Friday, December 3, 2010

What Would Batman Drink?

Having more or less finished Red Dead Redemption, I couldn't wait to start playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. It didn't take me long to get into the game, and two nights ago, sitting in my black bathrobe and feeling that I was one with Bruce Wayne, I tried out a booze pairing that was destined for success.

The game plays something like a Dark Knight-themed cross between the recent Prince of Persia games and the recent Metroid games. Being a big fan of everything I just referenced, I was bound to get sucked in. A while back, upon first hearing about this blog, my friend Tony immediately asked "Why don't you try Batman: Arkham Asylum with Goose Island Night Stalker?" I knew he was on to something, and a couple months later, I verified that his instinct for pairing video games and booze is highly developed.

Night Stalker is a monstrous imperial stout with substantial hop flavor. When I first tried it several months ago, I was impressed with how well its citrusy, piney hoppiness went with its smooth, dark roastiness. It was released last spring, and since then it has changed a bit. It still pours black as midnight on a moonless night (pretty black), but has a little more bran-like maltiness and a little less bitterness than it did before. I was glad to get to try it again, and I liked it just as well as I had before.
When I take control of the Dark Knight and stalk insane foes (who are taking performance-enhancing drugs, no less) in an insane asylum, I don't want to drink Vinho Verde. I don't want to have the shades open or the lights on or anybody talking to me. I want to envelope myself in the shadows. I want to embrace madness, for only when it becomes my closest ally can I defeat it as my greatest foe. I can truly say that Night Stalker literally helped me to achieve all of these things.
I should note that the next night I drank a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout while playing Batman. While it is one of my favorite beers ever, its relative restraint and refinement made it much less suitable for the game than Night Stalker is. So I guess I have to find a game to go with Brooklyn BCS now.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whiskey, Tequila, and Red Dead Redemption

After a couple strenuous weeks of breaking horses, herding cattle, and killing almost everybody, I've finally come to the end of Red Dead Redemption. Or at least as close as I'm going to get. I could still spend dozens of hours finishing side quests and attaining higher rankings of various sorts, but I have 4 awesome games stacked on my coffee table that I need to get around to. Playing Red Dead was a lot of fun, and Old Grand-dad was certainly perfect for it.

At 100 proof, Old Grand-dad kept the hair on my chest as I fought my way through a long series of sticky (and violent) situations. Its sweet vanilla and alcoholic warmth made it a powerful companion. However, as I progressed through the game and made my way down to Mexico, I remembered that a bottle of Bracero Reposado Tequila was sitting on my liquor shelf.

Sipping straight tequila felt much more appropriate at times when I was surrounded by sandy hills and palm trees. Bracero Reposado is remarkably smooth and complex for an affordable tequila. Subtle fruit and spice make it pleasant for drinking straight up, although I also enjoyed it in a dry margarita with a pickled watermelon rind garnish.
Red Dead Redemption was a fun game to play. I very well may go back and work on some of the things I left unfinished in the game, as I feel that I raced through it without sufficiently exploring its sizable map. And if I do pick it up again, you can be sure I'll have some bourbon and/or tequila to go along with it.
Now I have to decide what to play next. I'd like to start Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I don't have the booze I want to pair with it on hand. Metroid: Other M is really tempting, but I have no idea what to drink with it. Fallout: New Vegas should be awesome, but I think I'll take a brief break from shooters. I also have Brutal Legend, but I'm not in a mood for Jäger. If any of you loyal readers want to advise me on this quandary, don't hold back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A New Frontier...

Two days ago I fired up my brand new Playstation 3 for the first time. I shouldn't have one. I can't afford such things. Rather than pay for it legitimately, I am trading a very rare commodity: homebrew futures. Like Rumplestiltskin, this PS3 is going to steal my babies, inasmuch as my beers are my children, which they are not.
Ever since CTA buses started carrying giant ads for it a few months ago, I've really wanted to play Red Dead Redemption. A huge percentage of my video game-playing in the last year was dedicated to Grand Theft Auto IV and Bully. I get addicted to games produced by Rockstar, and I was not surprised at all when 4 hours of RDR flew by me before I tore myself away.
I sipped on Old Grand-dad while I played, which was an obvious, yet wholly appropriate pairing. I needed something strong to accompany my first night playing the first non-Nintendo console I have ever owned. I have a feeling that Red Dead Redemption is going to last me a good long time. I'll pick up one or two other whiskeys and give them a whirl, and post my thoughts in the next week or two. Or maybe now that I have Brutal Legend and Batman: Arkham Asylum laying in wait on my coffee table, you'll never hear from me again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fudo Myoo Ginjo Nigori Genshu with Muramasa: The Demon Blade

I've been wanting to do a post on Muramasa: The Demon Blade for some time now. Due to laziness and an irrational urge to find an absolutely perfect pairing, I'm only just now getting around to it. Muramasa is an amazing 2D side-scrolling action game set in feudal Japan. It plays more or less like a brawler, with a little extra sophistication coming in with the enormous array of different swords that one can forge throughout the game. The game follows a confusing plot concerning a young woman whose body has been inhabited by a demon. I wish I could explain it a little better than that, but I would just be making things up if I tried.

Muramasa's best feature is its stunning graphics. A beautiful blend of anime and more traditional Japanese painting, simply looking at the characters and backgrounds makes this game worthwhile. The music is also wonderful, consisting largely of dramatic drums and flutes. Because the game has such a thoroughly Japanese aesthetic, saké seemed an obvious choice. And sometimes, obvious choices are very good ones.

