Welcome welcome once again to your monthly pairing of craft beer and video games. For the 2017 version of Bits and Brews I decided to take an already relatively obtuse concept and make it even more challenging; pair a local New Jersey brewery with a game. I want to take this year to highlight the awesome brews coming from my beloved Garden State. “But Mr. Ryan,” I hear you say. “What if I am one of those poor unfortunates who happens to live in a place not in New Jersey? What do I do then?” I hear you also say. Well, it’s a long story. Come closer, and I’ll tell you. If you aren’t in Jersey and cannot get one of the beers featured here I’ll make sure to include a more widely available beer as well. So without further ado, we begin this month’s chapter with Dark City Bond Street Brownie and Rare’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Dark City Brewing opened in Asbury Park, NJ in 2016. Arguably their flagship brew, Bond Street Brownie is their American Brown Ale. Brown Ales were a traditional British style of beer brewed as far back as the 1700’s. Browns were made with all brown malts, giving them a caramelly, chocolatey character. They were often on the sweeter side of beers and relatively low in alcohol. Variations on the Brown ranged in terms of dryness or sweetness but they remained distinctly English. Until that is, American homebrewers started brewing up their versions. Being an American style beer means hops. We love our hops in America and seeing “American” in front of a style means there will be some hop notes present. Dark City is no different and has created a lovely American Brown. This beer hits all of the expected notes of a Brown Ale with roasty malt sweetness, some coffee, chocolate, toast, and caramel with a touch of citrus bitterness that balances the beer really well. Clocking in at 5.1% ABV it drinks incredibly easy with good carbonation and a medium mouthfeel. Overall this has become one of my favorite Brown Ales and is a go-to when looking for a good beer to have on any given night. Four pack cans are available at various locations throughout the state and at the brewery. If you see it, grab it without hesitation.
Founded in 1985, Rare is perhaps the most well-known of British game developers. Operating for a large chunk of their career as a second party developer for Nintendo, Rare was responsible for some of my favorite games on Nintendo’s various consoles. I played a ton of R.C. Pro-Am, Wizards & Warriors, Goldeneye, Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, and of course Killer Instinct. But it was a game about a squirrel that I really loved. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was basically Rare’s way of saying “Fuck You” to critics and pundits. The game was originally going to be family friendly in the vein of some of their other well known titles such as Donkey Kong 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. Early previews of the game did not engender favorable reviews so Rare retooled and took Conker down a more mature, more satirical path. From the opening homage to A Clockwork Orange to the battle against the Great, Mighty Poo (featuring what may be the greatest boss fight song of all time) Conker was a giant middle finger to the critics. And it worked. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was well received by gamers and critics alike, and is remembered as one of the best games on the N64. Despite low sales (partially thanks to it releasing at the end of the N64’s life cycle) Conker has endured. It is very smart, very funny, and very British. If you’ve never played this game, do yourself a favor and find a copy. It has since been re-released on Xbox Live and as part of the Rare Replay collection for Xbox One.
So why these two together? Both Bond Street Brownie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day are beautiful examples of taking something traditional, and British, and giving it an American spin. Make no mistake, we here in the states have a tendency to be ‘Murica most of the time. As a nation of immigrants we take things from other cultures and adapt them to our sensibilities. Those sensibilities tend to be bigger, brasher, and a bit harsher with the language. American versions of traditional beer styles and edgy, explicit games are nothing new, and doing things with an American slant on them is nothing new. Mashing them together for a night in with good friends is a recipe for good times. So grab a four pack and an N64 and enjoy your red-blooded American values to their fullest extent. Make sure to give this post a share and to follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, for more beer, more video games, and pictures of my kids being awesome. Check back next month as we take a look at another New Jersey beer and its craft beer counterpart. Prost!
Other available Brown Ales: Brooklyn Brown, Samuel Smith Brown, Palo Santo Marron, Hazelnut Brown Nectar