Beer Gaming Pairing: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and Dark Souls 3

Beer Pair Dark Souls 3

Beer and Gaming Coming Together

I’ve been working on this one for a while, it’s an idea that I’m excited about. There are many reasons why I am so passionate about both beer and gaming, but one at the forefront is how well they go together. Pairing beer and food is all good and fun, but this idea is more me. It’s obvious that gaming is experiential, but drinking a great beer is an awesome experience as well.

As you know from several of my other posts, I love the Dark Souls series and Dark Souls 3 was the first of the games that I had the opportunity to play the moment of its release. Right around that time, I had also luckily acquired some of what would become one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever tasted, 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust. The game and the beer paired together seemed like a match made in heaven, and they proved to be such.

Dark Souls 3 beer pairing zombie dust

Two Parallel Acquired Tastes

Almost everyone that follows video games knows about the punishing difficulty that has made the Souls series of games notorious. They are a grinding and sometimes stressful experience, but for certain people, they are also the most rewarding game experiences you can have. I happen to be one of those people, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final entry in the trilogy. I have an acquired taste for the difficulty curve at this point, I’ve finished the first Dark Souls a few times and I’m in the middle of my second play through of Dark Souls 2. Even with my seasoning, sometimes you hit a wall in these games and it can be frustrating. In those situations, the Zombie Dust was a welcome complement to the game.

Much like the Dark Souls game, aggressively hoppy beers can be overwhelming and are an acquired taste among craft beer drinkers. But, just like the game, they have a habit of hooking people who embrace them. After you’re hooked, there’s nothing else like a well hopped IPA. Zombie Dust happens to be one of the most renowned hoppy beers in the country, marketed as a pale ale, but likely actually closer to an IPA. To those imbued with an unnatural appreciation for overly bitter beverages, this one is a gem.

For anyone who likes beating up their palate while they’re getting beat up in a game, this is a great beer gaming pairing. There wasn’t anything too ridiculous in the early parts of the game within which I was partaking of these fine brews, but Dark Souls games are always hard, they just aren’t always ridiculous. Whenever “You Died” appeared on screen, a hefty swig of Zombie Dust was an awesome counter-balance. The citra hops are aggressive, but the citrus notes they add make this beer nothing but refreshing to an IPA enthusiast.

Dark Souls 3 viewpoint

A Niche Appeal, Executed Perfectly

It’s interesting that both of these products most likely weren’t going for universal appeal when they were first released, speaking specifically to the original Dark Souls or even Demon’s Souls. They both set out to stand out from the crowd to a very certain type of gamer or beer drinker, but through the undeniable quality of the experience they present, each has transcended through to the mainstream. More people probably discovered a love of hops because of how fine a beer Zombie Dust is and I know gamers started to warm up to challenging games more as Dark Souls devotees raved about the quality of the experience that the Souls games offered being above any other.

Zombie Dust -4

That all sounds a bit dramatic, but I freaking love Zombie Dust and Dark Souls.

I wanted to start this idea for a series off right with something I knew I would enjoy writing about. This pairing definitely did not let me down.

Let me know what you thought of the post and the idea for the series in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

An Intro to Craft Beer- The Basics

craft beer basics intro

Your Craft Beer Primer

Craft beer is exploding in popularity. If you’re checking out this post, you’ve probably tried and enjoyed some craft beer. The Brewers Association just celebrated the number of breweries in the U.S. climbing beyond pre-prohibition levels. We’re now at over 4,200 breweries, the vast majority of which are far from the macro-breweries that supply the majority of this country’s beer.

Craft beer has a different sort of character than the mass produced American lagers out there. There’s a culture establishing itself around the industry. Weirdly enough, there’s a lot to know about craft beer, it is the second oldest beverage in the world after all. Luckily, drinking beer is a social activity, which makes it pretty easy to spark up a conversation at your local brewery about what’s up. If your curious about the basics before heading in for a brew though, here are some of the basics.