Since my days of pairing Shichi Hon Yari Junmai with Red Steel 2, I've found a need to practice restraint when spending money on my blog research. I wanted to buy a good saké on a budget, and Fudo Myoo seemed like a good choice. I went with their Nigori, or (relatively) unfiltered, saké, as its cloudiness reminded me of the beautiful snowy fields that one frequently runs through in Muramasa.
Fudo Myoo is one of few saké breweries in the United States. Based in Oregon, they are named after the Buddhist deity that defends wisdom and personifies perseverance. Like revenge, their Ginjo Nigori Genshu is best served cold. It is a strong, unfiltered saké. Cloudy and creamy, it tastes of lichi and vanilla, with a slight mushroomy earthiness. It is sweet, and finishes with a hint of marshmallow.
The fruity character of the saké made it somewhat suitable for a colorful game like Muramasa. However, I felt at times that this particular booze lacked the refinement of the game I paired it with. In the end, it worked out well enough, as its alcoholic warmth bolstered my spirit and allowed me to slaughter wave after wave of ninja and samurai. As I downed the last of my saké, I found myself actually fighting Fudo Myoo, or at least a giant statue posing as him. Needless to say, at that point I had been instilled with the fiery will to strike down this impostor with great vengeance and furious anger.

Coming Soon: It looks like I might be trading a lot of homebrews for a PS3. Expect more frequent updates. Unless I just get addicted to Red Dead Redemption and play it exclusively for the next 6 months.

P.S. I got 241 stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2 before sending it back. That game is awesome.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coming Soon...

Last night I paired Fudo Myoo Ginjo Nigori Genshu Sake with Muramasa: The Demon Blade. I'll write up my review as soon as I find the time. At the moment, I'm too busy getting green stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2. 45 down, 75 to go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Organ Trail with Tanqueray and Tonic

After eating a lot delicious anchovies, burrata, scallops, duck, and pie tonight, I couldn't refuse an espresso. With no regrets, I blame the latter on my being up at this hour. Needing to simmer down, I found myself drinking a Tanqueray and tonic while playing an awesome Flash variation off of a classic PC game.

I vividly remember playing the Oregon Trail as a child. The idea of traveling out west while assaulting animals with a rifle always appealed to me. And now the blessed people of the internet have created for us a post-apocalyptic version of the game, which can be found here.
The game plays very much like the original, though shopping carts have replaced the mighty buffalo and zombie bites have replaced hysteria. I fully endorse the Tanq and Tonic as a pairing for this game, as it provides refreshment in a parched world devoid of sanitary water and civility. But start playing before 1:30 in the morning. It takes a while to make it out West.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Man on a Mission

One of the biggest problems that I've run into with writing this blog is that I don't really spend all that much time playing video games. That, paired with my compulsion to finish games that I start, has made it very difficult for me to get around to doing new posts. I've started playing Monster Hunter Tri, and plan to post on it soon, but this afternoon I'm going to try to finish Super Mario Galaxy 2 so I can return it to Gamefly and get whatever is next in my queue. I'd love to hear any suggestions on what to pair with Monster Hunter Tri. It's a ridiculously complicated game so far, so I'm thinking I should avoid high-ABV boozes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 with Left Hand Milk Stout

If you've been following my blog for the last few months, you know that I have grappled in the past with pairings for Super Mario Galaxy. I was excited about the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2, but my fear of having to blog about it delayed my acquisition of the game. But that fear is now gone, as I have had a minor revelation.

I won't go into too much detail about the nature of SMG2. It is a lot like SMG, which was a lot like Super Mario 64. I had today off from work, and the only thing on my schedule was cooking some jambalaya and cornbread. Having slacked off on the blog lately, I was determined to find something to drink with the game that would be worthy of writing about. I thought about what was in my fridge. Nothing seemed right, but then I remembered my one last bottle of Left Hand Milk Stout.

The weather has been relatively cool in Chicago as of late, and I've happily started drinking more dark, malty beers. Left Hand Milk Stout is a nice, roasty stout with pleasant caramel malt and lactose providing a tasteful amount of sweetness. It is a lighthearted beer, and it was wonderful with such a lighthearted game. What really struck me about this pairing, particularly in relation to my past trouble finding a pairing for the first SMG, is that I never would have tried this in the summer. But here I was in my nice, cool apartment, drinking a milk stout and playing a Mario game. It made me feel cozy and content. Seasonal food and drink correspond with traditions created out of necessity. While the virtual worlds of video games are not affected by the weather in the real world, is it crazy to think that our relationships with these games could be?

Monday, September 6, 2010

An Apology

Dear Loyal Readers,

I've been going through some shit lately that has distracted me from this blog. I have been playing video games and drinking booze, even at the same time on occasion, but have not had the motivation to write about it. But fear not. In the coming days, I will mount a furious comeback. I've got some good games in my Gamefly queue, and if necessary, I will resort to more pairings for classic games. Super Mario 3? Super Metroid? The sky's the limit. Please stay tuned.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Playing StarCraft II as the Zerg with Victory Wild Devil

After recommending pairings for two out of the three playable races in StarCraft II, I was obviously on the hook to complete the trinity with a post on the Zerg. Whiskey is appropriate for the powerful and rugged Terrans, just as white wine matches the grace and finesse of the Protoss. The Zerg are a hive-minded force of monstrous creatures. Unlike their opponents, they necessarily produce large numbers of pulsating insect-like beasts that rage through the landscape, infesting any structures and lifeforms that they encounter.

Because individual Zerg troops (for the most part) are not incredibly powerful, because they are strange and take time to adjust to, and because they love to infect things, I felt that a wild ale would be very fitting for them. I chose Victory Wild Devil, as I felt that it possessed strong enough wild flavors and was extreme enough in its own way to work well.

