Random Tag Tuesday: The Gamer Tag

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Random Tag Tuesday is a new feature I wanted to try out just to mix things up a bit.  The name is a throwback to my college days when Tuesdays were the day for, well, random adventures.  For my blog, it will mean that on any given Tuesday I’ll tackle one of the many tags I always wanted to write about but never got around to.  Please note that most of these will come from my backlog notes and that I am terrible about keeping track of where I find these. As such, I probably will rarely, if ever, tag anyone.  It is not personal.

My first tag in this series is one I show up on my blogroll a few weeks ago and couldn’t resist filling it out for fun.  I don’t think it’s fair to call myself a ‘gamer’ any more (life and other priorities have kind of gotten in the way of that), but I still have a certain fondness for video games that will never die.

Questions:

What is your all-time favorite video game?  I’m never good with these all-time favorite questions.  So many games have filled this spot for me at various points in my life.  Titles like Mega Man 3, Civilization IV, Medieval Total War II (Stainless Steel Mod), X-Wing, Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, Tekken 5, and Skyrim all come to mind as potential answers.  It’s too hard for me to separate them from their time and place for me to pick just one.

What is your current favorite video game? Skyrim.

What is your favorite video game genre? I’m partial to adventure, RPG, and strategy games.

How long have you been playing video games? 30+ years.  Wow that makes me feel old!

What’s the first game you ever played? I want to say Choplifter on PC.  I don’t know for sure it was the first, but it is one of the earliest releases I remember making an impression on me.  Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, Q-Bert, and Windows Solitaire are also in the running.

What game have you clocked the most hours into? It’s probably either Civilization II, Civilization IV, Medieval: Total War II, or Skyrim.  I have no way of knowing many hours I devoted to the first two and I am too afraid to look at my Steam stats to find out about the last two.

What’s your longest gaming session? About 14 hours.  I was maybe a couple of years out of college and really into Civilization IV.  I started playing one evening, one thing lead to another, and at around 3:30 AM I decided that I might as well just keep on playing until it was time to go to work.  Damn those Viking invasions!

Who is your favorite game developer?  I can’t say that I have one currently.  I do, however, have some very fond memories of many Konami and Lucas Arts releases.

Who is your favorite hero character from a game? Mega Man!

Who is your favorite villain? I’m bad at these favorite questions and can’t say that I have one.

Who is your most hated character of any game? The Cherubs from Toe Jam & Earl.  There’s probably a more worthy choice out there, but these guys were made to be annoying (and I still remember them 20 or so years later).  Lalalaaa…

What gaming systems do you own? PlayStation 3, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, and an “enhanced” NES Classic.  I suppose my desktop PC counts here as well. Most games these days I either play on my computer or the NES Classic.

What was your first game system? Original NES.  I got one for Christmas when I was probably 5 or so and was super into it all the way through college.

What’s your favorite gaming system and why? For game quality and practicality I’d say my PC.  For nostalgia I’d say NES.

Do you prefer to play guy characters, or girl characters? Depends on the game.  When its an option, I usually model characters after myself.  In a fighting game or something like that I go with whoever’s move list works best for me.

Have you ever been to a gaming convention? Technically no.  I’ve been to plenty of cons dedicated to steampunk, science-fiction, horror, baseball cards, or geekdom in general but none of them were video game specific.  I have gone to some of those dressed as Mega Man though!

What’s your best memory of a video game?  Going to an arcade for a friend’s birthday and four of us teaming up to beat the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game.  I’m sure I’ve done more impressive gaming-related things since, but it’s hard to beat that feeling of accomplishment as a kid.

What’s your worst memory of a video game? Any time a game crashed on me I guess.  From scrambled pixels to blue screens of death to scratched discs, I’ve seen it all over the years and it absolutely sucks to lose your place in a game due to technical difficulties.  Beyond that though, despite cursing at many a screen over the years, I can’t say that I associate anything truly bad with a video game.

