TRoP: Episodes 1 & 2 Initial Reactions

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.

Samwise Gamgee

Wow wow wow. So much wow. I’m almost not sure where I should start, so I will just begin writing as I form an opinion. First of all, as probably every reviewer has mentioned, it is visually stunning. If you were going to show Valinor in all its’ glory and pull off the prologue that they did, you have to go big. To their credit, they do, and that prologue sequence is glorious. I am so surprised at the events they tackle; the destruction of the Two Trees, introducing Finrod Felagund, and of course, the War of Wrath (who else saw Balrogs in the background?? Yes, several of them!!).

Right away, we jump into Galadriel’s story, continuing the fight on the hunt for Sauron deep in the Fordwaith. We get a good idea of where they are taking her character, being on some revenge tour to seek out the enemy and restore her brothers’ honor.

Having said that, I am really struggling with this Galadriel character they have constructed. Her rashness and disregard for her fellow Elves is a pull, but understandable if you are trying to construct some arc that will bring her to become the leader we know her to be. For me however, to have even contemplated going back to Valinor, or for that manner being permitted to, makes no sense. No, they can’t take everything from the books verbatim, hence Finrod having survived the War of Wrath apparently and dying directly at the hands of Sauron. But it is such an integral piece of Galadriel that it upset me greatly. Ditching the ship is not her big sin, rather it is leaving Valinor alongside Feanor and kindred in the first place (whether out of duty or desire to rule a realm of her own), only to test her drive for power ages later, when Frodo presents her with the One Ring. If Celebrimbor can name drop Feanor, then in my opinion they will need to bring up the kinstrife at some point, and the Ban of the Valar. Or more preferably, the blood oath of Feanor and his seven sons. Wouldn’t that be something to behold?

Outside of Galadriel, the characters are extensive, and hit-or-miss. Elrond and Durin (the IV) are powerful characters, and their relationship is an absolute gem. When Durin gives such a human response when discussing the twenty years since Elrond visits (the blink of an eye to an Elf), it truly stirs something in you. I can’t really say there’s bad performances, but with the constant cutaways back and forth between characters, it made some storylines far less interesting than others. If Amazon really wanted their own Game of Thrones type show, it might do well to use their format of having two or three character arcs an episode, instead of constantly going back and forth between the whole cast. First we see Galadriel and Halbrand, then its back to Elrond and Gil-galad, back to the Harfoots, back to Arondir and Bronwynn, back to Theo and bully, and finally back to Galadriel… it can be hard to follow. I’m sure Arondir and Bronwynn will play some importance later on, but at this point I’m not so sure I even want to see some Elf and Woman romance. Perhaps they just wanted to show the whole cast out of the gate, but the impending addition of the Numenorean cast makes me think this problem is not going away in Episode 3.

A piece of foreshadowing I loved; Celebrimbor shares with Elrond the hammer of Feanor, who Elrond skims over without touching, out of respect. As Celebrimbor recounts his tale, however, he picks up the hammer, nonchalantly, twirls it a bit, and even leaves a smudge. This character definitely has some ego to him; but I’m sure that won’t be a problem in the future!

More name drops that are heard in Episode 2 include; Feanor, Aule, the Silmarils, and several mentions of the Dark One by name. They are unapologetic in there reference to the lore. It makes me wonder if they’ll ever reveal exactly what deal was structured with the Tolkien Estate to allow this.

And finally, let’s get into the real opinion piece; Meteor Man. I am not sure what to make of this character, and I suppose it makes us resonate more with the Harfoots. Who is this stranger? Where is his kind? What is his true purpose on Middle-Earth? All reasonable questions asked by Nori, only to have an either developmentally challenged or severely concussed Meteor Man to retort, “unhhh?” At this point, it seems pretty glaringly obvious it is Gandalf, and if it’s not our dear Olorin, then an Istari or some Maiar-type character. There are so many alliterations to the Gandalf of PJ’s films, such as the darkness that arises when he speaks angrily. During one of these sequences, he repeatedly states a phrase, Mána Urë (which seems to be in Quenyan, according to the subtitles). A quick google search tells me that mána = blessed, úrë = heat, or possibly fire. So, if we were take this to mean “Blessed Fire”, what comes to mind? Personally it is giving me major “Flame of Anor” vibes. Could they be trying to throw us off somehow? Or did Manwe just simply catapult Olorin to Middle-Earth a little earlier than scheduled? “Next time”, says a still concussed Olorin returning to Mount Taniquetil, “we go by boat!”

