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.