Which video game character do you see yourself as, or if you had to be represented by a video game character, who would it be? You’d think I’d have an amazing, bad-ass answer to this one, but I’m not sure that I do.  Kind of an anti-climactic way to end this, but there you have it.

PS: Special shout out to all the folks I grabbed my images from.  Thank you!

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Game of Thrones: Brewery Ommegang – Fire and Blood

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And here we have my final Game of Thrones beer!  It seems only appropriate that I hung on to this beer until the very end, though in all honesty my uncertainty about drinking a pepper-based beer had something to do with that.  I won’t say a thing about the episode since I feel like a beer review isn’t an appropriate venue for spoilers, but I am quite ready to talk about the beer!

Beer Name: Fire and Blood

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)

Style: Red Ale with Ancho Chillies

ABV: 6.8%

Description: Long-time readers of the blog may recall that I got this bottle back at the end of 2017 as part of the same gift set that also contained the glass I’ve been using for these posts.  Named in honor of the House Targaryan motto and Dany’s three dragons (these were relatively happier times), this red ale stays true to its inspiration by featuring wheat flakes, rye, and de-seeded Ancho chili peppers to spice things up a bit.

Appearance: It poured a dark reddish-brown body that was topped by a thick layer of fluffy, light tan foam.

Smell: Sweet, with lightly toasted malt and a hint of hot pepper on the edge.

Taste: Light to moderate dark fruit sweetness upfront, followed by lingering notes of lightly toasted malt and rye.  There’s a clean yeasty presence at the end that nicely accentuates the slowly appearing spice from the chili peppers.  A very complementary blend of flavors overall.

Mouthfeel: Roughly medium bodied with slightly above average carbonation.

Hype: Same as usual I guess, though I did want to go out strong.  Personally I wasn’t very excited about this one going in since I’ve had some less than stellar experiences with hot pepper beers.

Overall: Despite my initial (and long-lasting) reservations, I actually quite enjoyed this. The peppers were definitely present in the beer, but they didn’t dominate the taste instead serving more to enhance the finish and “edges” of the sip.  I don’t know if my experience would have been any different had I drank this with less age on it, but as it was I picked a very nice beer to end the series with.

 

Idle Hands Craft Ales – Bluma

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Checking in from the better late than never department here at BeerRantsAndBooks headquarters, I enjoyed this next beer at the annual Idle Hands Maifest event two weekends ago.  It was an outdoor, all ages (at least until 6:00) happening that featured polka bands, food trucks, games, and, of course some great beer! Fortunately the rain held off that that day and the family was able to spend some much needed time outdoors for a couple of hours.

Beer Name: Bluma

Brewery: Idle Hands Craft Ales (Malden, MA)

Style: Maibock

ABV: 7.1%

Description: Listed here as a sweet, bready lager with some spicy herbal notes and citrusy hop finish.

Appearance: Poured to a cloudy light orange body with a thin, slightly off-white head.

Smell: Light blend of sweet and bready malts.

Taste: Some sweetness to start, followed by bready malts and very subtle notes of lager yeast.  The finish brought on mild hints spicy and floral hops that mingled nicely into the aforementioned malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

Hype: I figured this was would at least be something pretty solid to make it the star of the event.  It’s not really a style that people line up for, but this is also the kind of beer that Idle Hands typically nails.

Overall: I enjoyed this and found it to be a great beer for drinking outside in a festival atmosphere.  Nice clean malt profile and perhaps a little sneaky at 7%!

Game of Thrones: Trinity Brewhouse – Samwell Tartly

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With the penultimate episode now in behind us, it seems like a good time to lighten things up a bit (no pun intended).  I actually came across this next beer by complete chance while out with the family for Mother’s Day dinner.

Beer Name: Samwell Tartly

Brewery: Trinity Brewhouse (Providence, RI)

Style: Kettle Sour

ABV: 3.7%

Description: Kettle Sour brewed with raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.  Named, of course, for Samwell Tarly – the loveable Night’s Watchman and scholar.