Firstly, I tend bar Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder, CO. A huge part of what I do at Upslope is talk about beer with interested patrons. I got into craft beer and homebrewing shortly after I turned 21 when I discovered that there’s something out there aside from Natty Light. I used to splurge on a good 6-pack to split with my friends when I picked up a few 30 packs of cheap beer for us at the liquor store. That way, we could start the night with something nice before continuing on in a more typical college-y way. I still enjoy a Natty Light, or similar light American lager, from time to time, but there are so many more interesting brews out there.

Well then, let’s get started. Here are some of the basics of craft beer.

craft beer basics intro-2

The Ingredients

Beer consists of 4 ingredients on a basic level: water, malt, hops and yeast. There is even a law in Germany about them called the Reinheitsgebot, or the German Purity Law. It states that those are the only four ingredients that are allowed to be used in beer, with barley being the specific malt. It is still in effect to a degree today, although many German breweries have branched out to include other less traditional ingredients in their beer. The law, somewhat humorously, was put in place to conserve wheat and rye to be used for bread so that the country’s grains weren’t all turned into beer instead of food.

A Little Prohibition History:

American breweries got a bit of a kick-start after prohibition, which has resulted in a huge amount of experimentation and innovation in the field. That innovation also came along with a relative disregard for the old world rules about beer, resulting in the plethora of options we have today. Shutting down all of the traditional breweries rid us of any preconceived notions once it was repealed. Prohibition seemed like a pain in the ass in its day, but we have it to thank as it indirectly made the U.S. beer scene more unique than ever.

Huge Beer style chart

The Styles

There is a style of beer for almost everyone, regardless of how they feel about beer. We have a lot of fun at work with people who bring in friends or family members who don’t like beer. We have 24 beers on tap and I can always find something that they’ll have at least one glass of. One of my fiancé’s friends from Australia told me that she had never finished an entire beer before and stuck to cider. She had 2 glasses at the brewery and loved it. There is truly a beer for almost anyone out there.

Styles range from light and refreshing lagers and blonde ales, to deep and robust stouts and barrel aged sours. BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) featured 34 main styles of beer in their 2015 list, each one with a multitude of subcategories. Styles are also evolving every year, as well as re-emerging into prominence. A gose(a German salted, soured ale) is categorized as a historical beer by BJCP standards, but they’ve just been coming back into popularity in the past few years. Needless to say, there are a lot of styles out there. If you find something you haven’t seen before, give it a try.

The India Pale Ale:

The most popular style of beer in the U.S., among competitions, is the American IPA. Any beer competition will have a little bit of everything, but they’re always flooded with American- style IPA category entries. India Pale Ales feature robust, refreshing hoppy flavors, and a crisp bitterness that can get a beer drinker hooked. It’s a style that people acquire a taste for though. IPAs are aggressive and overwhelming to your palate. In fact, it’s very natural to have an aversion to overly bitter beers. It’s based on an animal instinct to avoid bitter tastes, as they often correlate with poisonous plants.

craft beer basics intro-4

The Experience

A big part of why people are interested in craft beer is for the experience. Almost everyone above the age of 21 has had a Bud Light, but there isn’t much to be excited about with a Bud. Light American lagers are a bit bland, but that’s part of the reason they’re enjoyable. They’re simple, light, refreshing and easy drinking. They have their place, but they can get boring after awhile. Craft beer makes drinking an experience again, beyond just the effect alcohol plays in the fun.

Rather than just knowing that you like beer, you can try out a variety of styles and figure out what specifically you like about the beverage. Through that knowledge, you can find similar beers that showcase that characteristic specifically and discover other beers you’ll love. It sounds crazy, but once you have a firm foundation in craft beer experimentation, it’s really fun to try out new beers and talk about them. There’s way more to talk about than you might think.

The End

Well, that’s enough for now, go out and have yourself a beer. This post will be the first in a series introducing different facets of craft beer as a hobby. Be sure to let me know what you thought of the post or if you have any specific questions about beer in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Images and references courtesy of: Medical Bag, The Brewers Association, the L.A. Times, The Craft Beer Academy

True Craft Looks to Address the Changing Environment of Craft Beer

True Craft beer USA
Craft beer focuses on the workmanship and offering many styles of quality beer, and consumers love it

Craft Beer’s Rapid Growth in the U.S.

