Sunday, August 26, 2012

Portal 2 with Delicious Collaboration Beers

My good buddy Paul has been recommending that we play Portal 2 for a long time, and a few nights ago, we finally got around to it. Portal 2 involves guiding a robot through various courses, having only the ability to move around and create portals in order to get around obstacles. It is a game of logic, and its two-player cooperative mode forces players to plan carefully in order to successfully navigate each level.

Paul had the wonderful idea of pairing a game that hinges on collaboration with a couple of beers that are collaborative efforts between breweries. As of recently, the craft beer industry has been cranking out beers like this, where two or more breweries get together and combine their skills to make special one-off products. The first we opened was Brux, a collaboration between two of California's most influential breweries.
Brewed by Sierra Nevada and Russian River Brewing, Brux is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale. It is pale in color and effervescent, with a funky, subtly fruity nose. It tastes of pepper and citrus fruit, with a hint of peach. It finishes dry, with lingering grassy notes.

The second beer Paul brought was Shewolf India Pale Ale, a collaboration between Half Acre and Three Floyds. Shewolf features fruity hoppiness in abundance. It tastes strongly of grapefruit with some tropical fruit notes in the background. Both Shewolf and Brux made great companions for Portal 2. While the breweries' collaborations had much better results than Paul's and mine did when it came to advancing quickly through the game together, the reasonably strong beers made it more fun for us to yell at each other.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Atlas Brewing Company and Other Updates

I haven't posted for nearly two months, but I have a reasonably awesome excuse. About three weeks ago, along with my brother and our business partner, I opened a brewpub in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Atlas Brewing Company is located at 2747 N. Lincoln Ave. While we're still awaiting our federal brewing license and don't yet have our own beers available for purchase, we do have some awesome guest drafts, a killer cocktail list and an extensive and delicious dinner menu. We open daily at 5pm.

While I haven't had much of a chance to play video games lately, I am going to make an effort to get to Emporium Arcade Bar, which recently opened at 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave. It's a bar with old school arcade games. I'm excited that I can now conduct my nerdy experiments in a more public setting. I'm thinking that a double Malort will be just the thing for Frogger.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Diablo 3 with Russian River Damnation

After many long years of agonizing speculation and anticipation, Diablo 3 finally went live last week. Needless to say, I've been playing as much as possible ever since. While I've already tried out quite a few booze combinations with it, I saved something special for its release that I thought might go particularly well.

Russian River Brewing Company does not distribute to Chicago, but I try to pick up their beers (if I can find them) whenever I am in California. Though I try not to base my pairings on the names of boozes, I couldn't help but save a bottle of Damnation for this moment in video game history. Damnation is probably my least favorite beer from Russian River. Which is to say, it's a really fantastic beer in every way, but I find the brewery's other beers to be even more fantastic. When I visited their brewpub last year, I tried 15 beers, and every one of them was incredibly delicious and well-made.
Damnation is a Belgian-style golden ale. It has a beautiful creamy head, and features wonderful notes of pear and banana along with a subtle spiciness. It is strong enough to help embolden a mighty barbarian (I'm a sucker for warrior classes in Diablo games. I like to smash stuff), but not overpowering enough to hinder my reflexes. It made for a good companion to Diablo 3. But that's enough blogging. I have demons to slay.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diablo 3

Tonight I'm hoping to try out one of the inevitable hundreds of pairings that I will come up with for Diablo 3. However, Blizzard's servers are down for maintenance. This is hardly surprising, since half the world is trying to log on right now. It's taking every ounce of willpower that I have to stop myself from repeatedly attempting to log in, even though Blizzard has stated that the servers will be down for approximately 11 more minutes. At least it gives me a chance to write this post. But now I must go, just in case they got the servers back online 10 minutes early.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Angry Birds with Ninkasi Brewing Company's Oatis Oatmeal Stout

During a recent trip out to see my dad in California, I took the opportunity to try some beers that are not available in Chicago. Some of the best that I tried were from Ninkasi Brewing Company, located in Eugene, Oregon. One night after my dad had turned in, I found myself sitting in his kitchen with a bottle of Ninkasi's Oatis Oatmeal Stout and not a whole lot to do. I had no video game consoles, and my newly-reformatted laptop did not offer much in the way of entertainment. Fortunately, I did have my iPhone, and Angry Birds.

I surely don't need to go into detail describing Angry Birds. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two years, you already know about this delightful game that involves shooting birds from a slingshot in order to kill evil pigs and the ramshackle structures they build to defend themselves. I really enjoy Angry Birds, and not too surprisingly, I really enjoyed playing it while drinking Oatis.