Appearance: It arrived with a murky, red/dark grapefruit colored body with a thin line of white foam across the top.

Smell: Lightly tart with a very subtle funk on the end.

Taste: Very sweet with a tart berry background.  The berries definitely came through loud and clear and this one, with plenty of raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry on display.  There was a bit of cream and light funk in the background.

Mouthfeel: The body was a bit thicker than I thought it would be with a light bump of carbonation on the finish.

Hype: I had no idea this beer even existed until I saw the beer list.  Once I saw the the name I had to order it.

Overall: It good, though not something I was particularly excited by.  I’m not really into this style all that much anymore so I’m sure that plays a role here as well.  Light tasting with a huge berry presence, this would be very well suited to a sweltering hot day or on ice at the beach.

Book Review: The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin (Book Two in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy)

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Getting back into the reading side of things, the next series that I want to finish off this year is Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.  Published in 2008 (and translated to English in 2015), The Dark Forest is the sequel to Three Body Problem, an immensely popular Chinese hard science fiction novel that also just so happened to be runner up for my favorite sci-fi novel of last year.

The story begins about three years after the events that ended the previous the previous book.  Now aware that there are only 400 short years left before they are confronted by an invasion fleet from Trisolaris, the nations of Earth have begun coming together to dream of ways that humanity might survive the encounter.  There are no easy answers, however, as the Trisolarians possess vastly superior technology and already have some rather formidable advance forces in place on Earth. Desperate to develop any sort of defense, the United Nations and newly formed Planetary Defense Council nominate four prominent individuals, called Wallfacers, to secretly develop strategies for survival.  Granted unprecedented authority and resources, they are given nearly free reign to direct their projects. Though each is controversial in their own way, it is the shocking selection of a “cynical and irresponsible” astronomer/sociologist named Luo Ji that may ultimately make the greatest impact.

Like its predecessor, I found this book absolutely fascinating to read.  It takes its name from one particularly bleak interpretation of the Fermi Paradox and again leaves the reader with plenty to think about in regard to life, the universe, and, well, science.  The story moved along at a steady pace, switching between a variety of characters and locations as the story progressed. Particularly notable moments for me were seeing the Wallfacers confronted with the truth of their plans (which felt oddly reminiscent of a Bond villain’s reveal in reverse) and the palpable tension leading to humanity’s first encounter with a Trisolaran probe.  This latter event was probably my highlight of the book and even though it turned out more or less how I thought it would, I found this section riveting all the same. I’ll admit there were a couple of other plot points about which I had to try not to think too hard about, but on the whole the entire story was incredibly engaging.

I also found the scientific aspects of the story quite intriguing as well.  The first two thirds of the book focused on near-future tech and cutting-edge theory, presenting a very thought-provoking mix of ideas.  The ones I found most interesting were the space elevator and alternatives to consumable fuel about which I of course did some additional (non-required) reading.  The final third of the book, which thanks to the wonders of cryo-preservation, takes our main characters 200 years into the future, was equally intriguing. I don’t want to say too much, but here I found developments like nearly limitless, renewable power and having everything around you connected to a network fascinating concepts, though also a bit terrifying in the case of the latter idea.  Surely though, it will be the major advances in spaceflight that have the biggest impact going forward.

And finally, some thoughts on the characters.  The book had a deep, well developed cast that succeeded in putting a human face on all the ideas and theory discussed above.  Luo Ji, was easily my favorite of the main characters. Something about seeing such a brilliant yet disinterested person granted so much authority really entertained me, and it was most certainly noteworthy that he was also the only Wallfacer who actually succeeded at creating a (relatively) low-cost, viable plan that he was able to keep hidden across centuries.  I loved seeing him paired with bodyguard/kindred spirit Shi Qiang, another favorite of main and the only character from the previous novel to return in a regular role.  The dynamic between the two was incredibly entertaining and really brought a solid human element to the story. As for the other lead, Zhang Beihai, a political officer in the PLA Navy and eventual Space Force, he was in contrast a much more serious and determined individual, though he certainly had plenty of surprises in store for the reader as well.  I definitely found him much more interesting as the story went on.

