I recently walked into the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Littleton, Colorado, to watch Old School. No, I didn’t time travel to 2003 -- Alamo Drafthouse often collaborates with breweries to make beers for specific screenings of both all-time classics and new releases at 28 theaters across the country. Because clearly, the best movie theater chain on Earth knows that the only thing better than watching an awesome movie is watching an awesome movie with an equally awesome movie-themed beer.
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The experience of going to any movie at the Drafthouse (if you call it the Alamo, people will know you’re a noob!) is second-to-none. Your seats are assigned before you walk in, so there’s no awkward game of musical chairs. You won’t see any ads before the movie starts -- but you will see cool stuff related to the film. Before I caught a screening of Idiocracy at an Austin location, the theater was running Mike Judge’s early comedy shorts. Old School featured some bizarre cartoons. Part of the fun is figuring out what the hell is playing and why!
The chairs are comfier than La-Z-Boys stuffed with extra cushioning, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Each one is even equipped with a handy table-contraption-thing for dining. And the servers will get you all the food and drink you want without interrupting your movie experience! (Speaking of which, they have a zero tolerance policy for texting or talking during any film. Julie Delpy will get pissed. And then she’ll kick your ass out.)
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While I do love to Beer n’ Netflix (...using my parents’ password -- don’t tell anyone), there’s something extra special about enjoying a flight of beers in a movie theater. I know this because my first craft beer dinner at the Drafthouse featured Old School and three delicious brews from nearby Living the Dream Brewing. The beers were delivered pre-movie, in the middle, and with a half-hour to go. And while sometimes beers are brewed specifically to pair with a movie, this screening simply featured some of the brewery’s finest: Schuss Bomber Lager (a Dortmunder-style export lager), the Hop-Eating Grin DIPA (with 141 IBUs!), and a Helluva Caucasian Stout. Modeled after a White Russian, the latter was the standout beer of which I couldn’t get enough. (If you’re wondering, yes, the beer is an homage to The Big Lebowski.)
“Every brewery wants to do [a movie pairing] with The Big Lebowski or Beerfest,” says executive chef Seth Rexroad, who works with the breweries to create beers and menus for the movies. Rexroad will head over to a brewery and get a feel for what movies they’re passionate about. “We worked with Black Shirt Brewing Co. They have a great affinity for Johnny Cash, and wanted to do Walk the Line. That’s why they’re Black Shirt -- ‘the man in black.’ We did a whole Johnny Cash food pairing [as in fried chicken, old iron pot-style chili, and fried catfish] with their beer.” The brewery loves the movie so much, in fact, that they screened it in the taproom itself for the release of its Cash-inspired Baritone, an appropriately brewed black IPA.
Other times, a new beer can inspire a movie screening, as it did when Rexroad wanted to do a dinner with Alaskan Brewing. “They have a smoked beer,” he says, referring to Alaskan’s classic Smoked Porter, recognized as one of the finer smoked beers in the U.S. “And we thought, what movie would fit this theme? We eventually had the idea to do The Thing.” (If you’re not a horror buff, the movie takes place in Antarctica, and was partially filmed in Alaska.) “We made squid ink pasta, which was far out.”
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Another fantastic movie and beer pairing I’m upset I missed was with one of my favorite breweries on the planet: Odell Brewing Company. “We’ve worked with Odell quite a few times -- we made the beer Zest Burster IPA in conjunction with them for the Alien: Covenant movie.” Get it? As in chest burst? Yeah: gross, but awesome. It’s also a citrusy delight that I believe helps make the on-screen alien and human warfare easier to stomach.
“We also made Guilty as Charged for [the Johnny Cash parody] Walk Hard, which was part of our John C. Reilly Film Fest.” I had a pint of this ginger lime pale ale before Old School, and it was fantastic. When I learned that it had been paired with a John C. Reilly movie, it made me want to see Step Brothers again. Thankfully, instead of streaming it, I bet I won’t have to wait too long before a local brewery and the Drafthouse team up for a screening and beer pairing.
And if it doesn’t happen, I’m gonna be as mad as Julie Delpy in a noisy movie theater.