Like the heart of an Angry Bird, Oatis is dark. And like an Angry Bird, the beer is robust. It's not overly strong, but it is packed with delicious roasty, chocolatey flavor. Oatis is rich, but balanced. While damn near anything would go well with Angry Birds, Oatis was a particularly good choice.

Diablo III is being released next Tuesday. I have an epic pairing planned for it, but I'm not sure when exactly I'll get to try it out. Pretty much only one thing in the world could stop me from playing Diablo III the moment that it's released, and that would be getting to brew the first batch of beer for the brewpub that I'm helping to start up. Atlas Brewing Company will be located at 2747 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago, and will hopefully open in June.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Diablo III is on my computer

Holy shit. I wish I didn't have to wait until May 15th to play it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Diablo 3 Skill Calculator with Homemade Smoked Porter

I'm excited about Diablo 3. I noticed that blizzard has posted a skill calculator for the yet-to-be-released game, and tonight I sat down and check it out. Given the success of my previous pairing of Diablo 2 with Stone Smoked Porter, I thought I'd enjoy a mug of my homebrewed smoked porter while I explored the different character classes that Diablo 3 will offer.

Without going into too much detail, using the skill calculator made me look forward to the game more than ever. I still don't really understand how character development will work, but the descriptions of various skills enticed me. A few of the more awesome ability descriptions were:

"Ichor erupts from the corpses of the Zombie Dogs and Slows enemies by 60% for 8 seconds."

"Throw a jar with 4 spiders that attacked nearby enemies for 16% weapon damage as Physical before dying."

"Increases Hatred generation to 6 Hatred."

If you are an extremely nerdy Diablo devotee and like booze, I highly recommend drinking and checking out the skill calculator. My smoked porter was a nice match, but I'm sure anything else would also work just fine.

UPDATE: I just realized that this post could maybe be construed as an April Fool's Day joke. I assure you that this was not the case, and that this was all written in complete seriousness.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Diablo III Release Date Announced

Blizzard has finally announced a release date for the long-awaited Diablo III. Come May 15th, you will no longer find me going "out" or doing "things." No, I'll have pulled out my old, trusty "mouse" and a carefully-chosen stash of booze, and I will excuse myself from society for the following months. As for what my pairing will be, I'm not yet sure. My very first post on this blog recommended playing Diablo II with Stone Smoked Porter. In a later post I discussed a few other options for Diablo II, including red wine and bourbon. I'll have to think it over. Whatever I choose will most certainly be epic.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saints Row: The Third with an Appleton Estate Reserve Daiquiri

 In my last post I said that I would be reviewing a pairing with Angry Birds before too long, but so far the opportunity to try out this pairing on the bus has not presented itself. Tonight I wanted to try out a pairing for Saints Row: The Third. I've been playing the game for a couple of weeks, and not really enjoying it all that much. As a teenager, I probably would have loved this GTA-influenced sandbox game's enthusiasm for scantily-clad women and the word "fuck," but as a quasi-adult, I find it tiresome.

Tonight I wanted to get a pairing with Saints Row out of the way. I didn't have a particularly stunning array of boozes at my disposal, but I did have a couple fingers of Appleton Estate Reserve rum, three fifths of a lime and a container of homemade demerara simple syrup. I googled these ingredients to see what I should call the cocktail I was about to make, and my ignorance was exposed. I was not aware that these are the only ingredients required for a daiquiri. I thought you had to put some crazy fruit or at least some juice in there to make it so. Pleased with my discovery, I mixed myself a stiff daiquiri with the rum I had on hand.

The combination of a rich, tasty, molasses-y, fruity rum with molasses-y demerara simple syrup and fresh lime juice was pretty damn tasty. It was also conducive to the enjoyment of Saints Row. The game embraces mayhem, and I was finally won over to some extent when, halfway through my daiquiri, I was given a mission to throw myself in front of speeding cars in order to commit insurance fraud. Getting knocked 30 feet through the air by oncoming traffic while sipping my cocktail felt just right. Saints Row and rum-based cocktails may not be my favorite things in the world, but tonight they were yin and yang in a debauched yin-yang of tipsy gaming.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Next Up

I've finally stopped playing Skyrim. I'm sure I could have gotten many more hours of gameplay out of it, but I only had so much beer. I've started up Saints Row: The Third, though it has yet to really grab my attention. I've been putting more time into Angry Birds, having recently acquired an iPhone. I think I'm going to pair it with canned craft beer with colorful labels. It will be perfect for the bus ride home after work.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with a Giant Mug of the Beer that I Brewed Specifically to Drink with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I've never had a harder time writing a blog post. I have no lack of inspiration when it comes to writing about the pairing described in the lengthy title above, but I don't want to write it. I want to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Those of you who have played the game surely understand, but you're probably not reading this right now, as you have yet another dragon to kill, or another lord to assassinate, or perhaps another mischievous demi-god to have a drinking contest with. These are the joys of Skyrim that I could be experiencing right now if I weren't blogging. But enough whining. As is most obvious by now, I like Skyrim. It is a huge, engrossing game, along the lines of Fallout 3 crossed with Baldur's gate. After about 30 hours of gameplay, I feel like I have only just scratched its surface.