A wild-fermented version of their well-known Hop Devil, Victory Wild Devil is moderately strong, fairly hoppy, and very funky. The wild fermentation makes Wild Devil very different from Hop Devil. The extra months of aging it takes for the Brettanomyces to do its thing causes the finished product to have less hop bitterness and a lighter body. It is creamy, citrusy, and possesses a deep barnyard-funk that I find very enjoyable. It was a good pairing for playing with the Zerg, as they share a sort of frightening organic quality that is very much unique.
I want to digress a bit to make an important point. The "Devil" in the name of the beer did not influence my decision to make this pairing. The Zerg are not demons. One of the overarching themes of StarCraft II is that all of the races do disgusting things to other races as well as to their own, and the hideous appearance of the Zerg should not indict them more quickly than the relatively familiar Terrans or Protoss. Don't judge the poor Zerglings just because they aren't as cuddly as a puppy or as beautiful as a swan. They wouldn't judge you. Instead, get yourself a nice funky wild ale and lead their forces to victory.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Further Thoughts on StarCraft II

I played several games of StarCraft II online tonight. Each time, I opted to have the race that I controlled be randomly decided. I was drinking a 2009 Gessami Gramona, a Spanish white made primarily of Muscat. It is a perfumed, fruit-driven wine with pleasant floral notes and a touch of residual sugar. While researching my original post about the game, I noticed that a glass of Scotch in my hand makes me feel like Bill Adama commanding the Battlestar Galactica. However, this wine was well-suited for the elegant and sophisticated Protoss.

For all those white-wine loving StarCraft II players out there who favor the Protoss, I would advise to avoid oaktastic Californian chardonnays. They lack the refinement that is appropriate to these particular extraterrestrials. On the other hand, the austere Sauvignon Blancs of the Loire Valley would not be meaty enough. After all, we are engaging in interstellar combat. Savennieres, low-key white Burgundies, or even Sauternes should all go quite well with the Protoss.
I have some theories about what to drink while playing as the Zerg. I'll put them to the test and post my results soon. And in case anybody reading this blog wants to play against (or with) me on, my handle is 'Berserker.' And I suck, so go easy on me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

StarCraft II with Glenrothes Select Reserve

Somewhere around the time when I lost my virginity, I stopped caring as much about buying video games on the day they are released. However, when the clock rolled over to 10:00 AM PST on July 27, 2010, I was sitting in front of my computer, clicking the link to electronically purchase StarCraft II over and over until finally, after an excruciating 10 minutes, I was able to do so successfully. I blazed through the single-player campaign, drinking various boozes along the way but never wanting to stop to blog about it. I would have planned a great pairing in advance, but I was stumped. What could possibly match up to the sequel of the greatest real-time strategy game ever made? In my book, it's no sin to drink a fine Barolo while eating a shitty roast beef sandwich, but it doesn't mean that one should ever prefer to live that way. No, for StarCraft II, I would need something special.

Depth, refinement, balance, and above all, sheer enjoyability are the goods that StarCraft II have to offer. Though I did not purposefully seek it out in order to drink it while playing the game, a bottle of Glenrothes Select Reserve single malt Speyside Scotch found its way into my apartment. After tasting it, I realized that it might be just what I was looking for. The whisky is smooth, with exuberant notes of orange, toffee, and vanilla. It has a creamy texture and finishes with a hint of peat smoke.

I finally put this pairing to the test earlier tonight, while playing online with a friend. On a basic level, Scotch works well with StarCraft because there are no breaks in the action at all for the duration of a game, and the occasional sip is about all one can manage. But on a deeper level, it just feels right to imbibe such a fine whisky while commanding a fleet of Zerg Brood Lords or Protoss Carriers. I'm making the decisions, and Glenrothes makes me feel like I'm the decider, damn it. It adds elegance and sophistication to intense battles, and gives one confidence and comfort in times that can be trying. While many other single malts could probably work just as well, the somewhat lighthearted character of Glenrothes makes it a very good mach for StarCraft II.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Castlevania: Portrait of Sorrow with 2004 Chateau Lalande-Borie

A reader recently wrote to me to ask whether handheld games require special consideration when it comes to booze pairings. Having never owned a Gameboy, Game Gear, PSP, or any other portable system, this had not been something that had previously crossed my mind. The question intrigued me, however, and I decided that I would look into it during the vacation that I just returned from. My girlfriend let me borrow her Nintendo DS, and suggested that the tiny bottles of liquor given out on planes might be perfect for the smaller system. While this seemed quite plausible, both of my flights were early in the day, and I'm just not dedicated enough to start drinking straight gin before noon.

My first plane ride at least offered me an opportunity to find a game that I enjoyed playing. Being a big Metroid fan, I tried out Metroid Prime: Hunters, but quickly grew impatient with its awkward controls. I settled on Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. I haven't played any Castlevania games since the SNES versions. Portrait of Ruin was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the RPG elements thrown into the mix. It's a bit like a platformer take on Diablo. I had previously advised a different reader to try fine brandy or a red Bordeaux. I put this to the test, pairing the game with a 2004 Chateau Lalande-Borie.

