Tag Archives: beer snob

Inevitable Spinoff Blog Incoming! Digital Draughts is Live

Earlier this year, we debuted a new column here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play called Digital Draughts.  As the resident beer geek of GIMMGP, Chip was eager for the chance to combine two of his passions into a single series: craft beer and video games (together at last!).  With the success of these articles, we have decided to dedicate a new blog for Chip’s video game and beer pairings!

Written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts highlights the pairing of specific brews with certain titles. Typically, the beers and games will be novel experiences, with certain exceptions made for time-tested combinations.  Some of these pairs will be a match made in heaven, while others may be the couple from hell.

20160902_130002

Along with regular pairings and reviews, Digital Draughts will feature other tidbits on beer and video games for your reading pleasure.  To kick off this momentous occasion, the latest article features a field trip to the fantastic Adroit Theory Brewing Company; where esoteric and barrel aged beers thrive!

So please be sure to follow Chip’s new blog (which features Laura’s fantastic photography) and share the good news with your friends as well: Digital Draughts is live!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft with Brewery Ommegang’s Gnomegang

There was a time during my childhood that one night out of every week was deemed, “Poker Night.”  My father would invite his friends over for an evening of high-class booze, middle-tier snacks, and low-stakes poker.  It was a means to unwind, forget about work, and catch up with your buddies in a comfortable environment.

Now as an adult, I regularly try to emulate this tradition in my own home (albeit with much nerdier tabletop games).  But the world has changed drastically in the decades since my youth.  The idea of a “regular 9-to-5” has been replaced with shifting schedules and off-hour projects.  Many of us deal with hour-long commutes between our homes and jobs, thanks to the high cost of living around major city centers.  Plus, with the increased availability and quality of online gaming, many of my peers are turning to digital versions of classic games to engage with their friends.

GnomegangHearthstone

So as my own gaming gatherings are becoming more irregular, I thought I would (finally) take my friends’ advice and try out their preferred virtual tavern game.  And what better drink to have at a fantasy-themed bar than a Belgian-style blonde ale with “gnome” in its name?

Gnomegang was originally brewed in 2010 as a collaboration between the fantastic Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York and the rather magical Brasserie d’Achouffe in Belgium.  The story goes that an ingenious gnome revealed himself to humans in Belgium in 1982 and helped Brasserie d’Achouffe brew its first beer.  Many years later, one such gnome visited Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown and the resulting beverage was the aptly named Gnomegang.

Gnomegang

No matter what the real story behind this whimsical brew may be, what makes Gnomegang stand out is the use of a yeast strain directly from Brasserie d’Achouffe.  This special ingredient imparts a very fruity and spicy character to this rich blonde ale. Gnomegang pours with a cloudy golden color, a yellow-orange hue, and a fluffy white head.  The beer has a strong, sweet odor of clove and banana, with a hint of wintergreen hiding among the fruit and spice.  The first taste on the palate is of lemon candy, that gives way to a rich and sweet body, similar to overripe fruit.  The beer finishes smooth, with the lingering sweetness of yellow cake, whipped cream, and a hint of clove.

Gnomegang is a delicious addition to Brewery Ommegang’s catalog of Belgian-style beers. The strong fruit and spice flavors from the Chouffe yeast mingle with the creamy mouthfeel of this drink.  Fans of European-style wheat beers and sweeter blonde ales will be right at home with Gnomegang, although one should take care to avoid quaffing this beverage.  The high alcohol content of 10% ABV is well-hidden by the rich sweetness and hearty spice taste.  Without even paying attention, a novice could slug back one-too-many Gnomegangs while playing cards at the virtual table, leaving themselves wide open to attack in Hearthstone.

HearthstoneAle

Since its release in 2014, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has been ever-so-stealthily making its way onto my friends’ handheld devices.  It started with a small comment from my long-time friend, Jeremy, who had downloaded the game onto his smart phone as a means to enjoy a collectible card game with his far-away friends.  “You should totally download it,” read his text.  “We can finally play cards again!”  This was certainly a true statement: Hearthstone provided the means to play a fantasy-based card game with my best friend who was several hours away.  Despite this convenience, I was satisfied to wait and play tabletop games with my friends during my next visit to my parents’ homestead.