As craft beer continues to explode passed pre-prohibition levels, which we expanded beyond in 2015, there is growing outside interest in the business of craft beer. This attention isn’t coming from just the usual offenders of macro-breweries, private equity firms are also investing based on the prominence of emerging breweries.

This is without a doubt a double edged sword. Additional investments can provide crucial help to breweries struggling with rapid growth as they get over the hump and come closer to reaching their potential. Unfortunately, it can also dilute the breweries focus on the craft of beer and redirect it to investor returns. Similarly with macro-breweries, a purchase can greatly help a craft brewery extend their production and distribution, but can also stifle innovation in favor of increased revenue as macro brewery products’ sale stagnate.

craft beer brewers association 2015

The Brewers Association reports that even though overall beer sales are down in the U.S., craft beer sales grew to almost 13% of all sales in 2015. The big breweries out there are still the biggest game in town by far, but they’re seeing less of dominance year over year and want to appeal to the growing craft beer drinking demographic by diversifying their offerings.

Macro-breweries have been paying close attention to developments in craft beer for years and have snatched up quite a few to vary their revenue streams. As stated above, this could be seen as incredible aid for a a brewery facing immense growth. They could ramp up their production far ahead of schedule thanks to the funding, or even have some of their products brewed at one of the macro breweries state of the art facilities to ease their burden. But they might also have to deal with your new majority owner airing this on the world’s biggest stage for commercials.

Budweiser pumkin peach ale super bowl commercial
Well that escalated quickly…

Outside Investor Interest Could Hurt the Craft of Beer

As the craft beer industry becomes more prominent, it’s always tempting when an offer comes across the table. That offer could change a person’s life in more ways than one though. It comes up all the time with people working at growing craft breweries, the company’s focus feels as though it changes from the beer to the money. That can alienate the crowd a brewery most appealed to previously, but it could be necessary to stay in operation. Brewing is a business after all, but it’s one where the focus on quality beer creates a byproduct of revenue rather than the other way around. The purchase of Elysian and Dick Canwell’s retirement following the deal sums this situation up perfectly:

“In the past few months AB has treated me with consideration and seriousness, and they’ve presented me some pretty exciting future possibilities, should I be able to see my way clear to working for them. But I can’t. I am a craft brewer, past, present and future, no matter what I end up doing.”

Cantwell had one third ownership, was outvoted, and had the brewery he helped found swept away from him. “My concerns were never even considered as a factor of whether we should or shouldn’t. From the start it was me against everyone else,” he said in an interview following the deal. Greg Koch, the co-founder of renowned Stone Brewing Co. is looking to shake up the trend and give breweries struggling with their own growth a new option.

True Craft post-2
Greg Koch of True Craft and Stone Brewing Co.

True Craft is Offering Breweries Another Option

Koch has co-founded True Craft, a company handling $100 million in funding, with more to come, aimed at giving craft breweries the backing they need without forcing them to sacrifice their own goals and vision. The fund is uniquely positioned with their only interest being in making minority, non-controlling investments in breweries on the rise. It will enable faster growth for breweries trending upward without forcing them to make a choice between growth and innovation. Koch said it perfectly in his announcement about the new company:

“Some people start companies to sell out. Some start companies because they are compelled to follow their passion. True Craft is for the latter”

While he could have been a little more discrete in his disdain for the market trend of big breweries buying the little guys, I highly support what he’s doing. If your business was growing faster than you could support and AB-InBev floated you a deal, it would be worth at least considering. You’re already successful, why sacrifice a good thing to stay a craft brewery and put your whole company at risk? Now there’s another option. One that can help you fund growth but guarantees you remain in control. You might not get a tremendous ad campaign out of it, but the control and goodwill earned could make up for that. This is especially true now, in a time when consumers are becoming better informed about the many goings on in the industry.

Cheers Greg! Stone’s beer is killer and I love what you’re doing to guide the industry forward.

