Recently, The New York Daily News ran a feature
article about a customer poll taken at the Heartland
Brewery to determine which are the greatest “beer
movies” of all time. Most of the dozen they chose are
quite a stretch and a couple of them leave me puzzled
as to why they are even considered to be beer flicks in
the first place. I have no problem with the number
one selection, “Animal House”, or number six,
“Smokey and the Bandit”, but definitely raise my
eyebrow at the inclusion of “Titanic”, “ET”, “The
Graduate” and “All About Eve”.

I suppose a slight case can be made for the beer
swilling Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School”, the
savoring of Stroh’s Bohemian Style Beer on the roof
of the laundry in “Shawshank Redemption” or Clark
W. Griswold and his son philosophically sharing a can
of beer while lost in the desert in “National Lampoon’s
Vacation”. But these flicks hold no reverence for the
serious beer connoisseur. Beer doesn’t come close to
figuring in the central theme of the movies and the
minor references to beer all allude mostly to imbibing
vast quantities of American Standard in order to
achieve a buzz with no consideration for the more
esoteric qualities of suds.

“Googling” beer and movies on the internet provided
pretty much the same fare and I realized that
previous thoughts about beer movies must have all
been written by people who don’t know beer. Simply
swilling draught doesn’t cut it! I began to think about
what makes a great beer movie and came up with
three scenarios, any of which would qualify a movie as
such. One, that the entire theme of the flick must
revolve around beer, however there are a scant few
films in this category. Second, more than a passing
reference to beer must be made. A scene must name
a brand or style, or have a reference to the drinking
of beer other than as a means of getting drunk.
Third, my own favorite qualification: In order to be a
great beer movie, a flick MUST  contain some aspect
of the first two conditions, but in addition, it must be
a movie that a serious beer geek would find

That having been said, I hereby offer my favorite beer
movies, in no particular order, except for number one,
which I’ll save for last.

I don’t know how the poll respondents at Heartland
could have ignored “Take This Job and Shove It”,
unless they were some kind of cosmopolitan wimps
who don’t know a great beer movie from  a swine’s
hindquarters, or, more likely have never even heard of
David Allen Coe or Johnny Paycheck. In a small
Midwestern town Charlie Pickett, (Art Carney) sells his
Star Brewery to a conglomerate who changes the
formula, name and packaging, and lays off workers to
produce more beer at less cost. The tale has a happy
ending when a former coworker, who now is employed
by the conglomerate, organizes a co-op to brew and
reintroduce Star to the thirsty area.

“To the Inn We’re Marching” is the first number we
hear after the arrival of Prince Karl Franz (Edmund
Purdom) at Heidelberg in the movie version of “The
Student Prince”. On the first day of term, the
students march to Herr Reuter’s Inn, accompanied by
a horse drawn beer wagon from which a keg is
sneakily tapped and from which the corpsmen take
prodigious gulps. “Come Boys” is the next tune, sung
by the beautiful Kathy, (Ann Blythe) as she swirls her
dirndl while serving beer from six huge steins held in
each hand.When the Prince is sent by his mentor to
dine in the Gasthaus with the commoners, Kathy
offers him knockwurst and beer , which he downs with
great delight, and thus stimulated,  standing with one
foot on the table, a military kepi on his head and a
liter stein hoisted high, he lip syncs  the voice of Mario
Lanza singing “Drink, Drink, Drink”. For a beer man,
there is no greater thirst generator!!

“Aye, it’s quite cozy”, says Colonel Jock Sinclair (Alec
Guinness) as he’s led by his pipers into the lounge
bar of the hotel in a small Scottish town, home to
Sinclair’s Highland Regiment in the film "Tunes of
Glory".  Since this particular pub has no whisky
available, the Colonel orders “exports” for his
companions. All of the late winter pub and barracks
scenes in this 1950’s British film suggest a pint of 80
Shilling or a Wee Heavy.

Also in the British vein, “The Shillingbury Blowers”,
released in the US as “And the Band Played On”, (not
to be confused with the AIDS epidemic film of the
same name), is about a tone deaf country village band
in England. The musicians don’t care what they sound
like, as long as their beloved bandmaster and
raconteur, “Saltie” Wicklow, (Trevor Howard) is in
charge. When the local government replaces Saltie
with a young, recently graduated conductor who
relates no stories about the music, but who somehow
manages to make the band sound like the Band of the
Royal Marines, the bandsmen rebel by “tipping the
notes”, to make him look bad at the village band
competition. The English countryside, the beautiful
British accents and wonderful pub scenes where the
rebellion is hatched after band practice make the urge
to quaff a cask conditioned bitter almost unbearable.

Moving across the Irish Sea to Innisfree, John Ford’s
classic, “The Quiet Man” features several scenes in
which ale plays an important part. When retired
American fighter, Sean Thornton (John  Wayne)
ventures for the first  time into the House of Cohan,
the local pub, he orders “one of those black beers”,
which Mr. Cohan identifies as “the porter”, the same
drink that is later slapped from the hand of Michaeline
Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald) by Squire Will Dannaher
(Victor McLaglen) at the engagement party of
Thornton and the Squire’s sister, Mary Kate. A pint of
Guinness is a necessity while watching the fight scene,
especially when Thornton and Dannaher take a break
from the fisticuffs, pop into Cohan’s for a little
refreshment and request a drink .

Mr. Cohan considers this request briefly before
deciding “Oh Yes! Porter! Porter’s the very thing!” and
expertly pulls two pints. The ensuing argument over
who should be allowed to buy ends with the squire
throwing his pint into Thornton’s face. The fight
resumes when Sean requests a bar towel to dry his
face before punching the squire through the front
door. However, all differences are cast aside when the
two, many pints later, return to Thornton’s cottage to
happily share dinner and a pitcher of “the very thing”.

I love to watch the dwarves and midgets walk UNDER
the swinging doors and drink beer from steins that
appear to be as big as they are in “The Terror of Tiny
Town”, a 1938 western featuring Jed Buell’s midgets,
small ponies, and, for some inexplicable reason, full
sized everything else. Several pints of anything are
needed to just get through this one!

To the best of my knowledge, the ultimate beer movie
was never released in theaters and is probably not
available in video stores, but “American Beer” is easily
obtainable via the internet. It’s a long documentary
about five lads who pile into a van with the objective
of visiting thirty eight breweries in forty days, and
their adventures on the journey. Everyone from Fritz
Maytag, to Dick Yuengling, to our own local Dave
Hoffman of the Climax Brewery is interviewed with
beautiful brewery scenes in the background, suds
sloshing everywhere, and pints in everyone’s hands.

There is no plot, no continuity, no costuming, or
choreography, below average photography and sound
and no mass market appeal , but to my mind it
remains the ultimate beer flick. You’d better have
more than one or two fresh IPAs on hand if you want
to watch this one from start to finish!

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll have to stop here.
Time to grab a Guinness and sit down to watch “The
Quiet Man” for the 169th time!   


Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
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by   Dan Hodge