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Dr. Greg Zeschuk matches genre to gravity with video game beer pairings

Jordan Mallory

For those of us older than our local legal drinking age, playing the right game with the right beer is a pretty difficult combination to beat. Finding the most correct pairing of game and brew, however, can be more difficult than it might seem at first blush.

That's why we've asked BioWare co-founder and artisan beer aficionado Dr. Greg Zeschuk for his advice on the most appropriate beer/genre pairings. Having left the video gaming industry last September after 20 years at the helm of such games as Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins, Zeschuk has since dedicated his time to telling the story of America's flourishing craft beer scene, and the passionate people that make it what it is.

The result of his efforts, a documentary webseries called The Beer Diaries, premiered its first episode at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse earlier this week. We caught up with Dr. Zeschuk that morning to talk about, among other things, pairing beer with games.

"I think that's probably an IPA," Zeschuk informed us. "They've got some depth, and they've got some bite, and you want a slightly complex but very forward beer for an Action RPG."

An IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a subset of pale ales characterized by their complex, somewhat overpowering hop-infused flavor. Not recommended for delicate dishes or seafood, IPAs typically range from five to eight percent alcohol by volume and are usually accompanied by a malty nose and bitter finish.

Dr Greg Zeschuk matches genre to gravity with video game beer pairings
"Oh, that's got to be a real contemplative one," Zeschuk said. "I think that'd be a sipper, so probably the biggest sipper type of beer is a barleywine. You sit back in your velvet jacket and sip your barleywine and play a point and click adventure."

Despite its name, barleywine is still a type of beer, as it's made from grain and not fruit. The "wine" moniker comes from the drink's alcohol content, which is typically eight to 12 percent by volume, and therefore on par with some wines. Non-aged American barleywine tends to be aggressively bitter, as a tremendous amount of hops are often added to balance the sweetness produced by the brewing process. Barleywine that has been cellared for one or two years, on the other hand, is typically a less abrasive experience.

"That's a tricky one, fighting games would be something really aggressive. Probably the most aggressive style right now is the Double IPA – the biggest, boldest, most muscular, over-the-top, west-coast style Double IPA."

Colloquially referred to as a "Double IPA," an Imperial IPA is a more extreme, Americanized interpretation of the classic British IPA mentioned above. Known for its higher alcohol volume (7.5 to 10 percent) and ludicrous hop bitterness, an Imperial IPA is differentiated from other bitter brews by its comparatively low maltiness and strong, lingering finish.

"Those are really tactical. I think you'd need to maintain your hand eye coordination, so you'd need to have a lower alcohol beer. There's definitely pilsners or some lighter beers that're probably a good choice so you can maintain your skills while you're playing."

First produced in the west-Bohemian city of Pilsen, Czech Republic in 1842, a pilsner is typically a crisp, refreshing pale lager with an alcoholic volume between four and six percent. Depending on whether the pilsner is German or Bohemian in style, competitive gamers will either experience a light-bodied, highly carbonated showcase of bitter German hops, or an elaborate, bright maltiness, respectively.

Never drink and drive.

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