Tag Archives: dark souls

Digital Draughts: Bloodborne with Adroit Theory Brewing Company’s BLVCK Celebration

On Saturdays through the month of October, we will be cross-posting the latest video game and beer pairings from Chip’s new blog, Digital Draughts!  Normally written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts will feature frightening and fantastic pairing posts through October as a treat for you, dear readers!

Please be sure to subscribe to Digital Draughts for future beer and video game pairings, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts!


Not all experiences are inviting.  There are many of life’s little moments that are meant to challenge us; to intrigue lesser known aspects of our being.  These engagements take a bit of flexibility on the user’s part.  An open mind, a grain of salt, and perhaps a spoonful of sugar are all good tools for such experiences.

The result of these events varies.  The experience could reveal a newfound passion, or reaffirm a suspected revulsion.  But no matter what the outcome, the user and their perceptions are changed.  Recently, I challenged my palate with a game from a series universally known for its adversity, combined with a beer from a company known for esoteric brewing.

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After our delightful visit to the Adroit Theory Brewing Company, Laura and I have been on the lookout for any of their bottled brews at our local stores.  As many of their beers are small batch and limited release, the options outside of their Tasting Room are meager by comparison.  However, there are still a handful of Adroit Theory brews to be found in the wild, such as their imperial porter, Black Celebration.

Brewed as a collaboration with drum and bass DJ Damian Higgins (aka Dieselboy), Black Celebration (stylized as “BLVCK”) was brewed with maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, black lava salt, and then aged on oak staves.  From this point, some of this complex brew was bottled, while another batch was further aged in rum barrels before bottling.

At first glance, the bottles for Black Celebration seem very minimalist; clean lettering on a matte black label.  There is some flourish to distinguish each variety (gold lettering on the Oak Aged and silver lettering on the Rum Barrel Aged), but little else to make this bottle stand out on the shelf.  Upon closer inspection, the secret of Black Celebration is revealed.  A large alchemical sigil is embossed in glossy black across the label; visible only in certain angles of light and immediately apparent to the touch.

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For reasons of personal taste (both in barrel flavors and label colors), I selected the Rum Barrel Aged variety of Black Celebration.

Black Celebration matches its name in appearance.  From bottle to glass, this brew pours coffee black with a foamy mocha head.  As the beer opens up, a powerful scent of smoked vanilla and sea salt overwhelms the air.  The flavor is intense: a rich maple syrup start gives way to a smoky molasses and burnt wood body.  Finishing notes of roasted pork and spiced rum consummate the experience: bitter, rich, and powerful.

Black Celebration is most certainly an esoteric beer.  While it features the roasted malt and dark chocolate notes of a classic porter, the additional brewing components and barrel aging further the complexity of this beer.  Fans of strong dark beers may be intrigued by this brew, along with folks who enjoy the unique crossroads of savory and sweet dishes.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this powerful beer.  The slightly meaty notes and molasses flavor complement the natural roasted flavors of a porter, while the rum aging provides a welcome spicy kick.  Black Celebration is a perfect way to prepare for the challenging streets of Central Yarnham.

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In the past, I have bounced off of From Software’s Souls series.  I made a valiant effort in Dark Souls and its sequel; trying to learn the challenging ebb and flow of their intricate systems.  But in each case, I hit a massive wall of difficulty that drove me to toss my controller away in frustration (literally and figuratively).  I appreciated the nuanced gameplay and unique dark fantasy setting of Dark Souls.  There was simply something lacking that kept me from truly engaging with this series.  Apparently, that crucial element was Gothic horror and a Lovecraftian narrative.

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Bloodborne takes place in the Victorian-era city of Yarnham, where a plague has turned its citizens into beasts of varying ferocity.  Some of Yarnham’s inhabitants became aggressive maniacs, while others fully transitioned into giant wolf-like creatures.  As the Hunter, players must survive against the monstrous townsfolk while seeking out a cure-all known as Paleblood.  However, the reasons to seek this elixir are rather tenuous, as there is no clear explanation for the quest, or how the Hunter came to Yarnham in the first place.  The game simply opens with a grisly blood transfusion viewed in first-person, and visions of a horrifying creature made of viscera stalking from the shadows.

Following this cryptic prelude, The Hunter wakes up in an abandoned surgery ward; making their way into Central Yarnham on the night of “The Hunt.”

