Finding the perfect beer for Rocky

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WHAT BEER WOULD Rocky drink?

It’s mere idle speculation, as the Philly fighter’s new movie, “Rocky Balboa,” fills theater screens this weekend. But the question did provoke a small storm of discontent on the Internet earlier this month when Sylvester Stallone himself weighed in with an answer.

The setting was a terrific, far-reaching Q&A between Stallone and his fans posted at Ain’t it Cool News, an entertainment news Web site. Among other things, the actor revealed his worst movie (“Stop! Or My Mom will Shoot!”) and why he’d like to box Hitler.

The beer topic was raised when one fan wrote:

“I am throwing a Rocky party to celebrate ‘Rocky Balboa’s’ release and I need to know what kind of beer Rocky would drink so I can buy it for the party.”

“No question about it,” Stallone replied. “Rocky drinks Rolling Rock, especially in the ‘pony’ bottles, which are the small bottles.”

Rolling Rock!?

OK, I guess that might make sense as a pun: Rocky, the Italian Stallion, drinking Rock out of ponies.

But it raised a quick stink among fans.

Some howled it should be more of a Philly beer, perhaps Yuengling. Others cried $1 cans of PBR. And at least one suggested a beer to honor his trainer, Mickey’s.

Rolling Rock had its defenders. The beer is (or, at least it was when “Rocky” was filmed) a Pennsylvania beer. And one fan reasoned, “… the pony size was probably specified because Rocky needs to stay in shape.”

As I say, it’s only harmless speculation, but the debate does underscore one obvious point about fictional (and real) characters: Choice of beer goes a long way toward defining a person.

For starters, note that the question is, what kind of beer Rocky prefers. It’s obvious the kid from Kensington isn’t sipping Chardonnay – white wine just wouldn’t work for a rowhouse pug who chugs raw eggs for breakfast.

Beer, even in an age when it can cost you a hundred bucks for a case, still has an image of being the lowbrow working man’s beverage. It’s what Hank Hill and his redneck neighbors guzzle in the alley. It’s what Tenacious D sucks down between sets.

Wine? That implies highbrow culture (“My Dinner with Andre”) or midlife angst (“Sideways”). Or maybe cannibalism. Who can forget Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” salivating over the flavor of a victim’s liver, served with “fava beans and a nice Chianti”?

Screenwriters often turn to specific brands as shorthand to establish place – say, Guinness ads on double-decker buses in London, or Old Style in pretty much every movie ever staged in Chicago. Rolling Rock famously appeared much closer to home in a classic western Pennsylvania tavern scene in “The Deer Hunter.”

Sometimes they get it wrong. In “A History of Violence,” Viggo Mortensen walks into a Philly bar (actually filmed in Canada) appropriately decorated with Schmidt’s and Yuengling signs – and then orders a thoroughly un-Philly brew, Genesee Cream.

In “Boys Don’t Cry,” the wrong choice of beer undermines the effort to create a believable character. In one scene, Hilary Swank and the rest of her aimless Nebraskan friends crack open a case of Celis Pale Rider – an expensive (now defunct) microbrew that would’ve been too expensive and too trendy for that bunch.

OK, so Hilary won an Oscar in spite of the gaffe.

I’ll pick on the new James Bond instead. In “Casino Royale,” Bond switches from martinis to beer – Heineken beer. Somehow that’s supposed to imply he’s sophisticated yet manly. To me, it just means he has extra cash to waste on skunky imported lager.

I can’t help but imagine him running into a crazed, amyl-nitrate-snorting Dennis Hopper in the movie “Blue Velvet.”

“Heineken? F— that s—-! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”

As for Rocky, it depends on which one you’re talking about.

The Rocky who battled Clubber Lang in “III” had already sold his soul and was doing Budweiser endorsements.

The original Rocky? Let’s go to the tape:

You remember, it opens with a bloody fight in a rundown club. Rocky’s defeated opponent is sucking on a can of Schlitz.

The wounded Rocky limps into the cold then grabs a quick swig of, nope, not beer – rotgut wine from the guys on the corner. I never noticed it before, but he actually spits it out.

A little later, Rocky strides into the Lucky Seven Tavern and… what’s that bottle the bartender slides him?

Rolling Rock?

Nah, bleep that bleep. Schmidt’s of Philadelphia!

-30-

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