I am now very eager to jump into book three and find out where this journey is taking us.  Since this installment actually ended on a somewhat positive note, I am really curious what the final chapter has in store for the beings of Earth and Trisolaris.  With a few big plot points potentially left on the table, namely the existence of other “hunters” and the rather ambiguous resolution to one of the other Wallfacer’s plans, I’m sure there is plenty of great story yet to come.

Game of Thrones: Brewery Ommegang – For the Throne

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Time again for my weekly post-Game of Thrones beverage review!  We’ve got another good one this week.

Beer Name: For the Throne

Brewery:  Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)

Style: Golden Strong Ale

ABV: 9.5%

Description: This golden strong ale was fermented with Pinot Grisio and Viognier grape juice and bottle conditioned with champagne yeast.  Read more here.

Appearance: Golden/amber-colored body with a thick white foamy head.

Smell: Sweet grapes with a dry white wine finish.

Taste: Mildly tart and crisp, with notes of grape, oak barrel, and white wine.  The finish has a peppery/floral yeast presence and is also quite dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with an elevated amount of carbonation.

Hype: I am still excited by these beers.  They’re a nice treat to enjoy alongside the final episodes of an excellent show.

Overall: I found this one to be quite enjoyable.  It drank like a golden ale/white wine hybrid and was very nice to take my time with throughout the length of the episode.

Aslin Beer Company – Pew Pew Pew

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Happy Star Wars Day and May the Fourth (and the Force) be with you!  I’d originally planned something a bit more epic for today, but an insanely busy work week made me have to put that idea on the shelf for next year.  Luckily I had a pretty epic beer to help save the day! I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a tangent, but it’s what I’ve got.

Beer Name: Pew Pew Pew

Brewery: Aslin Beer Company (Hendon, VA)

Style: Triple IPA

ABV: 12.8%

Description: According to the brewers, this huge triple IPA was brewed using “copious” amounts of their favorite hops: Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy.

Appearance: Served on draft, it arrived with a somewhat cloudy, golden/orange-amber body topped by a bubbly white head.

Smell: Sticky sweet, with some warm resiny bitterness on the end.

Taste: Huge pineapple/tropical fruit taste that blended smoothly into piney, resinous hops and a solid sweet malt base.  The finish had a bit of heat from the alcohol, but on the whole this was dangerously drinkable given the ABV.

Mouthfeel: Thick, creamy body with below-moderate carbonation.

Hype: Other than seeing a cool name and thinking I’ve heard good things about the brewery I did not know much of anything about this brew going in.

Overall: Loved this!  There was an excellent blend of sweetness between the fruity opening and steady malt base that combined perfectly with the not-quite aggressive bitterness.  Amazing balance going on here that made this way too easy to drink for such a potent beverage. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for this one (as well as anything else the brewery may have out my way).

Collective Arts Brewing & KEX Brewing – Origin of Darkness (with Vanilla, Icelandic Sea Salt, and Omnom Cocoa)

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Well the first beer from the Collective Arts collaboration series didn’t exactly turn out as planned (or maybe too much as planned).  We did, however, have a much better experience with this one though I for some reason again failed on getting a good picture.  Below is the label art from the brewery website.

Beer Name: Origin of Darkness

Brewery: Collective Arts Brewing (Hamilton, Ontario) & KEX Brewing (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.5%

Description: Part of a series of collaboration beers made with brewers from across the globe, this time Collective Arts paired with KEX Brewing from Iceland.  This variant of their storied stout was aged in Bourbon barrel along with Icelandic cocao nibs, sea salt, vanilla, and lactose.

Appearance: It poured a thick black body topped by a foamy tan head.

Smell: Sweet malt upfront, followed by hints of cocoa and vanilla.

