Bits & Brews 002: Jai Alai & Super Street Fighter II HD Remix
Cigar City Jai Alai: India Pale Ale, available year round in cans and on draft
Super Street Fighter II: Super Turbo HD Remix: 1994, Arcade, 3DO, Dreamcast, Playstation, Saturn, PS2, Gameboy Advance
Cigar City Jai Alai is an award winning IPA brewed in Tampa, FL. Joey Redner, owner of Cigar City, and Wayne Wambles, head brewer at Cigar City, won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009 in the IPA category, possibly the most contentious category and the most highly coveted. What made the win that much more impressive is that they did so after being open for about ten months. It’s a testament to the skill of the people involved and the passion they have for their craft. Cigar City has since gone on to create some of the highest ranking beers according to sites like Rate Beer and Beer Advocate and has continued to garner acclaim for their diverse, yet approachable beer lineup. For many, a beer like Jai Alai may be the first or only IPA they have liked.
The beer itself is a beautiful, bright, crisp beer with tons and tons of citrus and tropical fruits in the aroma and taste. Being an IPA , or India Pale Ale for those of you that may not know, there is also plenty of bitterness in each sip. (IPAs were originally brewed with a massive amount of hops to preserve the beer on its journey from England to India) But, what Jai Alai never does is go off the rails in either direction. The malt component of the beer gives each sip a sweetness as well as a bready quality that plays very well with the fruits and bitterness. It goes well with food of all types and meshes with all types of weather. It is an all around great beer that hop heads love just as much as the stout/porter crowd.
Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, released in November of 2008, is the definitive version of Street Fighter II. Essentially, HD Remix is the previously Japan only Super Street Fighter II Turbo X for Matchmaking Service for Dreamcast rebalanced and redrawn. (You know… Remixed…) The artwork in this game is gorgeous. UDON Entertainment, makers of the SFII comics, took the original 224 pixel sprites and redrew them as beautiful, 1080 masterpieces. The game is so fantastically fluid, the movements, the animations, the backgrounds, it’s like taking control of a Disney drawn martial arts anime. The work done to balance the game, already pretty well balanced through previous versions, even further was welcome and further cemented SFII as one of the premiere fighting games in the world.
The base game, the original Street Fighter II, took a great but ultimately broken idea, Street Fighter, and made it intuitive, diverse, likable, and most importantly, playable. (Seriously, go back and play Street Fighter if you can. You think you know what you’re doing because you’ve played SFII, you know how to throw a fireball. Well guess what, you DON’T. Because you CAN’T. Because IT SUCKS… a lot. It’s awful. Never mind, don’t play it. Don’t do that to yourself.) SFII is still competitively played to this day because of the foundational balance of the fighting system and characters. Every play-style is accounted for, offensive vs defensive, up-close vs distance, etc., and there is a character for everyone to get behind. It’s that diversity that set SFII apart. That blending of cultures and styles and aesthetics from all over the globe that made people plunk down their quarters or gather at a friend’s house for hours and hours.
So then, why these two together? If done right, a beer should be a delicate balance of many different elements. The hops can be provide bitterness, as well as floral, fruit, herbal, citrus, and pine qualities. The different types of malts can provide sweetness, bread, biscuit, cracker, caramel, toffee, coffee, and chocolate notes. The yeast can give off esters of banana, or pepper, or spices, or fruit. And that’s all before the additives that are so popular in craft beer, berries, chocolate, vanilla beans, coconut, coffee, oysters, wood, different spirits like bourbon or tequila, the list really is endless. It takes a careful hand to take all of the disparate elements and balance them into something palatable, not to mention desirable. Jai Alai IPA achieves a balance that few IPA’s can contend with. It takes the qualities of the hops, in this case very tropical and citrusy, and balances them with just the right amount of bitter and sweet to make something way too easy drinking for it’s 7.5% ABV. It’s a beer that each time you sip, you appreciate how well everything works together. Much the same way as with SFII, each time you play you appreciate the balance inherent in the game’s fighting system. There are ways to counter the guy who only spams fireballs; ways to get distance from the guy who is only looking to land the Raging Demon Fist. Their balance is what makes them special. It gives you, the player and the drinker, the ability to pick apart and appreciate all the little things that make each experience so enjoyable. When that balance is left of center, it’s easy to tell. The list of average to below average IPAs and fighting games is long. Their relative lack of quality can turn you away from an entire genre of experience. But, when you find that one, that one that hits the proper chord, you are converted; you are changed.
So the next time you fire up Street Fighter II grab a can, or case, of Jai Alai and experience balance.