Lastly, they do have some great cliffhangers to end on. I can’t wait to finally see the kingdom in store for Galadriel and Halbrand! Until next time ~

TRoP teaser trailer drop: Initial Thoughts, Early Theories

For a 60 second information-less teaser, I have many thoughts here. Let’s get right into it.

What city is this?

Initially, I thought the port from the intro shot was Tirion upon Tuna, as this city is what’s theorized to be from the only shot we had of this series, from the perspective of a white-cladded individual (Finrod?) in the grassy hills of Valinor. But immediately on the 2nd watch, I realized those statues had to be in a nod to the Argonath from the PJ’s film series. This is definitely a Numenorean port, and specifically I would say Andúnië as it seems to face the West.

Meteor Man: good Iluvatar where would I start. This is perhaps one of their “bigger stretches” of the Tales and where they could play into whatever they want. JD Payne & Patrick McKay have already hinted in this Variety cover that they won’t rule out a Wizard, which is strange as in the appendices they are said to have arrived to Middle-Earth a good one thousand years into the Third Age. That means they may have to first look at other narratives – and specifically, I would say the one from The Peoples of Middle-Earth. It was the Blue Wizards who first arrived to Middle Earth in the Second Age no less (specifically in 1600 during the forging of the Rings!). A lot of people say Sauron as well – an even bigger stretch as he was already in Middle-Earth. Time will tell.

The Vanity Fair follow up piece seems to answer my other questions: the girl we see is Nori Brandyfoot, a confirmed Harfoot, ancestor to hobbits (but what purpose they have at this time, I couldn’t guess. Aren’t they supposed to remain hidden?). The blond Elf fighting in golden armor is Finrod, with short hair for some reason. And the shipwrecked man is Halbrand, who if it is true that he is a member of the Éothéod, is a quite a ways from home.

Unfortunately that only sparks more questions, and sometimes, if I’m taking it too seriously, causes for concern. Ultimately, I will continue to hold my fire until we see what route the writers are taking it.

September 2nd, watch party anyone??

We’re Finally Here: The Rings Of Power Trailer

It is but the deep breath before the plunge.

Beregrond to Pippin, RotK

Forth, Eorlingas! As we sit on the cusp of the trailer drop for Amazon’s The Rings of Power, I find myself anxiously waiting at the Rammas Echor, as if I’m about to jump into the Pelennor fields at any second. I love football; I played it in high school, I play fantasy football with friends and am a genuine Joe Cool fan. But for the first time, I could not care less about the game. I’m almost considering not tuning in until the 3rd quarter, which as Stuff reports in the link above, will be when the trailer premieres. Amazon has thrown money at this like there’s no tomorrow. A Super Bowl commercial release, bringing back Howard Shore as composer, buying the rights from the Tolkien Estate, and the infrastructure deal with New Zealand has reportedly cost Amazon 465 million US dollars, establishing The Rings of Power as the most expensive TV series in history. And all we’ve seen so far is a teaser trailer of freaking wood and water.

Jeff Bezos has many fans. I’m sure. Somewhere.

Amazon continues to up the ante, and they will need to deliver in a big way. It’s not to say I don’t have hope – there was never much hope. Just a fool’s hope, some greater names than I might say. At the end of the day, what they need to do is invite a new age to Tolkien’s world, and do so in a way that stays as true to the books and legendarium as possible, that he and his son Christopher so eloquently and meticulously crafted over their lifetimes. Should a dwarvish woman have a beard? Yes, absolutely. Does it matter in the long run, to my interpretation of this beautiful world? No, absolutely not! It’s a TV shows’ interpretation trying to fit a 30-60 minute timeframe. I can appreciate it without finding my feelings hurt. And I’m sure our families and friends can be spared from every response of ours starting with “well, actually, in the Unfinished Tales, they say…”

So, with all the money in the world, I eagerly await Amazon’s show and to see a sneak peak of what they’ve been up to for the last 2 years. I’ll be on all the socials, and will be joining TORN’s trailer watch party on Discord/Twitch/YouTube. Find me @ TolkienBrews on all three!