I've often said that fantasy games are among the easiest games to find booze pairings for. Any number of British bitters or barleywines would work well enough with Skyrim. Mead would be another very obvious pairing. But I felt compelled to take things a step further. The game is all about letting players tailor their own experience, and I wanted to similarly tailor a booze to pair with it. I wanted something appropriate for Skyrim's fantasy setting, and also mild enough that it would not stop me from playing the game for many, many consecutive hours. I opted to try out a recipe that my brother and I have been working on for our soon-to-be brewpub.

The beer that I brewed for Skyrim was inspired by two classic European styles: The English mild ale and the Belgian Trappist abbey dubbel. You can find the recipe here. Dark caramel malts and dark Belgian candi sugar gave the beer a deep reddish-brown color and a smooth, bittersweet flavor with subtle notes of plum. At about 4% alcohol by volume, it was eminently chuggable, particularly when served in the large tankard shown above. When I sat down to try out this pairing, I had just concluded a long day of brewing (unrelated to video games), and I was very full from eating a large amount of cake. For some reason my blood sugar always seems to plummet when I brew, but this time I was prepared. Fortunately, the lightness of my mild dubbel allowed for me to drink plenty of it, despite having eaten about half of a cake in the preceding hours. Anyway, I had a great time slaying things and smithing things and drinking my ale. I highly recommend this pairing to anyone who is a big enough nerd to brew a beer specifically to drink with a video game.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coming Soon: Skyrim and Homebrew

I finally got to sit down with Skyrim and a giant mug of the beer that I brewed specifically to pair with the game. I should be able to post on it in the next couple of days. I may have to spend several dozen more hours doing further research, however.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Night Train

WARNING: The following experiment was conducted by professionals who have developed a strong tolerance for horrible video games and atrocious boozes. Attempting to replicate our actions in your own home will most likely result in the destruction of property and countless years of hopeless therapy sessions.

"Loaded like a freight train
Flying like an aeroplay-ane
Feelin' like a space brain
One more time tonigh-hee-ight."

- Axl Rose

 A while back, my good friends Sarah and Gilad gave me an Atari 2600 along with a good number of games. These included classics such as "Ms. Pac Man" and "Skiing," all-in-all a veritable catalog of established arcade hits. But one cartridge stood out as I rifled through them. "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial!" I thought to myself "Isn't that supposed to be one of the worst games of all time?" At that very moment, I could feel a tiny gear beginning to turn in the dark compartment of my brain that is normally responsible for such things as self-loathing and my love of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. I did a little research, and it turns out that E.T. was a failure so spectacular that it makes Duke Nukem' Forever feel better about itself (well, that might be a stretch).
 E.T. was released in 1982, the same year as the wildly-successful film upon which it is based. The development of the game cost Atari an unheard-of $125 million, over 10 times the amount spent to make the film. Basing a video game on a movie was a novel idea at the time, and Atari expected to ride the film's coattails. Unfortunately, one minor problem got in their way.


 E.T., the video game, really, really sucks. It involves running around, falling down holes (I think) and evading guys in trench coats and lab coats (I think). I cannot be particularly confident that I am correct in my description, as the game's graphics are poorly-designed, even for the standards of 1982. Perhaps the game originally included a manual or some sort of hint as to what the hell one is supposed to try to accomplish. Unfortunately, I do not have any such instructions. When I realized that I had E.T. in my possession, I knew that I must concoct a booze pairing of epic proportions. A booze pairing that would help me and my faithful companions plumb depths of stupidity and masochism hitherto unknown to man.

 To paraphrase a wiser man than I, "If Mad Dog 20/20 is what you drink to get into a rowdy, fighting furor, Night Train is what you drink when you need to spend a cold night sleeping on a park bench." Night Train is often considered to be the king of the hobo wines (no, I'm not going to cite my source here. It's common knowledge). When I bought 4 bottles from my local liquor store, the cashier commented "Oh, you're about to ride the train good tonight!" She was right. Joined by Gilad, Sarah, and several other morbidly-curious friends (some had just come over to watch the State of the Union address, but we roped them in), we started drinking our Night Train and trading off attempts to crack the age-old riddle that is E.T. About 30 seconds into anyone's turn, one would begin to hear frustrated exclamations of "I keep falling down these goddamn holes!" and "What the fuck am I supposed to do?!" Fortunately, sweet lady Night Train was there for us, and reminded us that E.T. is not the only horrendously-shitty thing that one can experience. Night Train contains a whopping 17.5% alcohol. It describes itself as "Citrus wine and natural flavors." My crew described it as having "Big League chew and Fun Dip on the nose," "Medicinal tannins," and "Notes of cranberry, Jolly Ranchers, powdered sugar, and Robitussin DM."
 We only got through 3 bottles before we couldn't bear it any longer. We quit, but it had been a beautiful ride. And now that it's over, every other video game and booze, along with dead leaves dangling on trees and the scent of the wintry Chicago air all seem that much more beautiful. If you need a life-affirming experience, or if you hate yourself, I highly recommend this pairing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It Done Happened

