’ll see what I mean. Both vampire girls make my skin crawl, but it is a horror film, after all.
Don’t miss either film. They are both currently streaming on Netflix.
Today, I’d love to speak about one of the grandfathers of American craft brewing. Arguably, it’s the one brewery that can be said to have started the craft brewing movement in the US. I speak, of course, of California’s own Sierra Nevada Brewing. I feel that they started as every microbrewery should start – by excited and invested homebrewers who want to make better beer rather than money (I’m looking at you, Rouge). Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is perhaps the original American microbrew, being made since 1980, and it’s still the second-most sold craft beer in the US. Their accessible beers have helped introduce a lot of people to craft brews through the years, while still impressing snobby beer folk like myself. To this day their beers are extremely consistent, high quality, and made via traditional methods.
However, Sierra Nevada’s legacy goes far beyond impressive beers and commercial growth. Sierra Nevada and Ken Grossman (owner), have taken great strides to be an example for the future of “green” brewing. They’ve been a pioneer of sustainability, taking steps to reduce their energy consumption, waste, and environmental impact while brewing. For example, they have installed over 10,000 solar arrays, producing 1/5 of the power required to run their brewery. They also installed hydrogen fuel cells, which cleanly produce close to 50% of their energy needs. On top of that, they go to great lengths to reduce the amount of energy their brewing operation uses, from having more windows for natural lighting, increasingly efficient freezers, to something as simple as having their cardboard packaging piggyback in on the backhaul trucks from their beer distribution–cutting out trips from the brewery by fuel-guzzling trucks. They are mindful of their waste as well, putting everything they can to good use. Their spent grain is sent to cattle ranchers for feed, their water is sent to their own treatment plant to be reused for their own farming or brewing processes, and even their spent yeast is used to make ethanol. All told, 99.5% of their brewing waste is kept out of landfills and reused. They were named the Green Business of the Year by the EPA in 2010 in response to all the environmentally charged adaptations they’ve made to their brewing processes.
Sierra Nevada has also been instrumental in kick starting the growing trend of brewers growing their own crops for brewing. They now have 8 acres of hop fields, as well as a 30 acre barley field and a one acre garden for their restaurant. They use these home-grown ingredients in their beer, as well as releasing a seasonal beer using only ingredients grown on site. It’s a trend that is admirable and ambitious, and with the considerable cost of setting up a farm on site, it’s even more impressive that a brewery would be willing to take on such a venture. With the growth of the craft brewery industry, and how homogenized much of it has become; it’s exciting to have one of the first modern microbreweries continue to innovate, think outside the box, and push the envelope every year. With their sales and success, it would be very easy for them to sit back and just make their core products, but instead they have made themselves an example to other breweries of how to stay interesting, how to be better to the environment while still being profitable, and how to be more than just another generic microbrewery, making generic beer, to be drank by generic people. Prost to Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada’s staff for that.