First off, I want to thank the Alamo Drafthouse for having me co-host the Strange Brew Boulevard Beer Dinner last night at the Mainstreet Theater! It was so much fun.
Here’s what I was prepared for: Seeing The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew, one of the most criminally underrated and overlooked comedies of all time, with a sold-out crowd of true hoseheads and beer lovers.
Here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: The freaking delicious food, prepared by the Drafthouse’s amazing chef Jeff Rinehart, paired strategically with four delicious limited-edition Boulevard beers.
The Beer Dinner – What a Feast!
Check the menu here for details, but the first beer was a delicious 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat that went perfect with a farm-fresh arugula salad with beets and apple cider vinaigrette. I love Boulevard’s holiday beer Nutcracker Ale, and it was even better with spiced parsnip soup — which sounds gross on paper, but was actually my second favorite dish!
The main course was star anise-rubbed duck poutine, and oh my God was it delicious. It was probably the most perfectly cooked meat I’ve had in years and if you know anything about poutine, you know it’s a Canadian classic. This gourmet version? Holy crap was it good, and with Boulevard’s Smokestack Series Belgian-style Nommo Dubbel? Mmmm.
Here’s a picture I stole from the @AlamoKC Twitter feed of the chefs preparing the night’s fourth and final dish.
To top it all off, the dessert course was a gourmet version of the jelly donut that is so important to Bob and Doug in the movie, which is hilarious … and shows how smart and clever Alamo Drafthouse is about their menus.
This was so much better than backbacon and Molson, which is what I was expecting.
(See video below to see why we were eating jelly donuts — “Maybe one of these would refresh your memory?”)
Is it wrong to love a donut this much? It was an organic maple-glazed jelly-filled brioche donut and it was paired with the rarest beer of the night, Boulevard’s Love Child No. 1. How rare is it? Well, it was only available as a draft and I don’t even think they brew it anymore.
Anyway: For the utterly fantastic food and beer feast, bravo Drafthouse and Boulevard! Now onto the movie.
Strange Brew: An Overlooked Comedy Classic
I wanted to host this event because this movie meant so much to me growing up and, along with Monty Python, completely helped inform my sense of humor. I watched my VHS copy of Strange Brew so many times it looked like a 2005 YouTube video. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see the characters clearly anymore on the fuzzy tape, because I had the whole thing memorized anyway. To see it in 35mm last night was crazy.
(The print looked great but a horrible humming noise came out of the left speakers for about 20 minutes, off and on. It wasn’t a deal-killer, but it was a bit distracting. Oh well, you roll your dice with prints from 1983, right?)
The Unsung Heroes
Keep in mind that I have not just every line from writer/director/stars Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas memorized, I even have the expositional dialogue from other characters memorized – especially the lines of Oscar-nominated screen legend Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring) who as the evil Brewmeister Smith, says things like “What the stink are they doing in there?” and “It takes experience to run a brewery! And you have none!” in total, beautiful deadpan.
Big props also need to go to Paul Dooley, who is so damned funny as Claude Elsinore, the stepfather and Claudius of the piece. (More on the movie’s literary connections in a minute.) He veers from classic slapstick to idiotic simpering throughout the movie and his comic timing is never less than impeccable. Just look at this scene where he’s supposed to be setting up Bob and Doug into murdering Pam Elsinore and Henry Green, who are stuffed into beer kegs in the back of their van.
When he’s asked if the kegs have beer in them, he almost blows it. He also really needs to make sure they get to “the bottom of the big hill,” since he’s cut the brakes. (See clip below.)
Another childhood reflection, ah, back to more innocent times … My brother and I used to watch this movie as kids and “steamroll” each other. Yep you read that right. Sounds pretty sexy, eh?
Well, we’d wrap our arms around our chests and act out the scene where Bob and Doug get thrown in the Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane and are put in straitjackets. What can I say? I was 12. (See clip below.)
You see, everything I learned about beer I first learned from Strange Brew. I wasn’t even sure 100% what getting drunk was. I just know it looked like fun. Thanks, Bob and Doug for turning me into a lifelong beer drinker!
Strange Brew = A Canadian Hamlet
It’s true. The similarities are far deeper than the naming device that tips it off. Rather than Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle, we have Elsinore Brewery. Instead of the nefarious plan to take over the throne of Denmark, Strange Brew revolves around Claude Elsinore (Hamlet‘s Claudius) and Brewmeister Smith’s plan to take over Claude’s brother’s brewery.
Henry Green, the original brewmeister is Polonius, the well-meaning advisor with no poer. Pam Elsinore and Rosie are a gender-switched Hamlet and Ophelia, with Pam’s murdered father coming back to her as a ghost trapped inside an old Galactic Border Patrol videogame. Rosie drowns, just like Ophelia, but doesn’t die at the bottom of the lake — because he’s saved by Bob and Doug in the most logical way, of course. (See video below.)
Lastly, and most fittingly, Bob and Doug are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the inseparable, naïve ignoramuses wandering the castle/brewery, blissfully unaware of all the double-crossing behavior of their new pals at Elsinore Brewery.
What better way to set the most ridiculous movie plot ever in motion (one that includes hockey-playing mental patients, a karate-chopping defense lawyer, and a flying dog that sprouts a cape) than with two sweetly idiotic and inseparable Canadian drunkards who mean well? For my money, Strange Brew is 100 times funnier and more clever than the critically acclaimed Tom Stoppard movie Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, based on his play of the same name.
Strange Brew remains a seriously overlooked and underrated comedy. Just look at the super-meta quasi-brain-busting beginning for a clue to its absurdity: Bob and Doug made an MGM movie showing at the multiplex (which features them describing it on camera to the audience after the film breaks?) … and they’re also watching it in a theater?
And — they live with their parents?
The mind boggles.
Thanks again to the Boulevard Brewing Co. and the Alamo Drafthouse for showing Strange Brew in 35mm with the best dinner I’ve had in awhile.