Bits and Brews 020: Bolero Snort SVB and Thomas Was Alone

Welcome welcome once again to your monthly pairing of craft beer and video games. It’s February, and because of global warming, (not a hoax #realnews), spring is in the air. As strange as it may be to wear shorts in the North East this time of year, the change in weather brings about a change in desired drinking styles. 60 and 70 degree days call for something a bit lighter than typical winter Stouts and Porters, and Bolero Snort has just the beer. So blown away was I by this beer that I had to write about it this month. Finding a game that matched though, was a challenging task. Normally this comes pretty easy to me; I drink a beer and it makes me think of a game. This time, the game pairing changed a few times until my #smokinhotwife suggested Thomas Was Alone. She could not have been any more right. Without further ado, I humbly present to you Bolero Snort SVB and Thomas Was Alone.

Bolero Snort from Ridgefield Park New Jersey is a gypsy brewer. That means that all of their beers are brewed at other breweries around the state. This allows Bolero Snort to be creative and to take more risks than a traditional brewery. They are known for making some truly delicious beers, and their latest limited release, SVB, might be their best yet. SVB is a strawberry cream pop IPA. Basically, that means it’s an IPA brewed with lactose (milk sugar) for added sweetness and creaminess plus, as they put it, a shit ton of strawberry puree, and then finished with Madagascar vanilla beans. Milkshake IPA’s are a trend right now and this beer fits into that category. Instead of the usual bitterness and dankness of a traditional IPA, these NE style IPAs are juicy and creamy. They are thicker than traditional IPAs as well, which I suppose is what we really mean when we say creamy. The juiciness hits you right up front. Cracking one of these cans is like breathing in from a palette of fresh strawberries. There are some other fruits there as well along with a bit of sweetness from the malt bill and a bit of pine/grass. The taste is big, sweet strawberry like the nose with sweetness from the lactose and just enough bitter to balance the whole thing out. It’s chewy for an IPA, but still dangerously drinkable.

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like this beer as I am still not an IPA first guy. I assumed it would be a neat gimmick and that I would move on to other beers. After having that first can though, I immediately scoured the South Jersey area to find more four packs. I made sure to get enough to share with others. This is the type of beer that is so much more than what it appears to be. Each time I’ve had another can I found myself falling deeper down its particular rabbit hole; finding new things to enjoy about it. It is the rare example of novelty, complexity, and approachability all working together to make one hell of an experience. Certainly easier to get on the East Coast, Milkshake IPAs are something to seek out. If you cannot grab SVB then keep an eye out for OVB also from Bolero Snort. (think orange creamsicle) Other examples: “Milkshake” IPA from Tired Hands, Limesicle Milkshake Ale from Urban Family, Tree Frog IPA from Crown, Wizard Fight from Corridor

Originally released as a flash based browser game in 2010, Thomas Was Alone is an indie platformer developed by Mike Bithell. The game was later ported to Windows, OS X, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and Linux. It’s a game that I skipped when it first came out because it looked a bit too gimmicky. I could not have been more wrong. The story of the game is told through the perspective of an omniscient narrator, played by Danny Wallace (who won a BAFTA for his performance). In the game you control polygonal shapes, rectangles and squares of various sizes, each with their own distinct personalities. The shapes are part of a computer A.I. that has suddenly gained sentience. Your goal is to get from point A to point B using the unique shapes and abilities of the polygons to escape out into the world. Some, like Sarah, a purple rectangle, can double jump. Others, like Claire, can float in water. The game is broken down into ten chapters, each with ten levels. It is one of the most charming games that I have ever played. The amount of character given to each of the shapes is simply astonishing. David Wallace’s performance is quirky and dry in exactly the right “British” kind of way (think Douglass Adams’ reading of Hitchhiker) and the script itself is very funny. I found myself caring, a lot, about these little shapes and their motivations. Claire, after discovering she can float, decides to be a superhero and help her friends. Thomas, who is just about average in every other way, is a fantastic leader and motivator. James, a green polygon with a disregard for “Newtonian Laws” (he falls up), gets over his fear of being bullied for being different and helps out his new friends. The sheer amount of pathos packed into this game is just remarkable. The story of getting out, of accomplishing a goal with your friends, resonates with just about anyone. There is depth on the level of any 80-hour RPG contained in no more than a few hours. You will care about these characters. You will want them to get to their goals. You will love this game. This is the type of game you will beg people to play because you know if they give it a chance, they will find something much deeper than a platform/puzzle game with shapes. I go back to this game every so often and am continuously amazed at the novelty, complexity, and approachability packed in this game.

So why these two together? Because on the surface both beer and game seem to be a bit of a gimmick. Underneath that gimmick though, is gold. SVB and Thomas Was Alone reward the user for being adventurous, for giving something quirky a chance. They both offer a deep, compelling experience wrapped in an easy to get into shell. Both are well worth the time and energy spent acquiring and enjoying them. So grab a can and a copy and have yourself a time. Make sure to follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, and to like and share this article. Check back next month when a certain American Red meets a certain Japanese Knight. Prost!

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