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I will be frank with you, reader: the start of Bloodborne is unforgiving and cruel.  The path leading through Central Yarnham is long and filled with mobs of crazed citizens, hungry for blood.  Any one of these maniacs has the ability to catch you in a combo that will quickly kill you, so the frequent packs of enemies typically spell certain death.   These basic enemies are often combined with ranged attackers, quick-striking dogs, plus-sized abominations, and no checkpoints leading up to the boss encounters.  In short, you will die in a regular and bloody manner on your way through this cursed city.

If this experience sounds completely unappealing, trust me- I understand.  I struggled to stick with this game in the opening hours.  Watching my Hunter die over and over again to the same frustrating enemy encounters was very disheartening, and I nearly gave up on Bloodborne altogether.  However, once I made it past the first major boss encounter, the game became exponentially more enjoyable.

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Following a frantic and tragic battle with a fellow Hunter, Bloodborne offers branching pathways, multiple character builds/options, and an engaging and mysterious narrative. The history of the once-great city of Yarnham and its Healing Church slowly unfolds as the player further explores this foreboding world.  The visuals of Bloodborne are equally haunting and beautiful.  The power of the PlayStation 4 is put to incredible use; providing gruesome details on every monster and amazing lighting effects on each surface.  I often found myself taking a moment to appreciate the grim scenery of Yarnham, taking care to clear an area of any potential threats before such respite.

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Having enjoyed both Bloodborne and Black Celebration, this combination should be an easy recommendation.  The engaging narrative and visceral combat of this game pair nicely with the rich molasses and smoky maple flavors of this dark brew.  However, the antagonistic opening of Bloodborne and the uniquely savory notes of Black Celebration prevent a universal endorsement of this challenging pair.

But if you can overcome such challenges, then a dark and delicious treat awaits you, good Hunter.

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U-Pick VG IV: Mission Success

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The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity is officially over!  For 48 consecutive hours, the U-Pick Crew played a pile of video games for a good cause.  We battled brutal skeletons in Dark Souls, struggled with mech controls in Steel Battalion, and slapped each other silly in GoldenEye 007.

After the dust settled (and the consoles were turned off), U-Pick Marathon IV raised over $5000 for charity:water. Thanks to these generous donations, 168 people in Uganda will have access to renewable clean water sources.

In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely contaminated.  It is amazing that the efforts of U-Pick and its supporters (along with charity: water) can make such a positive impact on the world through the joy of video games.

If you missed the marathon, fear not!  There is still time to donate to this worthwhile cause!  The current charity:water campaign is still accepting donations until June 30th, 2015.  Also, the entire 50+ hour video of U-Pick IV will be available to watch on Twitch for the next week.  Check it out here!

Many woots to Grant, Stephonee, and the rest of the U-Pick Crew!  Huge thanks to everyone who watched and donated! Please stay tuned to the U-Pick website, Twitter, and Facebook page for future livestreams and charity marathons.  And remember, GAME FOR GOOD!

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A Bit of (Dark) Soul(s) Searching

In my closet, there is a graphic t-shirt of Master Chief holding a rocket launcher claiming that, “I See Dead People.”  It is a goofy and clichéd line, but I cherish the shirt since it is from a friend who knows me as a Rocket Fiend.

HaloRocketFiendYou know the type: someone who seeks out the rocket launcher from the start, runs into the fray of battle, doesn’t care if he/she dies as long as piles of enemies are eliminated in the process.  This sort of player was my online gaming persona.  In every Halo or Call of Duty match I would rush in, explosive weapons blazing, until my foes lay dead at the charred remains of my feet.  I felt like every match in a video game merely required a show of brute force and stubborn determination until some sort of victory was in my grasp.  But I wasn’t always like this; once I was a careful planner who would prefer to be on the sidelines instead of on the front.

From an early age, it was apparent that my brother Cory had better eye-to-hand coordination than I did.  Even though he was nearly two years younger than me, video games came naturally to him at a basic level.  There is the story my Mom tells of taking the two of us shopping one day, only to find a Super Mario Brothers demo kiosk at the local department store.  She agreed to stand in line with us while we waited to try the newest video game on the market.  As the older child, I had earned the birthright of first play.  I made a valiant effort, but succumbed to King Koopa’s forces in a few moments.  Then my brother took the controller, and proceeded to play Super Mario Brothers damn near flawlessly for the first time ever.  He lost a life or two, but my brother never saw the Game Over screen.  It wasn’t until he made it past World Five that my mother told him it was time to go so the line of teenagers behind us had a chance at the game.  At that time, my brother was only three years old.  Needless to say, the kid was a natural.