We played our E.T. tonight. We drank our Night Train. While I would love to elaborate, at this particular moment I feel slightly less than eloquent. Tomorrow, God willing, I will regale you all with the epic tale of this tragicomical pairing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brewing Up a Delicious Pairing for Skyrim

Not just any pairing will do for a game like Skyrim. Today I brewed five gallons of an ale inspired by English Milds and Belgian Abbey Dubbels. It should be ready to drink in a couple weeks. If anyone out there cares, here's the recipe:

For 5.5 gallons:

6 lbs. Briess Pale Ale Malt
1 lb. Vienna Malt
1 lb. Special B
1/2 lb. Aromatic Malt

Mashed at 153 degrees for 60 minutes

1 oz. Hallertauer hops (3.2% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 oz. Hallertauer hops (3.2% AA ) @ 20 minutes
1/2 lb. Belgian Soft Brown Candi Sugar @ 10 minutes

Original Gravity = 1.040

It should come out to about 4% abv. Perfect for playing hours and hours of Skyrim.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


 The USPS finally found the goodness in their heart to deliver Skyrim to me. I've been playing it quite a bit, though I feel like I've only begun to scratch its surface. I don't really like playing video games for more than a couple hours straight. It makes me tired and cranky. Suffice to say, I've been pretty tired and cranky over the last few days.

 I've drank various booze with Skyrim without really attempting to come up with a perfect pairing. The most exciting was a 2001 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde. Old world red wines are usually decent companions for fantasy games, and I did enjoy playing Skyrim while sipping this tasty Northern Rhone Syrah. But for my ultimate pairing, I have something more ambitious in mind. I'm going to brew a mild ale inspired by both British milds and Belgian abbey dubbels to drink with this game. I may serve it out of an oak cask, although I might be too lazy to clean my oak cask (I do have an oak cask, in case that's not clear). It will take a couple of weeks for the beer to be ready, but I'm pretty sure Skyrim will keep me occupied until well past that point in time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Uncharted 3 with Anchor Porter

While waiting impatiently for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to arrive, I took it upon myself to play through Uncharted 3. I paired Uncharted 2 with Sierra Nevada's Ovila Saison back in August, and it worked nicely. Before deciding on a booze for the third game in the series, I played it for a few hours to get a feel for it.

Uncharted 3 is quite similar to Uncharted 2. It features a combination of parkour and gun-battles, somewhat witty dialogue, and a predictable plot-line reminiscent of Indiana Jones movies. It is consistently entertaining, if not revolutionary. It also can be quite challenging at times. I tried pairing a delicious 2007 Col dei Venti Barbaresco with the game, and even though it made me feel classy as I rode on a horse while firing off rocket-propelled grenades, it dulled my reflexes and distracted me with its sensual flavors of baked plum, earth, and spice. No, it's dried cherry-cinnamon aroma and long, complex finish could not help Nathan Drake save the day. I needed something more sensible, so I turned to one of my favorite beers of all-time.

Anchor Brewing, and Anchor Porter in particular, have strongly influenced my own approach to brewing beer. I love the occasional Bourbon barrel-aged IPA-Tripel, but I find more artistry in down-to-earth beers that harmoniously showcase the subtle nuances of their ingredients. Anchor Porter would fall into this category. It has a roasty aroma of coffee and cocoa. It is dry, with robust malt character, well-integrated bitterness and a slight hoppy twang. It's long, bittersweet finish is not something that jumps out at you, but when reflected upon, it is a thing of beauty.
When I finally got around to trying out this pairing, I was near the end of the game. I was determined to complete it in one last sitting. I poured my beer, and with my delicious companion on the table in front of me, proceeded to take care of business. Like fine wine matched successfully with great food, Anchor Porter did not overpower Uncharted 3, but enhanced it. I recommend this pairing to anyone who likes things that are good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Salt-Peter Sausages

I want to bring to everyone's attention Salt-Peter Sausages, a wonderful blog written by my good friend Peter. Peter shares inventive sausage recipes on a regular basis, illustrated with beautiful photographs of his savory creations. Check it out!