Lalande-Borie is from Saint-Julien, and thus presumably contains a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is dark ruby, with a nose of cherry, oak, and subtle spice. After a restrained wave of cherry and currents, the wine smoothly fades into a lingering spiciness that is held up by its acidity and soft tannins. Chateau Lalande-Borie, like many red Bordeaux, is a dignified and balanced wine. I found it to be entirely appropriate for a journey into the heart of Dracula's castle. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for earlier Castlevania games, which maintained a drearier aesthetic than Portrait of Ruin. In any case, the wine was a satisfying match for the game. Both were interesting and delightful without being brash. As for the question of the game being hand-held, I can't say it made a big difference for me. I was just as absorbed in Portrait of Sorrow as I have been in any number of games that I've played on much larger screens. The physical format of video game controllers, screens, etc. really only affects booze pairings when it comes to the number of hands that one must be using at any given time. For example, I would not recommend drinking mugs of beer over 2 liters in size while singing in Rock Band. A smaller mug will ensure that your arm does not get tired and that you will not have to put your beer down in the middle of a song.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stay Tuned

I haven't posted in about a week, but don't worry. I've been on the road, but I've been doing some important research on my DS. And, as we all know, Starcraft 2 comes out in less than 48 hours. I will most likely do a series of posts concerning Starcraft, as I will be playing it a lot in the next couple weeks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Altered Beast with 2006 Avery The Beast

A while back, I vowed to try out the combination of Avery The Beast with Altered Beast. Tonight I finally made that dream come true for myself and all of my fans. Sure, it was just in my last post that I rambled about the beauty of finding pairings that are based on more than just common words shared by the two products, but I like to think that this particular pairing isn't quite that simple. After all, anything deserving the title of "beast" must be extraordinary in some respect.

Avery's The Beast is certainly extraordinary in several respects. First of all, it is a massive beer. At 14.7%, it is not fucking around. Tonight I was lucky enough to be drinking the 2006 vintage of The Beast. If there was ever any alcoholic heat to this beer, it has faded into a smooth, luscious elixir that bursts at the seems with raisiny maltiness. It is somewhat oxidized, more in the nose than on the tongue, bringing to mind good tawny port. Despite having mellowed with age, The Beast is still intense, and it clamors for a suitably ferocious video game.

When Sega released the Genesis in the US in 1989, Altered Beast was packed-in with the console. It is a side-scrolling brawler featuring a muscular protagonist who, over the course of each level, finds power-ups to transform him into a man-beast. Each level contains a different man-beast, such as a wolf-man, a dragon-man, etc. The game eventually becomes ridiculously difficult. I've certainly never beaten it, and I don't aspire to. Altered Beast is one of those old-school games that is hard largely because of its clunky mechanics. I generally have little patience for such games. However, I have a strange little place in my heart for this particular one.
I impose a strict rule in my residence that anyone playing Altered Beast must loudly yell "ALTERRRRRRED BEEEEEEAAST!!!!" anytime they are altered into a beast. Drinking The Beast substantially decreases the danger of one becoming self-conscious, and is thus entirely conducive to this aspect of playing the game. It also helps to have a sturdy alcoholic companion (I mean the beer, not your large wino friend) to get you through some of the more frustrating parts of the game. With the aid of The Beast, I lasted at least a couple more levels than I normally would have. I did finally give up when, while dodging spiky balls and satyr pugilists, a goddamn fish came out of nowhere and ended my life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Punch-Out! with Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel

I have fond memories of playing the original NES version of Punch-Out! as a child. Many of them involve tears. The sweet tears of frustration that old school games supplied so handily. I don't think I ever made it farther than Soda Popinski, but damn it, I tried. I've wanted to play the Wii version ever since it was released last year, and I finally got my hands on it a couple of days ago. The newest version of Punch-Out! (Yes, I insist on using the exclamation point every time) is very similar to the original. It is challenging, and contains the same brand of ridiculous ethnic stereotypes. Thankfully, it does not try to have you use any newfangled special moves. The game is all about learning the movements of your opponents, and then wrecking their face.

After playing it for a while the other night, I found myself at a loss when trying to come up with a pairing for it. I received advice from several people, most of which involved pairing the game with very strong liquor. I resisted these suggestions, as Punch-Out! is a game of finesse. Countering the brutal attacks of your foes with nimble jabs is an essential aspect of the game, and I wanted the pairing to reflect this. I found myself at one of Chicago's more comprehensive liquor stores, wandering the aisles while humming the game's classic 8-bit tune that plays while Little Mac is running around New York in his pink sweatsuit.
I want to digress for a moment here to discuss some of the theory behind the art of playing video games and booze. As we all know, some of my pairings are based on naught but shallow connections and mutual superficialities. I try to avoid pairing dark games with dark beers, hard games with hard liquor, etc. soley because of these common descriptors, but sometimes I do it anyway because it just seems right. I prefer, however, to ascend to greater thematic heights. Sure, Stone Smoked Porter and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction are both dark in their own ways, but the pairing worked well because the beer made me feel like I could taste the acrid (no offense, Stone) smoke of hell as I journeyed through its depths. Also, ale styles of British origin are just natural fits for fantasy games.
There are other pairings that occur for no discernible reason at all. As an experienced video game and booze pairer, I may be better able to rely on instinct than some, but it does not always work out as well as I hope. Fortunately, tonight's pairing worked out just fine. As I walked through the liquor store, singing to myself, my eyes settled on a selection of beers from Ayinger. Ayinger has long been my favorite German brewery. Every beer I've had from them (mostly wheat beers) has been extremely well done. I noticed the Altbairisch Dunkel, which I had never had before. I thought to myself "Why would you pair this with Punch-Out!?" to which I replied, "I don't know, but it's about to happen, so shut up."

Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel is an old-style Munich dark lager. It pours a clear reddish brown, with a lovely head and a nice, malty aroma. Up front, one tastes a surge of caramel and raisins, which quickly fades into a long, roasty, dry finish. The beer is light in body, but rich in flavor. It is simultaneously quite refreshing and quite complex.
Altbairisch Dunkel was a good match for Punch-Out!, not least of all because it quenched my thirst while providing a lengthy and delicious finish. The game is not like Mega Man 2, where I can literally drink and play at the same time. Once a bout starts, it demands my full attention until the bell rings. Taking the occasional sips between rounds was a great strategy, as the flavor kept on going after I put my glass down. The beer is light enough that it did not hurt my reflexes. It is earthy, and tastes subtly of iron, which reminds me of blood. Drinking it while playing Punch-Out! was wonderful, and surprisingly appropriate. It also provided an important lesson on pairing video games and booze; while sometimes useful, logic and reason have no certain place in the performance of this art. I'll do well to keep that in mind in the future.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I'm having a hell of a time deciding on a pairing for the relatively new Wii version of Punch-Out! The only ideas I've had are Bareknuckle Stout, which is terrible, or some kind of punch, which is stupid. I'll try to come up with something by tomorrow. It's been too long since I've posted.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands with Dogfish Head Midas Touch

I remember playing the original Prince of Persia on my parents' old Macintosh SE. It was incredibly unforgiving and altogether frustrating. When the series was resurrected a few years ago, I was delighted to find that the newer games were not only very enjoyable, but also carried on a bit of the comically tragic brutality of the original. Naturally, the newer games are much easier than the older ones, but I'll take what I can get. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is better than the last couple PoP games I've played, and I'm glad to have a good pairing for it.

When I solicited ideas for a pairing from readers, both Avery Maharaja IPA and Dogfish Head Midas Touch stood out as inspired suggestions. I was only able to find Midas Touch at the stores I visited, and it worked out quite well. Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, took it upon himself to use an ancient Turkish recipe involving barley, Muscat grapes, honey and saffron. The result is a powerful golden ale bursting with fruit and spice. It tastes slightly oxidized, adding to the seemingly aged quality of the beer. Aside from the themes of wishes gone awry shared by the game and the title of the beer, the exotic aesthetic of both go hand in hand. This pairing makes for an intoxicating experience, and I give my thanks to the anonymous reader who suggested it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July

I was going to try out the Prince of Persia/Midas Touch pairing tonight, but I got distracted by a rooftop party in Ukranian Village. It was fun watching random people's fireworks displays go off across the city. I paired that with some Anchor Liberty Ales. I have tremendous amounts of respect for Anchor Brewing, and I can't think of anything more appropriate for celebrating everything that is good about the USA. I'll get around to Prince of Persia ASAP, I promise.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Coming Soon

I finally got my hands on Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. I had received two inspired suggestions for pairings. I was going to try to do both, but since I couldn't find Avery Maharaja in stock at my favorite beer shops, I'm going to go with Dogfish Head's Midas Touch. I should put it to the test tomorrow, unless I get distracted by things like work and Fourth of July festivities.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tales of Monkey Island with Mai Tais

It's hot in my apartment. I do not have air conditioning, and thus have been seeking refuge in refreshing drinks. While I was making some Mai Tais with Havana Bay rum, my lovely girlfriend, Tiana, suggested that we play Tales of Monkey Island while we drink them. This sounded like a very good plan.

While normally I would drink straight rum with pirate games, as Tiana pointed out, Tales of Monkey Island is not your typical pirate game. Just like the rest of the Monkey Island games that have been made over the last two decades, Tales of Monkey Island is colorful and goofy. The adventures of wisecracking pirate Guybrush Threepwood are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and tropical cocktails are a great accompaniment. In fact, I'm feeling so thoroughly relaxed from the pairing that I think I'll just finish this post quickly and get back to it. Besides, my laptop is heating the room up unnecessarily.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

I should be getting this game in the mail soon and was hoping to get some suggestions for what to pair with it. I really have no idea what I should do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

F-Zero X with Yipsejoo Soju

Legend has it that I started this blog after becoming disgusted with a friend of mine for pairing F-Zero X with Houblon Chouffe, a Belgian DIPA. Whether the story is true or not, I did have several people ask me what would go well with F-Zero X. I had conspicuously omitted this information at the time of my initial post, as I had no idea what would work. The classic N64 racing game takes place in a futuristic setting with hover-cars, neon lights, and a host of weird alien competitors.

I figured the pairing for this game needed to be a clean, sleek beverage with a hard edge. I couldn't think of any beer that seemed appropriate. Wine in general is too refined for F-Zero X. Whiskey is a little too dirty. I considered vodka, but it's too European. After racking my brain for weeks, I realized that baijiu, a strong Chinese sorghum liquor, might just do the trick. However, when it came time for me to try the pairing out, I was too lazy to go to Chinatown. I saw some soju, a mild Korean spirit distilled from various grains, in the grocery store. I decided to give it a try.

Yipsejoo soju, from the Bohae Brewery, is not the best soju I've ever had. Distilled from 50% rice and 50% barley, it clocks in at just under 20% abv. It tastes like a cross between sake and vodka. To be more specific, it mostly just tastes like alcohol with a good amount of water and little powdered sugar mixed in. It was not very much fun to drink, but when consumed during the intense competitions that took place on the racetrack, it felt sort of appropriate. It was important that I had friends with me who were willing to take part in this pairing. I think baijiu would have worked better than soju, but in the end, either one would be effective largely because of the difficulty involved with choking it down. I bought two 375ml bottles of soju, so I might have to try this one again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time with Brouwerij Westvleteren 12

When I first tasted Westmalle Tripel two years ago, I instantly became fascinated with Trappist ales. I tracked down Rochefort, Achel, and Orval, and found that I loved them all. Reading about these breweries, particularly in Stan Hieronymus's "Brew Like a Monk," I found myself more and more eager to try the beers of the one Belgian Trappist brewery that does not export. Westvleteren 12 has the reputation of being the finest of all Belgian abbey ales, and naturally, when a very good friend of mine picked a bottle up for me during a trip to Belgium, I was ecstatic.