The next suggestion came from my local buddy, Rob.  He lauded the metagame of deck-building and talked about how his own community of players found it easier to play Hearthstone over their phones, rather than try to schedule a night of in-person gaming. He explained that the variety of cards and strategies available were top notch, allowing players to craft complex strategies and play styles according to their own gaming proclivities.  I was certainly impressed by the various expansions and play types, but I stayed the course of my tabletop roots and avoided Hearthstone once more.

HearthstoneWhispers

What finally broke my resolve was the same thing that originally drew me to Magic: The Gathering- totally awesome horror lore.  The latest expansion of Hearthstone hit the market earlier this year, and it was a loving tribute to the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  With the release of Whispers of the Old Gods, there was no hope left for me.  The chasm of collectible card gaming and horror flavor yawned before me, and I fell headfirst into its maw (read: I downloaded Hearthstone onto my iPad).

At first, I was rather impressed by Hearthstone.  The game provides a great single-player training ground for newcomers to learn the rules and experience the thrill of victory. The artwork on the cards is gorgeous, and the user interface is very well-designed.  The little animations on the playing grounds keep things interesting, while the action of tearing open a new pack of digital cards is very satisfying.  Plus, there are all sorts of little nods to the history of the Warcraft series, with my favorite being the exclamation of, “Job’s Done!” anytime I finished a turn.  However, after playing through the initial single-player offerings and trying my hand at battling online, my enthusiasm for the game started to wane.

HearthstoneScreenshot

At first, I thought it might be the lack to physical cards that contributed to my lack of interest.  Or it could be the fact that I wasn’t invested enough in the game to pay for additional single-player content.  But I think the real reason why I was not enthralled by Hearthstone is because despite its best efforts, this game does not emulate the joy of getting a gaggle of friends together to play cards.  I certainly appreciate the tavern-influenced interface of the game.  The soundtrack to Hearthstone features some of the best game music I have heard in years (no surprise, since it comes from LucasArts veteran Peter McConnell).  Even with these fun flourishes, I simply prefer gathering a group of friends around a large table, pouring a few rounds of beer, and playing cards until the wee hours of the morning.

So while I certainly recommend the combination of Gnomegang and Hearthstone, this duo isn’t for me.  I fully admit that the rich fruit and spice flavors of Brewery Ommegang’s beer is an ideal companion to the tavern games atmosphere of Hearthstone.  I would just prefer to enjoy this Belgian-style blonde ale in the direct company of friends, holding a hand of cards, and planning my next epic play.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: The Ignition Factor with Jailbreak Brewing Company’s Welcome to Scoville Jalapeno IPA

As an adult with some modicum of disposable income, I have started to seek out games that I may have missed as a child.  Most of these titles are oddities from the 16- and 32-bit eras, when print magazines would preview too many games for me to directly experience. In a similar fashion, I have started to seek out brews that I may have missed in the last few years.  Most of these beers are eccentric concoctions from well-loved breweries that I passed over for more conventional offerings.

This is how I came to try an India Pale Ale brewed with jalapeno and cilantro alongside a Super Nintendo game about firefighting.

ScovilleIgnitionFactor

Officially opening their doors in 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Company is a relative newcomer on the craft beer scene.  Named after the owners’ escape from the “imprisonment” of dreary desk jobs, Jailbreak makes a point to use regional and fresh ingredients in their brewing process.  While some of their beers focus on more traditional styles, such as the Infinite Amber Ale and the Big Punisher Double IPA (both delicious), many of their brews are interesting intersections of beer and food.  For example, Jailbreak’s seasonal releases include a chocolate-coconut porter and a key lime pale ale (appropriately named Desserted and B.Limey).

ScovilleUpClose

In addition to these rather rich irregularities, Jailbreak offers a beer with savory ingredients on their year-round list.  Welcome to Scoville is an IPA that is brewed with garden fresh jalapeno peppers and cilantro.  Just like its container, this beer is a vibrant yellow-orange color with a goldenrod hues.  The nose is strong pepper spice with some herbal notes, reminiscent of a hot salsa with extra cilantro.

With such a powerful aroma, I was expecting an acidic scorcher with a bold citrus-hop finish.  Instead, I was surprised to find a floral hop start that gives way to a mild chili body.  It finishes very smooth, with no real bite to speak of and the lingering flavor of Mexican food.  Unlike other beers brewed with peppers that lean into the heat of their ingredients, Welcome to Scoville focuses more on the cilantro in its mix to provide a herbal brew that tastes like a meal.