Tis the damn Wet Hop Season!

Do you like to not cash in on a very short seasonal beer? Quit reading.

We’ve reached that time of year where most breweries try to cash in on freshly picked hops after the harvest season, and immediately placed in the wort for brewing. Hop Culture defines wet-hopped beers, also known as fresh hopped, as using hops that are preserved as whole cone, rather than dried or in pellet form. This will often make them much more aromatic and have higher levels of oil and acidity, resulting in sharper and more flavorful beers.

The reason this method of brewing only comes once a year is likely cost. Imagine a heart transplant, you only have a certain amount of time to harvest the organs (in this case, 24 hours before the hops need to be used). A bit of a morbid example, but you get the point. The cost of transport probably eats up most, if any, profit these brewers are making. Therefore, at the end of the summer season right when the heat is right about to die down, a small amount of breweries will start pushing out fresh hop beers, and then more and more follow suit.

Next time you’re in your local grocery or liquor store, keep an eye out for anything that has “wet” or “fresh” in their name. Here’s one I stumbled into at Whole Foods:

Sister Strata – Laughing Monk Brewing

Another fine brew from Laughing Monk, slowly becoming one of my favorite local spots. It has a gentle aroma, a bit of a juicy feel and is vaguely grassy. I will probably much prefer Lagunitas’ fresh hop take, but couldn’t complain here.

Rating: 7.2

Gimli, the newest addition to the clan!

Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror, be it clear as Kheled-zaram. Or so says the heart of Gimli the Dwarf.

Gimli, FOTR

Meet Gimli, the son of Gloin and our newest member of the household! Gimli loves to play tug-of-war and annoy us to take him on walks. For a dachsund, he’s surprisingly fast. He is 100% a natural sprinter, and wasted over cross-country (he is known to plop down in the shade on hikes).

Like the relationship between Gimli the dwarf and Legolas of the Woodland realm, he comes off at first stubborn and rash (he’s a rescue). But play some fetch with him and you will become fast friends!

The quote above is an insightful and heartfelt conversation with Legolas as the Fellowship leaves Lothlorien, and the loss Gimli is experiencing. While the group is downhearted over having to leave, Gimli is openly weeping over this, continuing to surprise what we think of when we think of a dwarf. While granted with longer lives than Men, dwarfs are mortal beings, so reminiscing on a memory may affect Gimli different than a thousand-year-old Elf. Cirdan the shipwright has to at least be 10,000 years old, perhaps even awakening in Cuivienen itself. Does a brief meeting with a dwarf, say 3,000 years ago, really resonate with him in the present? Could it casually come back as a dream, or is it lost as just an idea or feeling, in a never-ending lifetime?

Gimli’s presence in the books brings about a lot of these thoughtful discussions, and his relationships with others is true and meaningful. He has a stern and steadfast character, but isn’t opposed to having a bit of fun or make the occasional wager. Gimli would go on to be a lordly dwarf, known as Elf-friend, Lockbearer and the Lord of the Glittering Caves. His adventures with Legolas Greenleaf would become legend, and it is said when his life grew old, he joined Legolas in crossing the Sea to Valinor, the first and only dwarf to ever have that honor. I always wonder what his conversations with Aule would look like, or if he had the chance to roam through the gardens of Lorien with Galadriel.

Dwarfs are perhaps my favorite race in Middle-Earth, and it saddens me that they are also one of the more unexplored races in the legendarium. The most we ever learn about dwarfs are from Gimli himself, through stories like the Kheled-zaram, or the Song of Durin. Anyway. Gimli, an underrated and lordly dwarf – is now a member of the fam.