It was hard to choose a video game to pair with Westvleteren 12. Everything I had heard about the beer suggested that it was rich, complex, and an altogether epic experience. I considered The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, as it possesses the same qualities. However, after a loyal reader suggested The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (or Zelda: TOoT, as Zelda: TOoT veterans call it), I knew what I must do.
Zelda: TOoT is one of my favorite games of all time. I bought it on the day is was released in 1998. I have played through it several times, each of which takes a good many hours. A friend of mine and I once went so far as to set up two TVs and N64s next to each other and start games of Zelda, TOoT at the exact same time in order to see who could beat it faster. After 7 hours, I was about half-way through the game and firmly in the lead, and my opponent admitted defeat.

Please excuse me if I'm getting off-track here. I just get so excited about Westvleteren 12 and Zelda: TOoT that I could probably write a hefty book on this topic (publishers can reach me at I'm not going to go into further detail about the nature of the game, as most of my readers are probably quite familiar with it. I will, however, talk a little bit more about the beer. It comes in a bottle that bears no label, and is marked only by its cap. It pours a hazy brown with golden-brown highlights and a creamy beige head. It has an aroma of sweet malt and dried, dark fruit, similar to Kellogg's Raisin Bran. A sip of Westvleteren 12 sends one's palate on a fantastic adventure through the fields, forests and hills of flavorland. One first encounters delicious, graham-crackeresque malt, dried apricots, raisins, and prunes. Due to a relatively high level of carbonation, the beer has a creamy, yet prickly, mouth feel. It's initial flavor gives way to a refreshing acidity, which fades back into slightly sweet barley, then to a surprising bitterness, and finally back to a maltiness that lingers on the tongue for days. Seriously, after I finished this beer, I refused to start drinking anything else until I could no longer taste the Westvleteren in my mouth, and after about 30 minutes, I finally gave up. Even after taking sips of my new beer (Barley Island Flat Top Wheat Ale, which I recommend), I could still taste the first.
Westvleteren 12 has been hyped-up quite a bit in the last few years, and while harp-playing angels did not carry me up into the clouds while I drank it, it was awesome to finally get to try it. I'm not sure that I liked it much more than Rochefort 10, but it was certainly unique and incredibly tasty. I'll admit that I focused more on the beer than the video game, but when all was said and drunk, I came away armed with a newfound sense of courage. This helped me to quickly vanquish the evil Dodongo and move on to the belly of the piscine Lord Jabu Jabu. This pairing was like eating a pulled-pork sandwich while riding a unicorn through a starry sky. Both elements were so enchanting that it was hard to give adequate attention to either, but it made me extremely happy to be alive.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What to play with my Westvleteren 12?

A very kind friend of mine was travelling in Belgium recently and sent me a bottle of Westvleteren 12. Out of the six Trappist monasteries in Belgium that brew beer, Abbey Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren is the only one that does not export their beers outside of the country. They produce very limited quantities of beer, and they ask that people who buy it do not re-sell it. Not wanting to violate the wishes of a small brewery run by monks, I have resisted the urge to buy their beers from websites that do just that. It's been hard, as Trappist ales are some of my favorite beers, and Westvleteren 12 is supposed to be the best of them.

I finally have a bottle, and not wanting to waste such an opportunity to continue the important research that this blog conducts, I need to choose a game to go with it. I'm thinking maybe Zelda: A Link to the Past or The Legend of Zelda. I am positive the beer would go well with Diablo II, but I've already done that to death. Or perhaps the best choice would be Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure. This beer has been a holy grail for me, after all. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Red Steel 2 with Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Sake

A couple weeks ago I was given a bottle of Shichi Hon Yari Junmai sake along with the advice that it is fantastic, and that it is spectacular with food. Naturally, I was excited, and started thinking about what game I could pair it with. Muramasa: The Demon Blade came to mind, but I thought that was too obvious. Once I had added Red Steel 2 to my Gamefly queue, I realized that this would probably end up being the game I was looking for.

Shichi Hon Yari Junmai is named after the Seven Spears of Shizugatake, seven legendary 16th century Japanese generals who served under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The sake is incredible. I am neither stupid nor insane, so I enjoyed a glass of it alongside beef teriyaki with mushrooms and other vegetables before I sat down in front of the TV. Shichi Hon Yari has a mellow aroma of mushrooms, chocolate, and rose petals. It tastes of the same, along with a touch of wet clay, litchi, and cantaloupe. It is smooth, well-rounded, and above all, earthy. It was fantastic with my food.

Red Steel 2 is a first-person shooter that relies heavily upon swordplay, courtesy of the hitherto-useless Wii Motion Plus attachment. It's setting and story are a combination of Akira Kurosawa and Sam Peckinpah. The game was not the first to incorporate samurai themes into the wild west, but the music and visuals of the game are refreshingly unique and well-done. The gameplay is also good. It's been a long time since a Wii game made me reach for the ibuprofen due to wrist pains, but this one did the trick. I consider that to be a good thing.
The samurai themes of Red Steel 2, along with the dusty red-dirt streets of its setting, make it go hand-in-hand with Shichi Hon Yari Junmai. This sake is as earthy and sumptuous as any beverage I've ever tasted. It stole the show tonight, but playing this particular game made it all the more enjoyable. Please try this at home.

Update: Red Steel 2 is really exceeding my expectations. The fighting is much more fluid and complex than I would have expected. I never played the first one, as I heard it was kind of crappy, but I recommend the sequel.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

de Blob with Dark Horse Raspberry Ale

I have a tendency to pair fruit beers with cartoony video games. de Blob certainly qualifies as cartoony. The game involves controlling a paint-covered blob that rolls around colorfully painting gray scale landscapes. It's unique and somewhat entertaining, though it has thus far failed in providing much of a challenge for me.

