Bits and Brews 016: Sorachi Ace & Katamari Damacy

Welcome welcome once again to your monthly pairing of craft beer and video games. This month we turn our attention to the hippest borough of NYC and one of the quirkiest games this side of the cosmos. So crack a bottle and fire up your PS2 as we take a look at Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace and Namco's Katamari Damacy.

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Sorachi Ace is one of, in this writer's opinion anyway, Brooklyn's best beers. For a company like Brooklyn, one of the older kids in the craft beer scene, identity is extremely important. New breweries can open up with a ton of flash and marketing and a tropical IPA and be a relative success. They have the luxury of newness and a lack of association. Brooklyn on the other hand has been around for quite awhile. (the 80's, I know right?!) When Brooklyn first started brewing in 1987, the craft beer scene was tiny. They established themselves with their flagship lager and grew their business from there. With the promotion of Garret Oliver to brewmaster in 1994, their portfolio began to change. They moved away from "safe" beers and began to experiment with newer ideas. Now, new ideas in beer are really a misnomer as there are only so many things one can do with hops, water, grain, and yeast. (plus adjuncts, but you see my point) Oliver had a passion for traditional Farmhouse style Saisons and looked to bring them to the Brooklyn family. Hence, Sorachi Ace. What makes this such a stand out beer is the singular focus of the Sorachi Ace hop. It was originally developed in Japan for use in Sapporo and has never really caught on much outside of that, which is quite a shame. It is a unique hop in that in addition to having the peppery bite of traditional Czech and English hops, also has notes of pear and dill. That may seem weird, pickle beer sounds downright awful, but it totally works in this application. Blended with the other hops, grains, and yeast, the result is a beer that starts with an earthy, spicy, lemongrass presentation and morphs into a dry, crackery citrus thing with an underlying dill note. It all works very well together and serves to highlight the uniqueness of the Sorachi Ace hop. In addition to pairing well with Katamari Damacy, it is a wonderful beer to pair with food as it goes well with just about everything that isn't dessert. I cannot recommend this beer more highly. It can be found in both bombers and in 4-packs, and is totally worth a permanent spot in your fridge.

Katamari Damacy is unlike any other video game you have or will ever play. Keita Takahashi developed the idea for Katamari in college and finished the final game with nine other people for less than a million dollars. Which, sure, is a lot of money, but in video game terms, is basically designing on the smallest of budgets. The idea was to focus on fun, humor, ease of use, and novelty. At one point during development Namco, the publisher, strongly suggested that Takahashi make the game more complex, an edict he thankfully ignored. Katamari works because it is so singularly focused on its core mechanic, rolling stuff into a ball. For those unfamiliar with the game, you, as the diminutive Prince of all Cosmos, need to roll a bunch of stuff (pencils/bugs/people/trees/islands) into a ball so that your father, the KING OF ALL COSMOS, can turn it into a star. You see, the stars are all gone because the King and someone we can only assume was deemed worthy of his royal junk destroyed all of the stars in the sky by doing... IT. All over. Hard. Fast. Sexy. The King tells us this through some truly hilarious in-game dialogue. He tasks the player with rolling up items from the earth and growing a bigger and bigger Katamari. The bigger your Katamari, the more stuff you can stick to it. Eventually, you are given enough in game time to roll a Katamari so large that there is literally nothing left on Earth to roll up. The controls are super simple. You push the two analog sticks in the direction you want to move. There are quick turns and the ability to jump super high to look around but basically, it's push and go. There is an insane amount of charm to this title. It spawned a number of sequels for both consoles and touch screen devices but it is the original that really captures the unique gameplay best. It is a worthy addition to any game collection and an absolute joy to play.

So why these two together? Because of focus. Sorachi Ace and Katamari Damacy are incredible examples of a singular idea presented in its best light. The unique hop, unlike any other, gives the beer an identity all its own. The rolling mechanic, simply elegant in its design, gives the game an identity all its own. By pairing these two together you can experience the dedication of vision and devotion to a particular idea. Sometimes, that singlemindedness turns out a product that few can love. Here though, both the beer and the game are accessible to all. And that, in my opinion, is the point. The experiences we seek out should be things we can share with the world. These two are wonderful examples of "off-the-beaten-path" choices that everyone can love. So find yourself a four pack and a PS2 and enjoy. Make sure to follow me on twitter, @geekadedan, or check us out on Facebook and let me know what you think about this pairing. And don't forget to check back next month as I pair a bunch of pumpkin beers with a bunch of "scary" games. Until then...