While some folks may enjoy this rather foody beer, I did not care for Welcome to Scoville. The cilantro overpowers every sip with a herbal dryness that competes with the hops, which are underwhelming from the start.  Any potential heat from the jalapeno is also muted, which makes the finish more earthy vegetable than intense spice.  These characteristics make Welcome to Scoville stand out from other pepper-infused brews, but it ultimately fell flat for me.  How appropriate that The Ignition Factor would also leave me cold.

IgnitionFactorTitleLarge

The 1990s were a time of rampant experimentation in video game development.  Both publishers and designers were eager to try out all sorts of unique gameplay and themes on the consoles of the day.  For example, the same issue of Nintendo Power (in this case, #70 from March 1995) provided maps/strategies for an excellent robot action-platformer, secret codes for a claymation fighting title, and coverage of a licensed basketball game featuring the Looney Toons.

Nestled in the same issue was a brief preview for The Ignition Factor, a game where players take control of a firefighter in various rescue situations.  This two-page spread featured just enough information to intrigue my younger self, but not enough coverage to move this game onto my “Must-Have” list (alongside Chrono Trigger and Donkey Kong Country 2).  To make matters worse, The Ignition Factor never showed up in my local rental store, so this title fell by the wayside until September 2015, when it magically appeared on the Wii-U Virtual Console.

Upon launching The Ignition Factor from my Wii-U Menu, I was treated to a title screen truly meant for 1994.  The game’s stone logo sat on a pitch black void, literally crackling with electricity in anticipation of a new player.  With a hit of the Start/+ button, the rocky letters exploded into a screen covered in debris and flames.  The drama of the ’90s was in full swing and I was ready to play this forgotten Super Nintendo classic.

IgnitionFactorItems

Unfortunately, The Ignition Factor proved to be a lackluster game.  Mired with finicky controls and unintuitive navigation, trying to save people trapped in a fire was a frustrating exercise.  Each stage opened with such potential- I could choose which tools my digital firefighter would carry to assist his heroic journey.  However, carrying more than three items would weigh my avatar down and slow his progress to a sluggish crawl.  As the levels became more complex and demanded a greater variety of tools, I was stuck navigating back-and-forth to a minimal amount of NPCs spread across sprawling maps to swap items as needed.

IgnitionFactorOnFire

This sort of purposeful strategic gameplay would not have been so bothersome if the actual firefighting was inherently fun.  The default fire extinguisher carried by the main character fired in a strange arc that meant the fires directly in front of him would not be quelled.  To make progress in any direction, I needed some space to maneuver and extinguish these respawning flames.  Couple this with a painfully long animation of catching fire whenever a flame is touched, and it makes for a less-than-engaging time.  Even worse, the spouts of fire would only be visible when the firefighter moves into a new room.  Mashing the fire extinguisher button became mandatory when traveling through doors, lest your plucky firefighter be caught aflame and launched backwards.  As a result, I came to rely quite heavily on save states to navigate this maddening experience.

While many people may attribute these frustrating elements to the limited design rules of 1994, it is worth noting that other oddball games succeeded at interesting top-down gameplay during this time.  Zombies Ate My Neighbors provided unique theming and fun mechanics with appropriate challenge, and it hit store shelves an entire year before The Ignition Factor.

IgnitionFactorMannequins

In the end, both of these experiences left me disappointed.  I had hoped that The Ignition Factor and Welcome to Scoville were unique gems that I had somehow overlooked.  As it turns out, this frustrating game and overly herbal beer were just oddly shaped rocks that I happened to walk by on the road.  I would not recommend this combination.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: Grim Fandango Remastered with Stone Brewery’s Xocoveza

The right drink can enhance an established experience.  Take food pairings as an example.  I already enjoyed the rich and meaty taste of a smoked turkey leg.  But when I added the toasty and bitter chocolate flavors of New Belgium’s 1554 black lager to the meal, each edible was taken to another level.  The bitter malted notes from the beer heightened the “hammy” sweetness of the meat, while the smoked salty taste of the turkey brought out a stronger coffee flavor in the lager.