 

Images and quotes courtesy of The Washington Beer Blog, the Escondido Grapevine, The Brewers Association ,Visit California and USA Today

 

 

 

Zombie Dust Might be My Favorite Beer So Far

Zombie Dust - 5

We had an awesome patron of the brewery I work at bring us a gift the other day. He said that he’d been a fan of Upslope‘s beer since moving here and sees us as the best around. As a thanks, he offered us some of what he thinks of as the best beer from his home state of Indiana. That beer was Zombie Dust by 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and holy shit was he right.

3 Floyds Backs Up the Hype of Zombie Dust

Zombie Dust is one of those beers with a reputation that precedes it. Most everyone who is into beer at the level I am has probably heard of it, but not everyone has had the pleasure that I am now lucky to say I have.

Zombie Dust is the first beer that I’ve tried with crazy hype around it that’s managed to back it up. It’s just about exactly what I want in a beer and I now need some more of it because I only got 2 bottles and am saving one. Everyone’s palate is different and you’re free to disagree with me, but this is in the running for my favorite beer ever. I love Citra hops, I know that’s a crazy opinion, but this is the best showcase I’ve had from them and the body on it is perfect.

Maybe My Perfect Pale Ale, Thank You Citra Hops

The level of the body and malt character is exactly what I look for. Pales are getting paler, and Zombie Dust is just a little darker with a hint of red coloring. The bigger grain build helps the malt flavor stand out a little against the rush of hops. The malty sweetness is at a great level to complement the citrus notes that could easily take over this pale ale.

Zombie Dust is a little bitter at 60 IBUs, but that’s right in my sweet spot. Besides that, Citra hops aren’t about the bitterness. These hops are on fire right now and they’re hard to get.  This is probably one of the reasons 3 Floyds is only present in 5 states despite the demand, and Zombie Dust is all about them. I get a ton of grapefruit out of this, which I love, along with a refreshing hint of tangerine and a nice resinous quality.

We’ve got a great Citra Pale Ale on tap at Upslope that shares a good amount of these qualities, but it’s just a little bit lighter on the late addition hops and the malt character when compared with Zombie Dust. It’s almost the exact same abv, only .1% off of the 6.2% abv of 3 Floyds brew, but you can tell it was brewed to be a little bit of an easier drinking beer with a more universal appeal among our customers. I don’t disagree at all with our brewers as that beer has been a smash with our crowd and it’s great in it’s own right, but I do understand the hype behind Zombie Dust a little more now.

Thank you craft beer, and 3 Floyds Brewing Co. specifically this time!

It’ll be Great in My Estus Flask Next Week!

Zombie Dust -4

I’m not saving my other bottle of Zombie Dust for just any rainy day by the way. Look at that metal as shit label and tell me this beer won’t be amazing with my first play of Dark Souls 3 next week! What beer could be better suited for the chosen undead hollow?

Let me know what you think of the beer, my thoughts, or other bad ass beer art in the comments below!

Photo Credit to 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and From Software

Carlsberg is Making a Beer for the Release of Fallout 4

FalloutBeer-1

Carlsberg is teaming up with Bethesda, the makers of Fallout 4, to release a special beer in honor of the completion and release of Fallout 4 around the world.  It’s not common for two of my biggest passions, gaming and beer, to come together so directly. This is a pretty cool event to me.

Though it still strikes me as strange, Bethesda is based in Maryland, where I grew up, but this beer is only being released by Carlsberg in the U.K. This makes me think that is was Carlsberg’s idea that they approached Bethesda with, otherwise I feel like Bethesda would’ve found a way to get their promo beer to the states. Despite that, this news has been covered by a tremendous amount of American gaming news outlets even though no one in the U.S. can take advantage of the Amazon.co.uk listing, so there is obvious interest in the idea of game themed beer, why not right?

The beer itself also strikes me as an odd choice for the promo. Carlsberg is all fine and good, they have a huge following in the U.K., but with all of the recent developments in the beer industry, it doesn’t seem like they put much effort into the beer to appeal for any reason beyond the label. The amazon listing says this, “Fallout beer has been brewed using a unique blend of malted barley combined with selected hops…” Hooray! It’s beer, that’s all this description says. With an inspiration such as the Fallout game series, you’d think that they could have gotten a little bit more creative than just printing a new label for a slight departure for their flagship product, which is also a pilsner lager.

