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!