Just as I have been trying out new beers with my favorite foods, so too have I been searching out appropriate brews for my most beloved games.  During my pairing quest, I look for common threads in the styles of beer and the aesthetic of video games.  As it turns out, the release of a beer based on Mexican hot chocolate happened to coincide with my purchase of a game inspired by the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos.

GrimWithXoco

Originally bottled in 2014 as a limited release 22-ounce offering, Xocoveza (pronounced “Sho-Co-Vay-Za”) comes from the mind of homebrewer Chris Banker.  His award-winning milk stout was inspired by the spicy and sweet flavors of Mexican hot chocolate. This beer was so well-received by the drinking public, that Stone has turned this once-in-a-lifetime brew into an annual release, aptly named, “Stone Xocoveza for the Holidays and New Year.”

At the risk of sounding pretentious, Xocoveza is a complex beer.  This is a stout that has been brewed with cocoa, coffee, dried pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Even though these ingredients play well together in various smaller combinations, there is certainly a risk of overwhelming the palete with too many factors.

XocoCloseUp

Xocoveza offers a dark and creamy pour, with a frothy head that calls to mind a caffè mocha.  Even at pouring distance, a cinnamon aroma permeates the air.  A closer smell only intensifies the cinnamon nose, along with a rich cocoa and vanilla odor.  The first taste is very similar to Mexican hot chocolate; dark cocoa and cinnamon with a hint of pepper spiciness.  As the smooth stout goes down, coffee and nutmeg take over, leading to a malty finish.

Xocoveza is an excellent beer.  It is well-balanced, providing a chocolaty sweetness that doesn’t overpower the bitter coffee and spicy pepper flavors.  Fans of dark beer and coffee drinkers will be right at home with this holiday brew, while folks who enjoy something a little sweeter will also find something to enjoy with this smooth and delicious stout. Xocoveza currently stands as my top brew of 2016, and it pairs very well with Grim Fandango Remastered.

GrimRemasteredBox

From the moment Grim Fandango Remastered was announced at E3 2014, I was ecstatic. The original stands as one of my favorite games of all time, never leaving my top ten list since its release in 1998.  Over time, it became increasingly difficult to play Grim Fandango; as PC gaming technology grew exponentially, the support for this CD-ROM title waned at a similar pace.  In the years leading up to the release of the remastered version, I was relying entirely on the efforts of Grim Fandango’s dedicated fans to provide unofficial patches to get the game running on anything past Windows 98.  But thanks to the efforts of Tim Schafer and his crew at Double Fine (along with the compliance of Disney/LucasArts), my frustrating days of cobbling together fan fixes and mods to play this classic title were coming to a close.

Not satisfied with simply overcoming the accessibility issues of Grim Fandango, Double Fine Productions remastered the entire game for modern machines.  The team went to great efforts to retrieve the original assets for the game, ensuring that the visual fidelity was preserved in the leap to new technology.  As a result, the remastered version features repainted, hi-res character models, along with new dynamic lighting effects.  Composer Peter McConnell returned to conduct the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a live re-recording of the already beautiful soundtrack.  Double Fine even reached out to the modding community of fans for the original game to get their help in adding point-and-click controls for the computer and tablet versions of Grim Fandango Remastered.

GrimRemasteredComparison

Despite all of these tweaks and improvements, Tim Schafer and his team worked very hard to preserve the original narrative of Grim Fandango.  None of the game’s scenes have been rescripted or removed; no new characters or plotlines added.  The result is akin to a Criterion Collection release of a classic film (right down to included developer commentary), and I absolutely love it.

The remastered visuals and soundtrack are a fantastic upgrade to an already outstanding game.  The film noir story of travel agent Manny Calavera and his epic journey of crime and corruption in the Land of the Dead has aged wonderfully.  During my time playing, Laura became equally engaged with the story, even as a passive viewer.  She did point out the one aspect that has not aged gracefully: adventure game logic.  While I was breezing through the game (having played it over a dozen times in the past), Laura would ask questions that showcased the potential difficulty for players who didn’t grow up with LucasArts.

GrimOriginalClown

For example, I had no trouble in figuring out that I needed to ask for a Robert Frost balloon animal from a festival clown, to hide under a pile of bread crumbs on the Department of Death roof, to scare away a flock of pigeons, so I could steal their eggs to raise as tiny messengers for an underground revolution.  To this sequence of events, Laura simply stared in confused frustration, regularly uttering the phrase, “How could anyone have guessed that?”

