There's that scene in Pulp Fiction that we can all relate to: "I gotta know what a five dollar shake tastes like." But what if you could actually taste the $5 shake from the film in alcoholic form?
That's where Dutch filmmakers turned-brewers, Finbarr Wilbrink and Martijn Blekendaal, come in. Their beer series, Cinema Brewers, is busy turning your favorite cult classics into beer. In an era of small craft breweries springing up like mushrooms from the ever-growing popularity of specialized beers, the duo believes that every movie has a distinctive taste.
They say that a good story never starts with someone eating a salad. Well, that wasn't the case here either. But Cinema Brewers is the exception to this. According to Finbarr, the idea came about during one afternoon when the two filmmakers were hanging out drinking beers in his backyard. "I'm a movie director, Roelof Minneboo is a scenario writer, and we enjoy cinema and hoppy beer together." After several jokes about 'Dennis Hopper' and Ahocalypse Now, they realized that the notion of concocting movie beers wasn't too shabby of an idea.
It took them a year of practice at a brewery in northern Amsterdam until they finally got the hang of brewing. According to Finbarr, much of their time was spent reading up on the brewing process and dealing with trial and error as first-time brewers. The first thousand-liter concoction—an IPA with a blend of French and American hops, verbena, and lavender—was inspired by the film, Breathless. The brew was launched during a screening of the film and was well received. Soon after the release of the first beer, Roelof got very busy writing scripts and had to quit so Martijn took over.
So has the concept ever trumped the final product? This was certainly the case with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. "We wanted to make a pink beer with rose and chamomile to honor this film, but it unfortunately tasted bitter and acerbic, so we decided not to do anything with it."
The brewing process can be done two ways. "Using potatoes and cabbage for Zhivago felt somewhat excessive, we focused more on what the film exudes for this one. It had to be a winter beer, so we opted for orange peel, ginger, and darker malts." Pulp Fiction, on the other hand, was translated fairly simply: they used fresh apples to reference the red apple cigarettes, vanilla bean for the milkshake, and blueberries for Bruce Willis in his moment of, "I'll be back before you can say 'blueberry pie.'"
Before the beer can become sold on the commercial market, they've got to request permission for use of the movie titles on all of their labels. "The United States has strong regulations in regards to collaborations with alcoholic companies," says Finnbar. "It's not often allowed within the States, but since we're Dutch, we are often sanctioned. We regularly receive enthusiastic reactions. People enjoy what we do here."
So far, the brewers consider the "$5 shake" beer their biggest success. Despite the hype, they won't brew more than five thousand liters because each brew is considered a limited edition. When the collection is done, it's really done. "We really regret this, but rules are rules, even when they're your own."
But above all of the brews that they've created, nothing can come close to The Dude. "Everywhere we go, they ask if we still have some cases of Lebowski with lemongrass and coriander," says Finbarr. "That was our biggest blockbuster yet."
The brewer filmmakers still have a long lineup of movies that they want to create, from the The Breakfast Club to Terminator 2. "It's an ongoing experiment," Martijn explains. "The way we compile the ingredients is unpredictable, mainly because each and every flick inspires us differently. That's what keeps it fun and novel."
Even though their goal is to transform each film into a frothy brew, these filmmakers continue to be their own toughest critics. For them, the most important part of the process is to revive forgotten films. By drinking their beers, each sip should make you think, That film is a must-see.