Farm to Can – Laughing Monk Brewery

This might be my second review of Laughing Monk, and I’ve yet to try a beer from them that I wouldn’t be game to crack open on any day of the week. That’s a big compliment since at the moment, I’ve been trying to cut back on the brewskis. Laughing Monk delivers on this Yakima Valley-inspired hoppy pale ale. It’s a fairly woodsy kind of taste, distinct Chinook and Citra hops common to most West Coast styles. The malt is lighter and brings about a pleasant crisp. I would of kinda hoped for a more bready, darker malt to add to the dankness of this beer. But all around a great, clean fun beer to crack open with the fellas.

Rating: 7.2

Sublimely Self-Righteous Stone Brewing # 9

Anything from Stone Brewing is going have a crazy amount of grapefruit and tropical notes, but with something as bold as a Black IPA, I really didn’t expect to still taste this. It’s an interesting blend or rich, chocolately malty-ness with fruity, herbal notes. I don’t love the finish, but I find myself taking big gulps and keep coming back to it, and tasting something new.

I wish there were more Black IPAs in general, it’s a very interesting style. Kinda like a Sour Patch Kid, they’re sour, sweet, gone.

Rating: 7.8

Character Analysis: Faramir, the simp?

There’s not a lot of characters that make you scream at them in the books. In Lord of The Rings, the people are mostly static characters. Aragorn is a boss, whether as a raggedy Dunedain Ranger or a silver King of old. Samwise goes right back to gardening after coming back to the Shire, Gandalf keeps to wandering to and fro, and Barliman Butterbur is still droning on and on. But man. When it comes to our second-born son of Denethor, you’re left wanting more and more. So without further adieu: Faramir, a character analysis.

Faramir Nazgul Blank Template - Imgflip

A better way to put my former statement would be; you want more for him, because the poor guy has it rough. He’s an unloved and motherless son, a less adept fighter, and a hard “behind-the-scenes” warrior. It’s almost the world’s first teen drama, in the sense that he has a jock brother whose captain of the football team (or White Tower here), and he’s expected to go out and rule just like chummy Boromir. The reader realizes though, what Denethor and the Gondorians do not, is that Boromir… sucks. Really though; he’s not a guy who should be ruling. He’s a kickass fighter and a hardy warrior, definitely a guy you want on your side. He probably would of made a great Rohan horseman too. But he has no restraint, and not the wisdom a King or Steward needs. It’s straight up even mentioned so by Gandalf, when describing Denethor to Pippin: “… by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir who he loved best.”

The Numenorean blood runs true! Does that mean nothing to you people?! Well… on second thought, it might not. It’s more complicated than you think at first. The line of Ecthelion does in fact have some lineage to Numenorean blood (Hurin of Emyn Arnen). But what probably amplifies this, is that Finduilas, Faramir’s mother, was a daughter of the Prince of Dol Amroth, of who have Elvish blood in their lineage (Legolas crushes harrrrd on the dude over this, true story). From those facts, you can make a valid argument that he’s more Elvish than Aragorn. When Aragorn shows up to heal those wounded in the Battle of Pelennor Fields, he comes across Faramir, and he can tell straight away that this is a lordly dude. And yet, Tolkien frequently remarks that he is less noble than Aragorn, less of a fighter, less wise perhaps.

So what then, defines a “lesser man”? Heritage? Oh sorry Faramir, you don’t have some Elrond in you and you’re not banging your great, great, 100x great Aunt. Blood lineage is mentioned here more than anywhere else in Tolkien’s work. At this point, it’s probably important to mention Tolkien’s interpretation of bloodline and nobility. While it’s not outright said, Numenoreans are clearly meant to be the superior race of Arda (at the very least, the superior race of the Edain). They live longer, fight harder, and create all the cool stuff in Middle-Earth. Far often than not, he pins the importance of characters to how their lineage is tied into the story. And when the noble intermingle “with those of lesser men”, the bloodline becomes corrupt (see Ar-Pharazôn). So not only is blood the central factor in the ability to rule, but it reflects moral fiber? I really don’t believe that looking at this in the lens of 2021 is going to be doing much service to anyone, but I do want to acknowledge this is an area where we grimace, and are left to interpret the similarities to themes of eugenics, racism, ect. I would of loved to see perhaps more tales of lesser men in the Appendices, or more “rags to riches” stories. Better minds than me have spoken more about Tolkien and race, so I leave it to you on how to make sense of it. What I will end on is that the Hobitts are clearly an exception and purposefully given the largest roles in the story – they show that even the smallest people can make the biggest difference. To quote Elrond:

