Video Game Beer Pairings
It's dangerous to go alone! Drink these!on September 18, 2014 at 8:00 am
Passion is something everyone should have in life. It helps people have goals. It helps form social connections with those who share similar interests. It can drive us to be better people.
I have many passions. Perhaps too many, but I manage my passion addiction through careful use of a “job”. It doesn’t give me enough time to overindulge in them. Good for my employers, I guess.
When I’m not waxing poetic about the whimsy in one game or bashing another for having heavy jumping physics, I like to cook food and I LOVE beer. The fragrance of hops is as intoxicating as, uh… alcohol.
Poor word choice aside, pairing beer with food is common. Pairing it with a night of gaming? Not so much. At least, not deliberately choosing a style of beer to go with a particular genre. But I think it can be a crucial component for enhancing the experience in interesting ways.
When you really sit down and think about it, it makes a bit of sense. The flavor of a smartly chosen brew can help invoke the crucial emotions necessary to help fuel immersion. Scent is also a powerful tool in memory, so the aroma of a pint may help form better neural links when playing games. Or that might just be the alcohol taking effect.
Either way, you don’t want to drink a smooth sipper while playing a shooter or an American Macro while playing a puzzle game! What kind of insanity would that lead to? Right? RIGHT?!
Alright, look. I realize I’m trying to merge two of my nerderies into one article. You may be lost, but that’s okay. If you don’t know much about beer, then stick around and use this as a primer. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try some new things. If you’re already well versed in the world of beer, then I hope this encourages you to think about what beers would go best with your favorite games. And if you think you don’t like beer? Then you haven’t been drinking anything worthwhile. Take notes.
Horror – Imperial Stout
Fall is creeping in quicker than you realize and there is no better way to spend a crisp Autumn evening than turning the lights out, letting the cool air in through a cracked window, and queuing up a good scary game.
You’re going to need a beer that’s as dark as those hallways you’ll timidly walk down. A complex sip that will inspire the necessary epiphany to solve that weirdly out-of-place puzzle in that mansion no one could ever have possibly lived in (seriously, who locks their doors with chess pieces then hides them?). Oh, and something boozy to steel your nerves. You’ll need an Imperial Stout.
Stouts are typically an intimidating style for those not indoctrinated into beer. Its black-as-night appearance threatens your taste buds before the drink ever hits your lips. People fear it will be overwhelmingly bitter and strong, but that’s actually not the case here.
Stouts don’t typically feature as much bitterness, due to the fact that the presence of hops is extremely minimal. Instead, stouts rely on huge, roasty malts to flavor the beer. These malts can tend to produce a beer that actually errs on the sweeter side of the spectrum, bringing out massive chocolate and coffee notes. It’s why the style is such a common dessert pairing.
What makes Imperial Stouts – also referred to Russian Imperial Stouts – special? More alcohol, of course. The style often ranges anywhere from 9-12% ABV. It’s powerful hooch.
So, when that cold shiver drags its fingernail down your spine, take a sip of a strong Imperial Stout and you’ll suddenly be able to press on a little further against the ghouls, ghosts, and monsters of the night.
Imperial Russian Stout (Stone)
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (North Coast Brewing)
Expedition Stout (Bell’s)
Cocoa Psycho (BrewDog)
Looking for an even boozier drink for those REALLY scary games?
Black Ops (Brooklyn Brewery)
Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin XV (North Coast Brewing)
Something for Halloween?
Warlock (Southern Tier)
Puzzle – Saison
Puzzle games are something that even the most casual of gamer plays. “Tetris” and “Bejeweled” are the most ubiquitous. Even if I have to begrudgingly admit it, many free-to-play mobile titles are popular, as well. So, we need a beer that even people who think they aren’t a fan of beer will enjoy. Enter: The Saison.
Saisons are my preferred beer of choice for introducing people to what beer is like outside of MilCoorBud Lite. These beers are extremely effervescent, have fruity and/or spiced flavors, and are extremely refreshing and easy to drink. They can range anywhere from being fairly low in alcohol to being relatively high, about 5-8%.
The fun thing about saisons is that they reveal a greater amount of their character the more you drink them. As soon as you think you “get” it, you’ll come up with another revelation a sip later. This goes hand-in-hand with puzzle games, as they slowly open up their breadth of ideas and depth the more you play. Well… the good ones do, anyways. I guess that also goes for the beer.
Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont)
Saint’s Devotion (Lost Abbey)
Saint Athene (Saint Somewhere)
Sorachi Ace (Brooklyn Brewery)
Fighting – Session India Pale Ale
Ooo, boy. Should we even be drinking while we play fighting games?
Yeah, sure. Why not.
You definitely don’t want something that has a high ABV, but you want something that has bite. Something to wake up your senses and loosen you up just enough that you’re able to execute combos flawlessly, without making you sloppy.
Luckily, we have Session IPAs. A fully hopped beer that keeps all of the fragrant, floral, citrus flavors of IPAs, but makes it so you can drink more than a few in a sitting without reeling from all the booze. A perfect “Lite” beer for those who actually enjoy the flavor of beer.
Maybe this is obvious, but I don’t think I’d recommend this if you’re going to be playing in a tournament. Unless you’re a master of Drunken Stick. Also, I’m not sure of many venues that would allow booze…
Anyways, Session IPAs are still a relatively new style. Purists often scoff at them, since their lack of alcohol often comes from a lack of balanced flavors, since there is a lot less sugars for the yeast to convert into alcohol. Don’t worry, the really good beers in this style have gotten around these problems.
All Day IPA (Founder’s)
Ponto (Pizza Port)
Sunshine Daydream (Fat Head)
Bitter American (21st Amendment)
First/Third Person Shooters – Pilsner
You don’t have time to be thinking about what beer you’re drinking, there is a guy about to shoot you! Here, drink this pilsner!
A pilsner is a light, drinkable beer that’s more bitter than the American Macro brewers would have you believe it’s supposed to be. These are appropriately hopped beers with a strong malt presence. They typically feature grassy flavors and usually hover around 5-5.5% ABV.
Basically, these are exactly what you want when you’re trying to snipe things in the face or face-like analog. They won’t get you drunk and you’ll never have to think about what you’re consuming. Just drink it down and put things on the ground.
Properly anal beer nerds will tell you that there are “Pilseners”, then there are “Czech Pilsners”. I’m not going to make that distinction here or spell the word with the extra letter. Drink them all.
Pilsner Urquell (Pizensky Prazdroj)
Good Chit (Rogue)
Prima Pils (Victory)
Weihenstephaner Pilsner (Bayerische Staatsbraurei Weihenstephan)
Pivo Pils (Firestone Walker)
Racing – IPAs
Starting Line: Monaco.
Revving the engine of your Aston Martin DBS, you look around at your competition. At pole position, an Ascari A10 that you have almost no chance of catching. Behind that, you spy a Ferrari 458 and a Mercedes SLK 55 AMG. Closer to you, a Jaguar F-Type R. That’s what you’re going to be hunting down.
Dumping the clutch as the light turns, you immediately start blistering your way through the tight, perilous corners of the Monaco street circuit. The Jag gets the jump on you and takes an early lead, but the race has only just started.
The howling exhaust from all the cars creates an echoing thunder that can be heard miles away. Existing inside the vortex of noise and trying to hold enough concentration to race is insanely difficult. You stay on the Jag’s tail, however. Resolutely waiting for a chance to strike and grab the position in front of it.
An opening presents itself at the chicane, but the Jag successfully boxes you out, ruining your line. It’s too early to give up, though. Seeing another opportunity arise as you both come into La Rascasse, the Jag lets off the accelerator, his exhaust letting out a glorious, deep crackle going into the corner. You bravely brake late and try to overtake on the outside.
Narrowly missing the wall, you gain ground and take the inside line on the next corner, successfully shutting the Jag out, giving you his spot. A great first lap, now you just have to keep it up.
Racing is full of excitement, aggressiveness, noise, skill, and balance. IPAs work in much the same way. It’s take an immense amount of knowledge and experience to tread the waters of this highly competitive style and produce a tasty product. Producing an IPA that is balanced, but also features the aggressive bitterness of hops is a daunting task that few achieve. The one’s that do, however, do it very well.
Since hops are what separates beer from a simple malt beverage, IPAs are, essentially, an extremely concentrated beer experience. One that seeks to really grasp and master that single ingredient that makes beer what it is.