SuperMarioEndThanks to his gift of gaming prowess, my brother was the stronger player in our family, but that did not exclude me from the experience.  While Cory would start a game with little preparation, I would take the time to research every title to intricate detail.  I learned the cheat codes and secret areas, the best routes to take through a game and how to be the perfect support character.  With my careful planning and Cory’s natural skills, we became a force to be reckoned with; a perfect duo against which no game could survive.  But as it goes with a great teams, the glory days came to an end.  I was accepted into college, while Cory stayed behind to finish high school.

My love for video games followed me to college, but things were different.  I was no longer the support group or the wizened gaming guru.  I had earned new responsibilities and work, which demanded huge chunks of my time.  I met new friends, who were just as knowledgeable of video games as I.  My casual hobby became something of a compulsory obsession, and the way I approached video games had changed.  Instead of the meticulous mapping and dutiful detailing of my youth, I was head-butting problems and forcing solutions where some consideration was required.  I had changed from the careful strategist and ideal support member into someone who needed to be noticed; a glory hound that jumped right into the fray.  In essence, I had become the Rocket Fiend.

These feelings extended beyond video games, and I was approaching life the same way.  Three years into a Chemistry degree and I felt the pressure to graduate outweigh the desire to fulfill life ambitions.  I had come this far, and even though I was extremely unhappy with my potential future (and current course load), there seemed to be no time to waste.  All that mattered was making it through school, getting off of my parents’ dime, and finding a “real” job.  In my spare time, I was partying just as hard as I was working, never taking time to appreciate moments with friends or reflecting on my life.  If I was miserable during the day, surely a night of hard drinking and reckless abandon would make me feel better.  My life became a high-speed cycle of rushing through school during my waking hours and ignoring my sleeping hours to compensate for time spent working.  As long as I could run headfirst into the battle and grab that bachelor’s degree for the victory, I did not care about the sacrifices along the way.

Years later, I have an unsatisfying 9-to-5 “big-kid” job and a degree in a field in which I am genuinely disinterested.  I find myself falling into the role of the Rocket Fiend once again; rushing through 8-to-10 hours of work, followed by switching off my brain and playing hours of online shooters, ignoring the dreams of my past.  I struggled to reconnect with my former self and tried to actively plan and execute my goals instead of just attempting to net a high score to buy more distractions.  So many of these efforts have been frantic attempts at bashing through my problems without any sort of forethought.  Then, I played Dark Souls, and something came back to me.

darksoulsaxeAnyone who has played Dark Souls (or its predecessor) will tell you of the game’s punishing difficulty.  You take on the role of a lone hero in a damned world, trying to make a pilgrimage to bring light back to the cursed land.  Unlike so many other action role-playing games, where there is a steady learning curve and gradually increasing challenge, Dark Souls immediately crushes the player with near unwinnable situations that cannot be solved with brute force.  When I started the game, I attempted to be the Rocket Fiend, running into battles with multiple enemies, swinging blindly with the biggest axe at my disposal to dispatch my foes.  This sort of playing was met with intelligent adversaries and instant death.  For the first time in a while, I had to approach a video game the way I would as a younger man.

darksoulsbonfireEvery encounter required some thinking, careful footing, and proper use of resources to make sure my knight would not fall to yet another skeleton’s blade.  As I was slowing down and taking the time to actually think about each moment in a video game instead of just running headfirst into a situation, I started to extrapolate this to my life as a whole.  Dilemmas required planning and foresight, reflecting on a situation with logic, and actually struggling for a future where I have achieved my goals.  I could no longer just bash my way through my demons, and hope that the path others seemed to follow would work for me.  I had to think about the character traits for which I was best suited, and what sort of spells and weapons were my greatest tools in a battle through a bleak and unforgiving land.

It would be foolish to say that Dark Souls changed my life; there are very few video games that could actually make that claim.  Taking the time to re-evaluate my future and goals has been a long time coming.  But this hyper-difficult title reminded me that a gradual change back to my true self should be at the front of my mind.  With every passing day, I am like the lone knight in Dark Souls: regaining my humanity, remembering the young man who had dreams and ambitions outside of simply existing and taking the necessary (and careful) steps to achieve these goals.

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