Taste: Started out with rich, creamy sweet malts taste with some distinct chocolate notes.  This was followed by bittersweet cocoa with hints of vanilla and sea salt lurking on the periphery.  Mild to moderate bit of heat on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Thick, smooth body with low carbonation.

Hype: We picked this up on account of some eye-catching bottle art and really delicious sounding mix of ingredients.  Full disclosure we drank this before the truffle beer so we went into this one pretty carefree.

Overall: I liked this a lot.  The base stout very good and the additional ingredients were used to good effect to enhance rather than dominate the brew.  

Collective Arts Brewing & Moon Dog Craft Brewery – Origin of Darkness (Black Truffles)

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It’s my wife’s birthday today and to help celebrate the occasion she gets the honor of writing the first guest review to appear on my blog!  I made a few edits here and there to translate her thoughts into my posting format, but otherwise the tasting notes below are entirely hers. In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself gave up on this beer after the first sip, but she powered on through it and at the end of the glass insisted that I tell the people.  This one’s for her!  Note, I gave up on this one before even snapping a pic, so here’s the bottle art I found on the brewery website: 

Beer Name: Origin of Darkness

Brewery: Collective Arts Brewing (Hamilton, Ontario) and Moon Dog Craft Brewery (Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia)

Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout w/ Black Truffles            

ABV: 11.5%

Description: Part of an ongoing series of collaboration brews Collective Arts has running with breweries across the world.  For this release they paired with Moon Dog Craft Brewery and found inspiration from Australian cuisine, opting to age their Origin of Darkness Stout in bourbon barrels along with black truffles.  More details are here.

Appearance: Dark like the night with little head.

Smell: It reeks of earthy black truffles.

Taste: If you gulp past the initial rush of mushrooms, all you taste is a lovely sweet bourbon barrel stout.  The moment you finish the sip peel your lips away from the glass, however, that all-consuming earthy, mushroom-tastic presence returns at full force.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and smooth.

Hype: No idea.

Overall: Drinkable*. Stinky. If you hate mushrooms, you will hate this. If you like mushrooms but hate stinky things, avoid this. If you are passionate in your love for all things truffle, devour this.

*Note: “Drinkable” is used here in a much more literal sense than how I typically apply the term.  I typically use it to mean relaxing and easy, though here she means only that the beer is capable of being drunk.

And there you have it, the first ever BeerRantsAndBooks guest review!  Again, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with this beer after finding the HUGE truffle completely overwhelming before I even managed my first sip, so congrats to my wife for taking one for the team to prepare this.  I’ll have something tastier to share with you all next time (I hope).

Game of Thrones: Brewery Ommegang – Hand of the Queen

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It’s taking everything I have right now to not talk about that episode, but no matter how much this big, bold brew may have loosened my tongue you won’t see any spoilers from me.  On to the beer!

That’s what I do. I drink and I know things. – Tyrion Lannister

Beer Name: Hand of the Queen

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)

Style: Barleywine

ABV: 11.0%

Description: Brewed in honor of Tyrion Lannister, a man who loves his wine and has no shortage of witty quotes about his fondness of drink – along with some other things we won’t get into here.  This barleywine was brewed to balance light sweetness and a large amount of heat, as the brewers so eloquently discuss here.

Appearance: Poured to a reddish-brown body with a thick head of light tan foam.

Smell: Huge nose of candy/caramel yeast with warming alcohol in back.

Taste: Huge, rich caramel malts upfront followed by notes of toffee and a sweet dark fruits.  It picked up a heavy alcohol presence towards the finish that left a pleasant, warming aftertaste following the sip.

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus body with low carbonation.

Hype: I was particularly excited about this beer.  Not only was it named in honor of one of my favorite characters, but it is also a style that usually manages to intrigue me.  

Overall: This beer did not disappoint.  I loved the interplay of rich sweetness and heavy alcohol presence.  Definitely something I’d want a supply of up in Winterfell!