Welcome welcome once again to your monthly pairing of New Jersey craft beer and video games. This month we take a trip to the weirder side of New Jersey. A side steeped in stories of the Jersey Devil, of haunted attractions, and the strangeness of the shore. It’s a journey enjoyed with friends, much like video games. There’s a bit of nostalgia thrown in as well. So without further ado, we pair Pocket Trick and TMNT: The Arcade game.
Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Company in Cherry Hill NJ is a brewery dedicated to the weird, the offbeat, and the well, forgotten. One of the great things about New Jersey is just how delightfully weird it is. For a state that is on the smallish side, about two hours from tip to toes, the diversity in culture and life in general, is frankly staggering. We are home to absolutely everyone and everything. Being home to that much diversity has given us a wide variety or interesting stories locales in which they take place. And one of the signature locales is the boardwalk. Almost no one growing up in New Jersey has missed out on the Jersey Shore. And I’m talking about the real Jersey Shore. Not some TV bullshit that quite frankly was more indicative of Staten Island and phony New Yorkers than anything else, but the Jersey Shore that was made up of boardwalks and arcades, funnel cakes and rides, late nights and strange tales. It is in those strange tales that brewery owner Jaime Queli and head brewer, David Bronstein, find their inspiration. Each beer is named after some piece of Jersey lore. When Queli went to open the brewery she said that she wanted the brewery to be more than just the beer but to be an experience. If you ever visit the place you’ll find bright colors, funhouse mirrors, and skeeball.
As for the beer itself, Pocket Trick is their take on an Imperial or Double IPA. As the name implies Pocket Trick is not like every other IIPA. (a pocket trick is traditionally thought of as misdirection in a magic trick that usually ended up with tourists missing their wallets) This beer pours a darker golden color with a slightly red hue. It is certainly darker than other IIPA’s and IPA’s in general. It smells like peaches and mangoes with a bit of burnt brown sugar from the malt. The taste follows through on the nose with the ripe stone fruits, bready malt, and some sticky hops. It’s not super bitter nor is it super piney like a lot of double IPA’s tend to be. The pine notes and the bitterness are just where they need to be to make this beer dangerously drinkable. It masks it 8.5% ABV very well and reminds me of Nugget Nectar from Troegs in that you are so completely blindsided that you can’t get up after you’ve had a few. It’s crushable and a perfect summer beer. I like a lot of the beer that Forgotten Boardwalk puts out. Funnel Cake is an awesome Cream Ale, Free Parking is a great Pilsner, and Directory for Gentlemen is a super underrated Saison brewed with Chai Tea. Pocket Trick though is, in my opinion, their best. Others like it: 90 Minute IPA, Hopslam, Hop Stoopid, Double Jack
Back in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, arcades were all the rage. Every mall had one. Every piece place had a game or two. Most diners, another fabulous part of New Jersey, had a few as well. They were everywhere. And it wasn’t until home consoles were able to replicate arcade graphics with a certain amount of fidelity that they began to die. Sure, you might find a game here or there now or maybe even an actual arcade. But it’s not the same. Not even close. And it was in 1989 that we were graced with one of the greatest arcade experiences ever imaginable, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles four player arcade game.
TMNT was a side scrolling beat ’em up, a genre I have professed my love for many times on the Stone Age Gamer podcast. (right here on geekade.com) The game let you select one of the four turtles to play as with Donatello clearly being the best of the four. (followed by Leo, Mike, and Raph in that order. Fuck short range weapons) The game consisted of walking to the right, beating the hell out of Foot Clan ninjas, and getting to a boss fight. If you spent enough money and time you would eventually get to the final battle with Shredder. It was repetitive but oh so much fun. The game was so bright and colorful. To our young eyes it looked just like the cartoon. (it didn’t) The four player aspect made it that much cooler. There were countless time where I would be playing the game, usually at one of the arcades on Morey’s Pier in Wildwood NJ, with my cousin and two random kids would walk up and join us. It was a quarter muncher that was quite difficult and balanced way to the side of the bad guys but it didn’t matter. Turtle mania was real and there was no stopping us from playing all day. The NES port did a decent enough job bringing the experience home but it never quite matched up. It’s one of the first games I emulated on a PC in college and even though it was years later, it was just as much fun as it had been back in the day. It enjoyed a renewed spike in popularity due to its release on the Xbox 360 arcade but has since been pulled back down. Hopefully we get another release at some point. It’s too much fun to ignore.
So why these two together? Because both beer and game invite exploration and provide just the right amount of weird into your day. Look, let’s be honest, the idea behind the TMNT is insane. The fact that it started as a very violent comic book and then became a day-glo cartoon for kids is even stranger still. It’s weird in the best ways though like Forgotten Boardwalk. Their beers are based on weird ideas and stories. But they invite you to explore those stories. Each can the brewery puts out has the story behind the name printed on it. Reading through those stories one can’t help but be curious. Much like when we all found out the turtles were based on some violent black and white comic. We had to know. Taken together, you have two weird, curious stories that simply must be discovered. So grab a six pack and a copy of M.A.M.E., or the NES port, and explore your curiosity. Better yet, head down to the Jersey shore. I’m positive there’s a machine still there somewhere. Maybe somewhere off the beaten path. Maybe somewhere forgotten…