Dark Horse Raspberry Ale pours a hazy orange with a creamy head. It smells like fresh raspberries, and tastes like a moderately-hopped pale ale with raspberries in it. While I give the beer credit for tasting genuinely of raspberries, it's bitterness causes it to taste slightly of cough syrup. It is quite refreshing, but ultimately not that tasty. The same could be said of de Blob. It's quite different from any other game I've played, but it doesn't keep me interested.

While de Blob and Dark Horse Raspberry Ale share similar qualities, I was disappointed with this combination. Just as being at a baseball game makes cheap beer seem delicious, a well-paired drink should make a mediocre game more enjoyable. The Raspberry Ale simply did not complement de Blob like I thought it would.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Too tired to post...

I was planning on doing the research for another post tonight, but I just got home from work and I have to be back in less than 10 hours. Don't worry though, I'll be posting again soon enough!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Super Mario Bros. with a Perfect Manhattan on the Rocks

After watching the awesome Blackhawks defeat the terrible Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, I needed to relax. I was going to try to find a pairing for de Blob, which seems to be a decent game, but not one that I felt like playing. I didn't know what I wanted to play. But I did know what I wanted to drink.

The Manhattan is my cocktail of choice, preferably of the "perfect" variety that uses equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth. I mixed myself one on the rocks using Very Old Barton 100 Proof Bourbon, Angostura bitters and a fresh cherry garnish. Then I started looking at my video game library. My choice was obvious.

Super Mario Bros. is a classic and classy game that goes very well with a cocktail of the same breed. Both it and the Manhattan appear to be of simple construction, but are the epitome of their own genres. Both are extremely enjoyable.
It took me about an hour to get through the game. I'm not in my peak form, and honestly I've always had the tendency to freak out around Bowser. I had met him in level 8-4 twice, and was determined to try only once more. I played it fast and loose to get to him quickly, and by the time I reached his castle, I had but one life remaining. I entered his chamber. Cascades of axes and brutal fire were flung at me, but I leapt through their midst unscathed, and finally delivered the death-blow unto this foul creature. Could I have done it without the Manhattans? We'll never know.

Coming soon: Avery Brewing Company's The Beast (Vintage 2006) with Altered Beast. WISE FWOM YOUW GWAVE!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle with Stone Ruination IPA

A while back, I was asked to recommend a pairing for No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. Having never played the game, but knowing that it features brutal violence and takes place in what seems to be a quasi-Californian setting, I recommended Stone Ruination IPA. Having recently subscribed to Gamefly, I decided to put this pairing to the test.

It's a good thing that I was able to rent this game instead of buying it. Playing this game was a lot like watching the Takashi Miike movies that quite possibly inspired it. By the time I turned it off, I felt dirty and wondered why I had played it for as long as I had. The game revels in vulgarity, making excessively overt commentary on society's sexualization of violence. I am in no way an opponent of crudeness in video games, but this particular one seemed to emphasize shock value far more than gameplay. The game is a monotonous brawler, aside from a slew of mini-games that seem mildly entertaining. After playing for two hours I didn't care to find out whether it was going to get better.
I'm going to stop rambling on like I'm some kind of video game reviewer. While normally video games and booze go hand in hand to create a joy that exceeds the sum of its parts, sometimes booze is just the saving grace of a situation that you wish you weren't involved in. Just like going to a hipster party or eating at Domino's, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is made substantially more palatable by beer.

Ruination IPA is big and tasty. It clocks in at 7.7% abv, and proudly boasts to have over 100 International Bitterness Units worth of bitterness. The loads of hops are balanced out nicely by nutty, biscuity malt along with a subtle yeasty fruitiness. The boldness of Ruination, in addition to its strong bitterness, made it entirely appropriate for consumption alongside No More Heroes 2. While the game was not my cup of tea, the pairing was good. Originally feared that it would take me several days to get through the game, thus delaying my next blog post. However, I am happy to say that I am simply going to mail it back tomorrow, having only made it to the fourth boss.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Drunken Moogle

Today I stumbled across another website about video games and booze. Rather than recommending the pairing of a specific booze with a specific game, it lists cocktail recipes based on games. It's pretty awesome. Check it out here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wii Sports Tennis and The Bruery Saison de Lente

The weather has been getting warm as of late, and I've been feeling more and more outdoorsy. Thus I had the urge to play Wii Sports Tennis. The game can make one surprisingly sweaty, and so naturally a refreshing beverage is a great accompaniment. I was going to try out a handful of summer seasonal beers, such as Goose Island Summertime, Bell's Oberon, Two Brothers' Dog Days, etc. However, I found The Bruery Saison de Lente on sale. I've been wanting to try it ever since having their Saison Rue, and I figured that a style of beer that was originally invented to quench the thirst of dehydrated Belgian farmhands would be good enough to keep me going through an exhausting bout of Wii Tennis.

Saison de Lente pours with a spectacularly meringue-like head that never dissipates. It is light amber in color, and has a nose full of funk, cloves, and a surprisingly noticeable amount of hops. The beer has a very light body, but is loaded with flavor. It tastes of banana, clove, citrusy hops, and earthy funk. The beer is fermented (at least partially) with Brettanomyces, which causes it to be quite dry. This is what gives it its pronounced funkiness. Saison de Lente is more bitter than most saisons that I have had. I liked the beer, although the combination of strong, clove-like phenols and substantial hop bitterness always makes beer taste overly medicinal.

