Welcome, welcome once again to your monthly pairing of craft beer and video games. This month, as we continue our journey through New Jersey craft beer and video games, I’m struck by the simplicity in the offerings. Often times when looking at consumables, we look for the fresh, the new, the gimmick. We look at familiar things done in a new way. We look, quite frankly in spite of our best interests at times, for innovation. And while innovation in and of itself is not a bad thing, and often times bring about amazing products, sometimes a return to form is what’s needed. And the pairing this month has that in spades. Without further ado I humbly present to you Carton Unjunct and Mega Man 9.
Started by cousins Chris and Augie Carton, Carton Brewing Company is among the conversation for best breweries in New Jersey, if not at the top of that list. They have been around since 2011, and Carton has made their name making top-of-the-line brews that hit all manner of styles. No matter their category, Carton beers are always flavorful and crafted with the utmost attention to detail. There is no doubt the Carton boys know their stuff. It is that attention to detail that makes this month’s featured beer, Unjunct Stout, so damn remarkable. Imagine if you will (cue Rod Serling voice), a stout brewed without any additional components. A stout that doesn’t feature any coffee, chocolate, vanilla, barrel aging, peppers, or any of the other crazy shit brewers are adding to their stouts. (not that those are bad, mind you…) Imagine a stout that is brewed using grains, hops, yeast, and water only. A stout that is back to basics. I humbly submit to you that you will not find a finer stout than Unjunct. This beer pours dark black with a thick, creamy beige head that sticks around for quite a bit. In terms of picture perfect beers, this is CIndy Crawford. (look her up if you don’t know) Smelling this beer is simply awesome. A ton of complexity peeks through that head hitting you with dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, dark bread, alcohol sweetness, and roasted malts. The taste follows through on that promise with a bunch of coffee and chocolate up front followed by those sweet roasty malts, vanilla, and hop balance swimming through your palate. It’s amazing that so many flavors are detectable without any adjunct additions. By getting rid of the adjuncts, this beer is able to shine through in a way only achievable by the most talented of brewers. I love this beer immensely and relish in its unabashed boldness to take on the the norm. Give this beer a shot if you happen across it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Other notables: Rogue Shakespeare Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin, Founders Imperial Stout
The original Mega Man series has been featured here before, clicky right here, and honestly, I was a bit hesitant to feature that series again. My original choice for this pairing was the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. That game is quite amazing and would have fit here pretty well but after some discussion with my co-host on the Stone Age Gamer podcast, the relatively sexy Kris Randazzo, I decided that Mega Man 9 was the better fit. Because Mega Man 9 was a game that took what had become somewhat of an afterthought and brought it back to prominence by one simple design choice, back to basics. The Mega Man series has long been one to add, add, add. The slide, Rush the dog, the charge shot, cinematic cutscenes, voice acting, more power ups, more crazy stuff, a Hadouken (in the X series anyway), always more. Not Mega Man 9 though. Released in 2008 from Capcom and Inti Creates, MM9 returned the series to its core. Gone was the unneeded fluff the series had become so full of, even the stuff many thought were overall improvements like slide! What remained was pure Mega Man gaming at its finest. MM9 is hard, the way Mega Man used to be. It is never unfair; it is always pushing you to be your best. The overall feeling of the game was clearly designed to be #retro down to the “cover art”. (can’t really have cover art on a digital release but you get the idea) The level design in this game is some of the best in the series. The music is spot on, classic Mega Man. The robot masters are a return to form for the series after some of the more questionable choices, (Clown Man, anyone?), and even include the very first female robot master, Splash Woman. I wasn’t ready for this game when it came out because modern games have made me soft. This is old school cool though, and well worth your time and money.
So why these two together? The answer is simplicity and a back to basics approach. Unjunct and Mega Man 9 both ignore modernity in favor of what has always worked. Eschewing the trappings of modern expectations for a more grounded, dare I say classic, approach worked wonders for these two products. In pairing them together you have the chance to experience what a more simple life could be. The advancements in technology/taste both in the world of beer and video games have given all of us some truly amazing moments. But, those moments are only amazing because of what has come before. An appreciation for those steps already taken only serves to enhance the overall enjoyment of the things we choose to pursue. So raise a glass and pick up a controller and enjoy a brief glimpse into the journey that has lead us to the now. But be warned, pairing a tough as balls game with a high ABV stout won’t end particularly well. To be fair, you won’t care much…
So there it is. Another month, another pairing. Make sure to follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, for lots of beer and lots of bullshit. Like and share this post. Send me your comments and suggestions. And don’t forget to check back next month for another pairing of craft beer and video games. Prost!