Felix The Cat (& Beer Drinker)

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As if you needed further proof that cartoons weren’t always for kids — and still aren’t — here’s an interesting one from 1930. Today was the debut in 1919 of the popular cartoon character Felix the Cat. It was actually the third film using a similar-looking cat, but the Adventures of Felix, released today in 1919, was the first time the name Felix was attached to the character. Felix became very popular and remained so until sound was introduced, when he fell into cartoon obscurity when his transition to sound tanked. There was a much later cartoon version, from when I was a kid, that began in 1958 and was shown on television through at least the 1960s and 70s, and that’s probably the one you’re more familiar with.

But the earlier Felix was darker and less kid-friendly, for the simple reason they were aimed at adults going to see a movie in a theater.

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Woos Whoopee was one of Felix’s later cartoons (at least of the earlier black and white and largely silent ones), and takes place in a speakeasy (it was still Prohibition after all).

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Felix stays out late, drinking and dancing, while his wife paces at home angrily, watching the clock with a rolling pin in her hand. Finally, well after 3 AM, Felix begins to stumble home and begins to hallucinate. Finally, after a surreal journey, he makes it home around 6 AM. I thought sure he’d be in more trouble, but besides shooting the cuckoo in the clock, not much happens to him after he gets home. Oh, well, at least he had a few laughs and drank a few beers.

I Know What I Love

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Although I was blissfully ignorant of CAMRA in its earliest days — drinking American beer in Pennsylvania while in junior high and high school — my understanding is that it was not always as popular as it later became. And it certainly wasn’t universally beloved by many breweries, since they were moving toward keg beer which was much cheaper to produce and away from cask-conditioned beer, or real ale. It took a small dedicated group to convince brewers, and many ambivalent consumers, that real ale was worth preserving so British beer didn’t end up tasting like America of the 1970s. But there were critics of CAMRA almost from the get go, as recently detailed in a post by Boak & Bailey entitled A Brief History of CAMRA Bashing.

I didn’t follow all of Boak & Bailey’s thread on Twitter this morning, apart from finding part of a script from what they believed was a “c.1978 anti-‘real ale’ propaganda film starring Bernard Cribbins.” They were fishing to see if anybody might have more information about the movie.

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It turned out the film was from 1973, and a follower (thanks Cliff) found the actual film online, courtesy of the East Anglican Film Archive . The film is titled “I Know What I Love,” which is curiously very close to the title of a song from the Genesis album Selling England By the Pound, also released in 1973. That was “I Know What I Like,” but still, it was my first thought since I was a big fan of the band back then.

It’s a fairly goofy film, but also very interesting the way beer and brewing is presented. Bernard Cribbins, a reasonably well-known British character actor plays all of the major parts, explaining how beer is made. If you watch a lot of British TV or films, you’ve probably seen him. He’s made appearances in “The Avengers,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Doctor Who” and “Coronation Street,” and was in the films “The Railway Children,” “Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River,” the 1967 Bond film “Casino Royale” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy.”

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Here’s the description from the film’s webpage at the EAFA:

Presented by The Brewers’ Society and featuring Bernard Cribbins in multiple roles, the documentary explains the process of brewing beer, from the pasture to the pint.

After ordering a pint at his local and taking a sip, the actor Bernard Cribbins sets out to explain the brewing process, with a little help from some of his ‘relatives’ in the industry, all played by Cribbins himself. One ‘cousin’ explains the malting process, where barley is germinated and malted, whilst another talks about hops, which contribute to the flavour of beer. His ‘uncle’, who works in a traditional brewery, explains the process, from the spurging of barley in mush tuns to the addition of hops, followed by yeast to aid fermentation, before the beer is conditioned and siphoned into casks.

Brewing on an industrial scale is also explained by Cribbins, with the help of one ‘relative’ who grows large amounts of barley, and a ‘distant relative’ who works as a technician at a large brewer. The film concludes with a glimpse at pub life, with a variety of environments catering for a range of tastes, but linked together by one thing: beer. With the process explained, Cribbins heads back to the bar for another pint, which is pulled by the governor, his ‘father’.

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It was created by the Rank Short Films Group and sponsored by the Brewers’ Society. The director was James Allen from a script by Michael Barnes and the only actor credited is Bernard Cribbins. It doesn’t strike me as particularly anti-real ale, but maybe there’s some nuance I’m missing. They certainly try to allay fears that stainless steel, and modern brewing methods didn’t change the beer they produced. The humor seems a little forced, and not particularly witty, more mildly amusing than funny.