MannyinRepose

Even with these old school head-scratcher puzzles, Grim Fandango remains a fun and worthwhile experience.  The remastered visuals and music have honed the already impressive content to perfection, and the updated controls allow players several options to maneuver Manny on his adventures.  The mix of film noir with Mexican folklore provides a unique and wonderful world, which matches the dark cocoa and vibrant cinnamon spice of Xocoveza.  I highly recommend this combination.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshineawardThis post is long overdue, but better late than never, right?  Laura and I were nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award some time ago, and I believe some appreciation Is in order.  Many thanks to Cary from Recollections of Play for the award!  She does some great writing on her own blog, along with contributing to and co-managing United We Game, so she is pretty much a blogging powerhouse.  Please take the time to check out her work; you will not regret it.

 

The Sunshine Award comes with some responsibilities, so let’s get to those below:

a) Use the award logo in a post and/or on your blog
b) Include a link back to whoever nominated you
c) Offer 10 pieces of random information about you
d) Nominate ten other bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
e) Let your nominees about their much deserved award

Since GIMMGP is a fair and balanced partnership, Laura and I will split the ten pieces of random information down the middle and offer five tidbits each.

Chip’s Random Facts

1) Back in high school, my friends and I absolutely loved schlocky horror movies.  We adored them so much that we actually made our own full-length film – Sledgehammer: The Movie.  In classic horror formula, Sledgehammer is a tale of an escaped psycho taking out party-goers one-by-one, often using silly and over-the-top methods.  Our movie could be called amateur at best, but we had plenty of fun shooting it.  The entire thing is posted in pieces on Youtube, so check it out if you have some free time and want to see high school kids in a bad horror movie.

2) I was diagnosed with epilepsy at a very young age, when I had a seizure that nearly took me out.  Fortunately, I have not had a relapse since I was eight years old, and I am still able to play video games to this day.  On an extra note, I cannot use immersive VR equipment as a result.  So no Occulus Rift for me, thanks!

3) I am a bit of a closet otaku, with a healthy amount of manga, anime, and related merchandise hidden throughout GIMMGP Headquarters.  I mostly prefer the slice-of-life genre, but I dabble with sci-fi series as well.  Some of my favorites include Genshiken, Yotsuba&!, Durarara, and Polar Bear’s Cafe.

4) I really enjoy Wes Anderson’s films, and The Royal Tenenbaums proudly sits at the top of my favorite movies list.  The atmosphere in each of his works is so captivating, and I especially love the way that the Criterion Collection handles the DVD releases.  If only game publishers would re-issue the classics with the same amount of behind-the-scenes content and loving attention to detail.

5) Thanks to living in the age of microbrewing, I have become quite the beer snob.  I will gladly give most beverages the ole’ college try, but let’s be honest: once you have tasted Fat Tire and Dogfish Head, how can you go back to that light beer crap?

Laura’s Random Facts

1. I rode on Shamu the Killer Whale when I was 6 years old. I have a picture. Not here. It’s at my parents house. If I had it, I would totally show you.

2. I have a really cool deck of Tarot cards that I got from Light Grey Art Lab. I love them but can’t read my fortune with them. Their main purpose is look pretty and give people the impression I am delightfully eclectic.

3. I should have been a cowboy. Among other things.

4. My favorite Pokemon at the moment is Axew. If I were a Pokemon trainer I would definitely be a Dragon Master. I would constantly tell people “I am the Blood of the Dragon” even with no provocation. I’m sure no one would be my friend.

5. My favorite thing about being an adult is never having to eat broccoli.

Since Laura and I are fashionably late to the Sunshine Party, it seems that many of the blogs we follow have already been nominated for this esteemed award.  Nevertheless, we want to bring praise to those who creatively and positively inspire, and here they are in no particular order!

1) simpleek

2) Little Sister Gaming

3) Lovedelic Life

4) Beneath the Tangles

5) Playing the Canon

6) Wild Man Ted

7) Ogiue Maniax

8) Robo♥Beat

9) Delver

10) A Most Agreeable Pastime

There you have it, folks!  We want to thank Cary once more for her nomination, and many thanks to everyone who has supported GIMMGP along the way.  Now let’s raise our glasses to more breezy, summer days spent playing video games indoors with the windows wide open!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,