“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

Elrond, FOTR

I’m not going to get into Peter Jackson’s take here. The films crush this character, that is a fact. Why? I’m not a cinephile, I don’t want to get in the head of Peter Jackson. And I think I’ve also droned on a bit too much as well. But it’s clear that this character has been cut significantly down to size, maybe to save time.

In summary, Faramir is one of the most well-rounded characters in the whole saga, akin to Tolkien himself. Ol’ Johnny mentions that he felt as he didn’t create the character Faramir, he just embodied himself in this story and felt as if he is most similar to Faramir. In one of the many Letters of Tolkien, he describes Faramir as “modest, fair-minded and scrupulously just, and very merciful.” High praise, sir, high praise indeed. In short, give the Faramir’s of your life some credit. They are due more than they receive.

Colorado the Cruel, journey for a thousand beers

It’s been quite awhile since I last check in – 2 months, which in quarantine time is maybe 6 months. Also, bad sales quarter and vacations are not a great mix. So with that, I thought I’d recap a vacation I took all the way back in February to Breckenridge, CO (for snowboarding, but also helps that they have a huge craft beer scene).

Telluride Brewing – Face Down Brown Ale

In what I would call the Denver Arts District. Think Marlboro hats and sarcastic tattoos

Rating: 8.1

Sexy Motor Oil – Breckenridge Brewery

Brewed in house – ignore the Hazy near me and whatever outfit I decided to wear that day

Rating: 9.0 – my first 9 and even I’m surprised. This is easily one of the best beers I’ve ever had and to this date my favorite stout. This was their Bourbon barrel-aged version, and while apparently their standard stout is just as good, I kinda doubt it. It was aged in vanilla as well, and combining with a delicious bread-y kind of malt, this just hits all the criteria. It’s freaking amazing. Exclusively sold at Breckenridge Brewing, so I don’t know how I’ll ever get it again. But mark my words. I will.

2 Planker – Breckenridge Brewery

Rating: 7.2

It’s aw-right. The hops are from some goat farm in Colorado if I recall. Still West-Coast style technically.

Sad Panda Coffee Stout – Horse & Dragon Brewing

I do not have a picture of it, but at the same dive bar we were at, they had a bottle of Old Pappy Van Winkle. Which I really wanted to steal. Or down. But instead I took a creepy pic

Rating: 8.2

This was actually incredibly good stout as well, it’s labeled as a coffee stout and was fantastic to have after a morning of snowboarding. Caramel notes included with notes of vanilla and chocolate.

Peanut Butter Milk Stout – Belching Beaver Brewery # 9

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all stouts are meant to be Imperial.

This was (at least in my mind) the thought behind the brewers at Belching Beaver. They’ve been around for quite awhile, but I’ve only recently seen a push for them at Bevmo’s and Safeways in the Bay Area. And no, it’s not an Oregon brewery.


This is the first stout I’ve had in a long while that wasn’t a 10% “one and done” beer. At 5% this is a drinkable stout for anyone new to the game. Even wifey finished hers tonight! Your first thought is man there is some chocolate packed in there, you actually have to taste and look for the peanut butter notes. It actually feels as if the peanut butter is coming out of the malt, because its toasted a bit – frickin dope. Decent carbonation and not heavy at all, but packed with flavor nonetheless. If I had one complaint, there isn’t a lot of head, even for it being bottled (seems like a common issue on forums).

Summary; it’s an excellent stout to start with if your new game (seriously, put down your Hazy IPA). There’s a ton to look at and play around with in the mouthfeel. It’s AJ recommended and approved. Which usually means I had 3 or more. I’m drunk and going to bed.

Rating: 8.5