IPAs are supposed to be bitter, but that bitterness should be balanced out with the fruity notes the hops impart and the sweetness of malt. These beers can be somewhat light to relatively high in alcohol, around 5.5-8% ABV. The good ones are supremely drinkable, which means they can certainly sneak up on you. If that happens, then change the style of racing game you’re playing to something more arcadey and start crashing into stuff.
Two Hearted (Bell’s)
Head Hunter (Fat Head)
Sculpin (Ballast Point)
Mystic Mama (Jackie-O)
White Rajah (The Brew Kettle)
Jai Alai (Cigar City)
Blind Pig (Russian River)
60 Minute (Dogfish Head)
RPGs – Brown Ale
The RPG is genre of game that needs to be played in huge, meaty chunks of time. While you’re delving deep in to characterization, customization, world building, NPC dialogue, and end bosses that always try to be freakish demi-gods, you want a beer that will happily travel with you through all of that. A beer that is drinkable, yet flavorful. One that also fits right in with the medieval fantasy theme that so many RPGs inhabit. Brown ales fit those requirements quite nicely.
Brown ales can get a wide range of flavors from the ingredients that are used. They’re almost always a sweeter drink and they can have nut, chocolate, caramel, and toffee flavors. They typically have a low ABV, so you can feel free to drink them all day and not be passed out and forget the save. NEVER forget to save, dammit!
Brown ales will get you in the mood for some RPGs and then keep you there as you grind through hordes of spiders, bandits, and jelly-like creatures.
Indian Brown Ale (Dogfish Head)
Nut Brown Ale (Samuel Smith’s)
Nut Brown Ale (AleSmith)
Best Brown (Bell’s)
Mighty Brown Ale (Breckenridge)
Platformers – Cider
Platformers are a genre that exemplifies playfulness and fun, as much as it prides itself on raw talent and learned skill. Astonishingly easy for anyone to pick up and play, but can be difficult to master. More hardcore gamers leave platformers behind as they grow older, but I find folly with that decision.
Like this genre, the same can be said of ciders. As drinkers grow older, so do their tastes and ciders are left to the wayside, but there is still some really legit stuff out there.
I know, cider isn’t beer, but I can’t think of any beer that would fit with this genre better. So, we’re going with ciders. And since ciders are their own thing, I’m not going to delve into various styles. Also, they vary wildly in alcohol content, 2-12% or higher, amount of actual apple juice that has to be used, whether they’re dry or not, and blah-dee-blah.
Regardless, I think a bubbly, fresh, sweet cider is the perfect match for crushing enemy skulls with your boots and exploring colorful worlds.
Brown’s Lane Natural (Crispin)
Thirstly Cross Scottish (Thirstly Cross Cider)
Samuel Smith’s Organic (Samuel Smith’s)
Magners Irish Cider (Bulmers)
Sports – Lagers
Sports and lager go together like dudebros and “Call of Duty”. They’re made for each other. So, there’s no surprise that I chose these two to go together. But, lots of lagers are gross. American macro brewers use a ton of adjunct ingredients, which ruin the purity and flavor of the beer. Plus, they all taste exactly the same, which is, once again, gross.
And while I may have given up on sports, I still play the occasional sports video game… though they may have the words “Mario”, “Jam”, “Blitz”, or “Pro Skater” in the title. And while I may have given up on American Macros, I haven’t given up entirely on lagers.
The style isn’t going to be full of malt and hop flavor. That’s not their purpose. They’re meant to be an extremely light, refreshing, and have a VERY low ABV. But, that doesn’t mean they have to be hold-your-nose disgusting. There are some legit lagers out there, just like there are some legit sports video games.
Pair the two together and you might just feel a bit manlier as a result. Just ignore the fact that you’re playing tennis with a turtle. It’s manly! Okay?!
Lager of the Lakes (Bell’s)
Brooklyn Lager (Brooklyn Brewery)
Stoudt’s Gold (Stoudt’s)
Dortmunder Gold (Great Lakes)
Hopstitution (Jack’s Abbey)
Are you going to go buy any new beer today? You should. Even if you don’t agree with my reasonings or think this entire idea is silly, you’ll at least have some good beer to drink. That’s gotta be worth something.