Saison de Lente is certainly refreshing, and as this was exactly the quality I was looking for in a pairing for Wii Tennis, I suppose it was a successful match. Unfortunately, I did not find myself in need of refreshment, as my opponent (a good friend of mine who will remain anonymous) did not necessitate any exertion on my part. In short, I whooped his ass over and over, and did not come close to breaking a sweat. Not that he is terrible at Wii Tennis, but it takes a special player to compete with my skill level, which according to the game's calculations is literally off the charts. Anyway, it was an enjoyable experience, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Belgian farmhouse ales. Next time, I might try Saison Rue, or perhaps my favorite saison of all time, Saison Dupont.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy with 2007 Les Vignerones de Tavel Terre des Lauzeraies Côtes du Rhône

After my last post, I wanted to test my theory that there is some kind of red wine that pairs well with Super Mario Galaxy. As I have mentioned, a Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel was entirely too powerful. Mario games, with the obvious exception of the Lost Levels, offer gleeful, easy-going experiences. They are quite accessible, but are not lacking of complexity in their construction. In short, they are juicy, flavorful, and altogether delicious. They are the chicken of video games. Specifically, the chicken that has been brined overnight and roasted to perfection.
So what do I like with my chicken? A lot of things. But perhaps because of Mario's red suit, or because of my suppressed urge to pair Mario games with Chiantis, I felt the need to try another red with this game. Some of my favorite reds for roasted chicken have been Côtes du Rhônes, so I found a relatively cheap one, a 2007 Les Vignerones de Tavel Terre des Lauzeraies Côtes du Rhône, and tried it out.

I wish I could tell you the blend in this wine, but neither the store where I purchased it nor the internet could provide me with this information. For a $10 bottle, it was as good as one could expect. My guess is that it was largely made up of grenache. Cherry and vanilla flavors dominated, with notes of lemon peel and a hint of plum. It might have benefited from a little less oak.
Overall, the pairing fell a bit short of my expectations. While the relatively simple, enjoyable wine went well with some levels, such as the Rolling Green Galaxy, it failed to enhance the cartoonish seriousness of others, namely the Battlerock Galaxy.

The pairing was by no means offensive, but it did clearly demonstrate that my approach to finding a pairing for Super Mario Galaxy needs to be reconsidered. Maybe a rosé, a white, or a different type of booze altogether would be better.

Next up on The Art of Pairing Video Games with Booze:

Summer is here, and the time is right for Wii Sports. And booze. I'd love to hear suggestions. If you think you know what's up, send your ideas to

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

At a loss

I'm drinking a 2007 Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell after getting home from an extra-long workday. A sturdy red with a pleasantly acidic and tannic backbone, it is rounded out with notes of cherries and prunes. Now what the hell am I going to play with this wine? Let's take a gander at the old video game library.

Super Mario Galaxy? No. When I first got the game, I drank my way through most (okay, all) of a bottle of Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel. While that particular wine, like everything else that Ridge makes, was entirely awesome, it taught me that powerful red wines are not to be paired with lighthearted video games. Not that this Monastrell matches the intensity of the Ridge, but it still seems inappropriate.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade? I'm saving my bottle of Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Sake for that one, and I'm not about to open such a fancy bottle at this hour.

Madden '07? Of course not. I really have to get some new video games.

I swear to baby Jesus that I will post later this week with a brand new pairing that does not involve Diablo 2. Please have patience with me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Terrible Truth

Email from concerned and angry fans of this blog has been piling up in my inbox. People want to know why I have been so slow in writing new posts. They thirst for more delicious recommendations. I have indeed been lazy, but I want to make it clear that I have not forsaken video games, booze, or combining the two in ways most exquisite. To be fully honest, I have not posted new entries as frequently as I originally expected because I have lapsed in my recovery from that terrible drug, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Sure, as I have previously pointed out, Stone Smoked Porter is a great pairing. But I might as well run through some alternatives, since I have tried out a good number of them over the past few weeks. Here are some quick reviews:

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction with a 2005 Arceno Chianti Riserva Classico

This Chianti went quite well with Diablo. Given the amount of blood and red potions and fortresses that appear in the game, all but the lightest old world red wines should be a nice match. 2005 Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva was no exception. It was, perhaps, a little more restrained than would be ideal, but surely a relatively subtle red is more appropriate than a California fruit bomb. I particularly recommend this wine with acts I and IV.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction with Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

I'm not a big fan of most coffee beers. I love coffee, and I love beer, but I find that all too often, coffee beers taste like stale coffee grounds. Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout was an exception. Situated comfortably between dark-roasted and caramel malts along with the boozy vanilla lent to it by its bourbon barrel aging, the beer's coffee flavors were part of a beautiful balance. And most importantly, the coffee notes tasted fresh.
GIBCBCS paired well with Diablo II, which is not surprising, given the affinity that imperial stouts (and dark ales in general) have for fantasy games. However, at 13% abv, I found that it dulled my skills after a while, and by the time I was half-finished with my second glass, I began to die with alarming frequency. It's probably best to split this one with a friend, especially during Act V.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction with Short's Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA

West Coast IPA's and swords do not go hand in hand. I enjoyed Huma-Lupa-Licious, though it did not enhance my gaming experience any more than any other decent beer would have. If I had been playing Act III while I drank it, I might have felt differently. Act II would probably have worked out okay as well. Unfortunately, this beer is inappropriate for Acts I, IV and V.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction with a Jim Beam Perfect Manhattan

A little bit of sweet vermouth, a splash of dry, a few drops of Angostura bitters, all topped off with good ol' Jim. Jim Beam is not at all the best whiskey for Manhattans, but it does in a pinch. Similarly, Manhattans are not the ideal beverage to consume while playing Diablo II. But hey, after a hard day at work, they're not so bad together.

Only one option is left if I am going to rip myself from the clutches of Diablo and get around to playing other games: I need to play it so much that I become disgusted with myself. I'll get to work on that right now.