Unfortunately, the archive doesn’t allow their films to be embedded but you can go to their website and watch it online, which I highly recommend. It runs around seventeen minutes, and is certainly an interesting look at brewing at a particular time in recent history.

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Anderson Valley Featured In PG&E Commercial

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So I’m watching the Mets beating the Cubs in game 2 of the NLCS and happened to look up as the commercials came on between innings, as I heard something in the voiceover that I wasn’t expecting: Anderson Valley Brewing Company. People in the Bay Area know that PG&E has a P.R. problem after a pipe blew up in a San Bruno neighborhood (on the peninsula north of Silicon Valley and south of San Francisco). The blast registered 1.1 on the Richter scale when a segment of pipe 28 feet long blew out onto the street, thrown about 100 feet and creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide, killing eight people in the process. They stonewalled after the incident, but eventually the “Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $1.6 billion,” and there was civil litigation by many of the people directly effected by the explosion.

So for the last few years there’s been a lot of TV commercials portraying PG&E as a company that cares. A lot. A lot of ads, I mean. I don’t know if it’s been a successful campaign or not, certainly I’m not buying it and the fact that they’re still creating new ones and running them frequently suggests that not everyone has been convinced, either. Anyway, the ad I just saw during the baseball game featured Rod DeWitt, who’s the Director of Plant Engineering & Process Control for Anderson Valley Brewing, the drummer for Rolling Boil Blues Band, and an old friend. Here’s the commercial:

This is Rod giving me a tour of the brewery back in 2006

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This is the scene shown on every Anderson Valley beer label.

Buster Keaton For Simon Pure Beer

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Today is the birthday of American actor, vaudevillian, comedian, filmmaker, stunt performer, and writer Buster Keaton. He’s best known for his silent films, and especially The General, considerd by many to be one of the best films of all-time. In 1962, Keaton made a series of commercials for the William Simon Brewery of Buffalo, New York. The ads were done in a silent film style, employing many of Keaton’s best gags from his glory days on the 1920s.

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Initially, I only had these three gifs made from one of the commercials, but happily discovered that the whole ad has now been posted on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSf4ZKsv2HEYouTube:

And here’s another one Keaton did:

And a third:

And finally, a fourth ad Keaton did for Simon Pure Beer.

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First Time Craft Beer Drinker’s Slow-Motion Reactions

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This reminds me quite a lot of those BuzzFeed videos my wife and kids are always showing me of people trying different national or ethnic foods for the first time, although this one is showing the reactions of various people trying different styles of beer for the first time. Each person is shown naked (or at least as far down as we can see) and we’re also shown the style they’re trying and then their reaction is shown in slow-motion. It was created by Bierdeluxe, a German online beer store. From a main page of craft beer, there’s a picture of each person representing the broad styles from the video, which has as its title “If you’ve never tasted Craft Beer, then you’ve never tasted Beer!,” and clicking on each takes you to a page where the beers they have for sale in that style are displayed for purchase. It’s an oddly effective way to shop, if a little weird on several levels, but it’s also kind of funny, displaying that German knack for knowing what’s funny and/or odd but still not being able to work out which one it really is in the end.

The Beer Barrel Polka

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76 years ago today one of the most well-known polkas, and songs about beer, The Beer Barrel Polka, reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Music Chart in 1939. It was actually written in 1927, by Czech composer Jaromír Vejvoda. It was originally an instrumental known as the Modřanská polka (“Polka of Modřany”), but in 1939, German accordionist Will Glahé renamed it “The Beer Barrel Polka” and it was his 1939 version that made it the memorable song that is still played today. After World War II, Glahé was known in America as the “Polka King.” The English lyrics were later written by Lew Brown and Wladimir Timm, both Tin Pan Alley lyricists. The song was subsequently recorded by many other bands and singers. Musicians such as the Andrews Sisters, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Liberace, the Marx Brothers, Bobby Vinton and Frankie Yankovic did their own versions, too, making it a mainstay at dances and weddings to this day.

