As many of you know, I work as a professional film reviewer during the day. Only part time, obviously, as my obligations as substitute ringmaster, crash dummy, and full-contact hypnotist can be quite taxing. Film is my relaxation, my retreat.
(And no, I haven’t been getting much fiction written lately. Thanks for asking!)
I don’t believe I’ve ever written a movie review before, but given the overall focus of this one – a documentary following certain hardcore “beertickers” in England – it was comfortable ground and ~as close as one gets to a “Made for Ratebeer” movie. Also, it was a free preview, and the circus had given me the night off.
A beerticker, for point of reference, does what we do on Ratebeer, minus the rate part. There are notebooks involved (Brian Moore, who’s the Champion Beerticker of Britain with 40,000+ ticks, pulled out one notebook that appeared to have been salvaged from a sunken ship). Beertickers record the name, brewery, and ABV of each new beer they can find. There are disagreements about what constitutes a legitimate tick size (usually half a pint), whether hand-bottling is sacrilegious (the method by which they do so did, admittedly, cause my heart to skip a beat), even whether or not something is officially a “new beer.” … Sound familiar?
Phil Parkin, the movie’s writer and director, follows around four key beerticking figures – Brian “the Champ” Moore, Mick the Tick, Dave Unpronounceable, and Ratebeer’s own Gazza Prescott – but wisely expands his circuit to also include the wider context of the English real ale scene. Side ventures include a visit to the oldest pub in England (cursed galleon and all), a historical chat in Burton on Trent with beer writer Pete Brown, and jaunts to Thornbridge, the Sheffield Real Ale Trail, and the Great British Beer Festival. It also addresses (“tackles” is too strong a word) English pub closures, the role of CAMRA, and overindulgence.
But, as a young-ish American beer lover who’s spent only fleeting instances in England, the most compelling part is the pub scene itself. That sense of them as the “hub of British social life” – if juxtaposed with the often sterile, overly polished nature of many (most?) American beer bars – is palpable, and I’m not sure that I have the right words to share what it means to feel both jealousy and admiration towards a foreign drinking culture. I will say that an elderly Mick the Tick rocking out amongst friends with his skiffle band sums it up better than I ever could.
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