The Movie (No Spoilers)
To celebrate the long awaited release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seemed long overdue to bring back a favorite feature of mine, Brew & View. It’s been a long long time–and in a galaxy far away if you will–since we last saw the likes of a Brew & View. Even still, this will not be your typical Brew & View–let’s call it, View & Brew to be a bit more accurate. The following will be a spoiler free review of The Force Awakens, followed by the beer pairing for the film. The beer in question, Toppling Goliath’s Light Speed Pale Ale.
First things first though. It was only a few years ago that J.J. Abrams rejuvenated a series that this reviewer previously had no allegiance to. Abrams successfully injected a sense of enthusiasm and fandom into me that was previously void, so the monumental wait for the filmmaker to tackle a franchise where enthusiasm and fandom already existed was almost unbearable. J.J. tackled the unenviable task of reviving a series that was nearly destroyed by its creator with an uncommon poise and emerged on the other end having given the franchise a much needed infusion of modern tastes that brings Star Wars into a new generation with extreme spectacle.
The Force Awakens picks up some time after the events of Return of the Jedi, wherein Luke has disappeared following a failed attempt to train a group of Jedis. In that time a new threat, the First Order, has risen from the ashes of the Empire, but the Resistance is seeking to ensure that they do not succeed. Both are searching for Luke knowing that he could be the key to stopping the First Order. A rogue storm trooper, Finn (John Boyega), and an orphan scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), team together to stop the First Order’s Keylo Ren (Adam Driver) from obtaining the last piece of a map with a clue to Luke’s location.
Noticeably absent from the above premise is the familiar faces that everyone is heading to the theaters in hopes of seeing- with the exception of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker. Without giving anything away, the core group is in tact and actually play a large role in J.J. Abrams more modern take on the franchise. J.J. in fact, has done something here I’m not sure we were expecting, but essentially reimagining Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope with a gaggle of fresh faces- while also putting a spin of his own on the material. The J.J. spin (as it were) isn’t just a breath of fresh air, but a much needed facelift on the franchise which suffered nearly catastrophic damage from George Lucas himself.
As fun as it is to see the familiar faces on screen once again, it’s the new characters which are a revelation to the franchise. Rey, played by Ridley, is an amazing and strong female character while Finn, played by Boyega, gives new audiences a Solo-esque persona outside of Harrison Ford’s presence. Ridley in-particular is phenomenal in her role, although Boyega and Driver are not to be slighted. Driver’s menacing Vader-like appearance is an interesting angle on the new film seeing as how the character plays out like something of an immature fanboy of Luke’s father- though without digging into spoilers there’s a deeper take on the character’s motivation.
Not surprisingly, J.J. handles the spectacle of it all with great poise. The Tai Fighter and X-Wing dogfights are breathtaking, meanwhile there’s a chase scene involving the Millenium Falcon that is worth the price of admission on its own. If I could gripe about one thing, it’s that I just wanted more light saber battles- though the ones present are more than thirst quenching. I felt like a child again hearing the unmistakable buzz of the sabers igniting and whipping through the air and cackling against one another. Ren’s saber has an updated wild sounding flicker that gives his character even more mystery and danger.
It’s entirely too easy to sit around and gush about my love of The Force Awakens endlessly. Bottom line is that even if J.J.’s film is at times mostly just set up for what seems to be some epic nerd euphoria, it’s still a technically flawless (minus the cartoony CGI characters like Maz and Snoke) and beautifully filmed Star Wars flick. Sure handed character development and a seamless blend of new and old elements make for a stellar addition to the franchise.
As promised, with the return of Star Wars I wanted to pair the experience with a beer fitting of the experience. Toppling Goliath, a brewery out of Decorah, Iowa, is churning out some world class suds and the featured beer is just one of many. Light Speed, an over-hopped pale ale, is already fitting by name as is; but what if I told you the original name for the beer was Millennium Falcon? Perfect, right? Brewed with a harmonious mix of millennium and falconers flight hops the beer clocks in at a 5.8% ABV for all the hoppy delight that hop heads love but with borderline sessionable alcohol content.
Toppling Goliath is making a name for themselves with their somewhat aggressive IPAs and barrel-aged behemoths and Light Speed joins the likes of their outrageously popular pale ale, psuedoSue, to be (like The Force Awakens) a technically flawless beer. Pouring an extremely hazy golden color and appearing like orange juice as it settles in the glass, the drinker is greeted with a subtle but beautiful citrus aroma and a thin bubbly head.
The flavor of the beer blasts one with a punch of orange and lemon, finishing with an herbal note followed by an amalgamation of citrus notes that seduces one to come in for one sip after another until its gone and you are left wanting more. Even typiing this I’m sitting with the urge to pat myself on the back for how the drinking experience of Light Speed compares to the feelings of watching The Force Awakens for the first time. It’s a beer that you can’t possibly drink just one of, even out of a 22oz bomber, and will likely hold up incredibly well with subsequent visits.
There’s no denying that Toppling Goliath is a brewery operating at a level above and beyond the call of duty by putting out one world class beer after the other. Light Speed is just one of the many hoppy beers that the brewery excels at and would pair with pretty much any cinematic experience, but just so happens to meld perfectly with the geeky nirvana of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. As cheesy as it sounds, the force is indeed strong with this one.