Later on the Amazon listing, it is described as having a “fruity aroma” and a “zesty hoppy flavor.” This gives me some hope for a creative brew, but not much. Carlsberg is almost entirely known for their flagship product, creatively titled “Carlsberg Beer,” they have a few other offerings including a cheap, high-gravity malt liquor and an export lager mostly known for the picture of the elephant on the label. Beer Advocate reviews describe the beer as a highly drinkable and universally appealing light lager without much flavor and with little risk. So, it’s kind of like Bud Light.

falloutbeer-2

The point that I’m getting at, albeit in a roundabout way, is that it is pretty cool that there is a Fallout themed beer, but it isn’t available in the states and that isn’t a bad thing. If you’re excited about Fallout and want to get a beer to commemorate its release, grab some interesting looking and creatively brewed craft beer from a local beer store. Hell, feel free to print out a Fallout label of your own and throw it on the bottle, they’re out there.

Don’t be bummed that the officially licensed Fallout Beer isn’t going to be available here in the U.S., choose a beer for the occasion of your own that was brewed with as much creativity as went into producing the game you’re so excited about. There are even a few out there that already have nuclear fallout themes…

Let me know what you think of the post in the comments below!

3 Functional Features You Should Look for in a Beer Glass

tulip glass craft beer

Craft Beer Glassware Has Been Proven to Enhance Your Drinking Experience

Craft beer is a growing rapidly in the U.S. and worldwide with over 15% of the beer market that has long been dominated by the macro breweries like Anheuser Busch and Miller-Coors. Along with the growth of America’s taste for craft beer, so has the appeal of glassware specifically designed to accentuate the flavor and aroma of your favorite beers. Many people think that beer specific glassware is all about the marketing, brands want you to be seen with a glass bearing their logo, that’s true in some circumstances. Pint glasses are incredibly popular because they’re cheap and durable, but they’re meant for water not beer. A ton of brands choose to brand pint glasses for the same reasons, but pint glasses have none of the glassware features that can enhance your drinking experience. Here’s a breakdown of the features that will optimize your beer drinking experience.

1. The Stem

Stems aren’t just for wine glasses! You wouldn’t believe how much heat is transferred from the palm of your hand into your beer when you’re using a pint glass, stem in glassware allow you to either hold the beer or the stem so you can mange its temperature accordingly. Stems don’t have to be dainty and impossibly thin glass components, they can be any part of a glass that narrows so that as much of your beer is protected from your hot hands as possible. This makes glasses with stems even more important fro summer day drinking.

2. The Bulb

The part of the above tulip glass that looks like a light bulb. It protects the flavor and the aroma of your brew and aims it right wear you want it. A bulb directs a beers signature aroma out of the center of the top of the glass right where your nose is while you drink so that fully experience its aroma. The narrow top of a bulb has been proven by Japanese researchers to catch ethanol vapor around the rim of the glass to keep it as part of the flavor and prevent it from interfering with the beers proper aroma. 

3. A Narrow Mouth

Head is an exceedingly important part of your beer, that’s why a perfect pour still has a healthy head on top. The head of a beer protects the flavor and aroma from air and oxygen after its been poured out of the bottle or can. A narrow mouth on a beer glass promotes the perfect head on every pour and helps to keep it around for longer after its initial pour. This keeps your beer tasting fresh for as long as possible, which is just great.
 
 These 3 simple features allow you to get the most out of every beer you drink, whether it’s Pliny the Elder or Miller High Life. And, despite all the benefits for your favorite beer, these glasses are barely more expensive than the branded pint glasses you were about to pick up and there’s actually functional reasons to spring for them. Most people don’t want to get a glass for every beer variety, and for most of us that isn’t at all necessary. A nice tulip glass will complement every beer variety with each of the features listed above. 
 
Keep you pint glasses for water and soda, but when you’re enjoying a beverage that real work and craftsmanship when into, get a glass that can handle the responsibility. Let me know what you think in the comments below!