Sunday, January 30, 2011

On An Unrelated Note

My new band, The Bomb Sawyers, just released our first recordings on MySpace. Check it out:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Donkey Kong Country and Brasserie D'Achouffe Houblon Chouffe

I recently received the following email from a reader:

Dear Ben,

I am an attractive woman in my mid-twenties, and I love your blog. I never miss a post! In your very first post, you wrote about being enraged by your friend serving Brasserie D'Achouffe's Houblon Chouffe while you were playing F-Zero X. That's my favorite beer in the world, and you still haven't told us what you would pair it with. Well?

Ms. Awesome

P.S. I think it's hot that you drink booze while you play video games!

Thank you, Ms. Awesome, for reading the blog and for taking the trouble to write to me. Since my very first post for this blog, I have debated over what to play with this beer. I did eventually find a reasonably good pairing for F-Zero X, but procrastinated when it came to finding a video game for Houblon Chouffe. Fortunately, when my fans call, I answer. On my way back from work tonight, I picked up a bottle of Houblon Chouffe. I had a plan.

Brasserie D'Achouffe's Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel is, as the label suggests, a Double IPA Tripel. I have a bit of a prejudice when it comes to Belgian-style IPAs. Hoppy beers that are fermented with Belgian yeast strains often end up tasting unpleasantly medicinal to me. I believe that a combination of hop bitterness and spicy, clove-like phenolics given off from the yeast during fermentation are the cause of this. However, there are a few examples of Belgian IPAs that I truly enjoy, and Houblon Chouffe is certainly one of them. The beer has a pale golden color. It pours with a beautiful rocky white head, and has an aroma of spicy citrus, banana and pear. It has a fairly light body and tastes of grapefruit, banana, cinnamon and a faint trace of clove. It is reasonably dry, though it does have enough sweetness to balance out a moderate bitterness. It does not have the cough-syrupy taste that tends to ruin other Belgian IPAs for me, most likely because of its restrained phenols and bitterness. It does have a nice spiciness to its flavor, but I think that this comes in part from the Saaz hops that are used in combination with the more fruity Amarillos and Tomahawks. The cinnamon spice contributed by the hops does not make the beer taste like Robitussin, but instead, like delicious. But I ramble so.
Before I got off the Chicago Ave. bus at Noble earlier tonight with the hopes that one of West Town's boutique liquor stores would have Houblon Chouffe in stock, I already knew what I would pair it with. What game is bold, sassy, exuberant and fun enough to go well with this beer? As you probably guessed from the title of this post; Donkey Kong Country for the SNES.

I grew up with Donkey Kong Country, and it has a very special place in my heart. It is a fabulous platformer by Rareware starring Nintendo's original villain, DK himself. Nintendo has never had it in their hearts to have a true bad guy in their ever-present collection of characters. Sure, a guy might breath fire at you and throw hammers at your face, but he'll also help you out on your occasional wacky journey. Like Apocalypse Now, Donkey Kong Country is a light-hearted romp through the jungle. Plush graphics and a jazzy soundtrack, along with great gameplay, make this a true classic.
Houblon Chouffe went hand-in-hand with DKC. They are both wonderfully engaging, and they don't ask that you take them too seriously. The banana notes in the beer made me feel that much closer to my mission of gathering hundreds upon hundreds of bananas, and its fresh hoppiness made me feel at home in the green jungle. I highly recommend this pairing. Thanks, Ms. Awesome, for urging me to finally try it. After all, you aren't imaginary.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hop Slam

Unless something goes wrong, tomorrow I will get my hands on a six pack of Bell's Hop Slam. I love this delicious golden nectar of the gods, and I want to pair it with something appropriate. I've thought about doing it with something classic, like the Legend of Zelda or Super Metroid. But I just can't decide. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas with John's Homemade Jägermeister

I'm no stranger to hard work, and when I found myself with a day off and an empty schedule, I knew what I had to do. It's not that I desire to start drinking early in the day. But my devotion to this blog is sincere, and I found myself firing up the old PS3 at 2:00 pm to do some research.

I've been working my way through Fallout: New Vegas for a while now. It is a first-person shooter set in post-apocalyptic Nevada. You control a character who wanders the desert, encountering various societies and armies that are vying for control of the Hoover dam. It is up to you to help them out or plot against them or simply ignore them and try to gain what you can for yourself. The plot is not stellar, but the game's characters and environments, just like in earlier Fallout games, are smartly constructed and entertaining to explore.
Since I started playing this game, I've known exactly what to pair with it, but I've never been in the mood to actually try it out until earlier today. Snow was piling up outside my windows, I was sitting in the warm glow of the television, and I knew it was time to open up my bottle of John's Homemade Jägermeister.

John's Homemade Jägermeister is not some hip liqueur found in boutique liquor stores. John is my brother, and he made his own version of Jäger at home. Now, I'm not saying that he used a water distiller to distill wine into a neutral spirit which he then flavored with over 34 different herbs and spices. That would be illegal. But what he did do, somehow, is create a magical booze that is not nearly as sweet as real Jäger. It has a complex flavor with notes of star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, garam masala, saffron, nutmeg, caraway, mustard seed, and so much more. Given its potency, earthy flavor, and slapdash (no offense, John) construction, it made for a wonderful companion as I roamed the brutal lands of New Vegas. If you can get yourself a bottle, I recommend you try this out.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Madden NFL 11 with Victory Prima Pils

I'm not big on sports games. The last one I really enjoyed was Madden '07, and that was mostly because the Bears were ranked much higher than usual that season. However, after playing through Red Dead Redemption, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and most of Fallout: New Vegas (I'll post soon on it), I was in the mood for something different. And after receiving a Best Buy gift card for Christmas, I wanted to buy a game that I could keep coming back to for a long time.

Madden 11 is a lot like every other Madden game. It has relatively simplified controls, which I'm not liking too much so far, but it's still quite enjoyable. But I'm not going to ramble on about the game. There are some obvious pairing possibilities here, such as the Miller Lite that I would be drinking at a football stadium, the kool-aid that I would be drinking if I were actually playing in the NFL (I would add vodka), or the cheap brandy I would be drinking in the booth if I were John Madden. But these are all far from being the best options, as I'm not actually at a game, I'm not a frat boy, and I'm not a crazy old man. I'm at home, where I can sit in a comfortable chair and drink whatever I damn well please. And one thing I am frequently damn well pleased to drink is Victory Prima Pils.

While I rejected the idea of drinking Miller Lite with Madden, I did think that a delicious lager would be a great idea. Clearly only an American lager would do. And my favorite American lager of all time is Victory's Prima Pils. Prima Pils pours a deep gold with a nice fluffy head. It has a strong spicy, grassy, floral hoppiness to it that make it go hand and hand with running around a freshly-mowed virtual football field (for games on astroturf I drink 4Loko). It has some nice subtle malty notes, and overall is both refreshing and robust. I highly recommend this pairing, and will doubtlessly return to it myself before too long.