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I was unaware of this local connection, but according to Wikipedia:

At San Jose Giants home games, a batter from the opposing team is designated the “beer batter.” If the San Jose pitcher strikes out that batter, beer is half price in the beer only lines for the 15 minutes immediately following the strike out. The beer batter promotion is in effect only for the first six innings of the game. The PA system plays Beer Barrel Polka whenever the beer batter comes to the plate and after every strike during the beer batter’s at-bat (through the first six innings). After the sixth inning, the beer batter becomes the apple juice batter and if he strikes out, fans get half-priced Martinelli’s apple juice.

So here is the original version that made it a hit, as performed by Will Glahé:

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Will Glahe and his orchestra in 1935, before the Beer Barrel Polka made him famous.

Star Wars Downunder: The Good, The Bad & The Thirsty

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For some reason I really got caught up in the hoopla of Star Wars Day today. But what about beer and Star Wars, you might ask? Believe it or not, I found something. It’s an interesting fan film made in Australia, entitled Star Wars Downunder. It’s shot in 35mm and took 10 years to make, directed and co-written by Michael Cox. And because it’s Australian, it’s also about beer. The creators describe it by asking “what would happen if you crossed Star Wars with an Australian beer commercial?” And their answer was “Star Wars Downunder: an epic tale of the good the bad and the thirsty, described as “half an hour of action, special effects and lovable Aussie larakins.” On the film’s website, they recount the plot as follows:

The film tells the story of a lone Jedi: Merve Bushwacker (David Nicoll), returning home after a long absence. His mission? To partake in a refreshing beverage, known locally as amber fluid. On his arrival, he is dismayed to discover the planet has become as dry as a dead dingo′s donger, thanks to the tyrannical rule of Darth Drongo. Drongo has hoarded all the amber fluid in his impenetrable fortress “Dunny’s Deep” for reasons unknown. Can Merve, and a motley collection of unlikely allies band together to topple Drongo’s evil regime? Will liberty and amber fluid flow freely once more?

As many reporting on the film lament, there’s no scene in which the character says: “That’s not a loightsabah! THAT’S a loightsabah!” And while that would have been hilarious, there are, however, lightsaber boomerangs, because … well, why wouldn’t there be? Here’s the trailer:

Star Wars Downunder Trailer from Michael Cox on Vimeo.

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Intrigued? You’re in luck, because you can watch the entire 30-minute film on YouTube, or below.

Crosby Hop Farms

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With the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland just a couple of weeks away, I’ve been receiving numerous e-mails from vendors who will be at the trade show. It happens every year. Some are of no interest whatsoever, while others are fun to see. For example, this morning one came in from Crosby Hop Farms, an Oregon hop grower. They’re doing an open house Wednesday night at the farm, which could be fun. But the e-mail included a link to a video they created about their company. No matter how many times I visit a hop farm, it’s always a spectacular sight.

This is the next best thing to being there. I think I may have to go to this one. You can also see more about the farm at Craft Brewing Business with these two stories: Hip hops: Craft beer’s impact on a growing industry and A Hop Farmer’s Diary: 30 days in the life of Oregon’s Crosby Hop Farm.

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The Equinox: Day, Night & A Beer

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Today, of course, is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring for those of us on the northern side of the equator, and the beginning of Autumn for our southerly brethren. It’s also a day when we have roughly equal amounts of day and night.

People around the world have celebrated the equinox for millennia in an amazing array of ways. Back in the early days of Lagunitas Brewing, their celebration manifested itself, as you’d expect, in a beer they called Equinox. Launched originally in 1995, it quietly went away in the early 2000s, when they were working both day and night and it probably seemed like stopping to mark the middle of that made no sense. But this year, on the Equinox, they decided to bring back Lagunitas Equinox, though in a slightly altered package and recipe. It’s still a “pale oat ale,” but it’s a bit stronger now, at 8.4% abv (it was 6.4% before). It’s also again in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.

Lagunitas-Equinox

Lagunitas describes the beer as “a creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptusy, cedary, sprucey, foresty blast.” And Tony’s label notes make for some challenging reading.

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe gnoe would be different. Phish might phly, aaugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour greem and cheaze leavings. And then theirft bea the speling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thing of Itt, Eye think aya cool stand begin a kid bit hapier write gnaw… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aaht Once again all Is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it. Kawl us!

They also created a pretty trippy one-minute video showing a split-screen journey of the beer during both day and night simultaneously.