Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bottomshelf Beer Reviews: Budweiser Black Crown

If you don't feel like reading this check out the video version here.
A scene from the commercial for the commercial.  Could be a lot worse.

Budweiser Black Crown officially launched during the Super Bowl, and it’s about fucking time.  Almost a month prior to the Super Bowl commercial they started showing commercials for the commercial to build anticipation for the new beer commercial.  Well, I for one was certainly excited.  Not only was Budweiser gifting me a new beer to review, but I knew I’d be treated to a multi-million dollar advertising campaign; the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Budweiser released Bud Light Platinum last year at the Super Bowl.  I was not disappointed in that regard.  You can just tell everything right down to the color, placement, font, and shape of the label has been thought of, considered, planned out, vetted, voted on and redesigned down to the smallest detail.
As perfect as the hair of a werewolf drinking a pina colada  at  Trader Vic's

Metal chick
All that attention to detail makes the name Black Crown seem even weirder than it is.  What gives?  It sounds less like a new version of Budweiser and more like a shitty High School Heavy Metal band.  Ya know, the kind that plays slightly off tempo Megadeth and Metallica covers, but don’t call them a coverband or they’ll play some of their godawful original songs?   The label offers some explanation:

“We challenged our 12 Budweiser Brewmasters to create a new masterpiece. Six unique beers were crafted and sampled… One was chosen.  This amber lager’s toasted caramel, malt notes, and smooth finish earned it the Black Crown.  Now it’s been stolen.  You and your companions must embark on a quest to the Cave of Skulls to get it back.”

I think that sounds more like the plot to a Dungeons and Dragons Campaign Module than the story of a beer.  To be fair, I added that last part about the quest to the Cave of Skulls, but I think it works especially because the King of Beers thing is already Budweiser canon.    

Black Crown is fucking aces.  It has a rich full flavor, with a touch of the bitterness you get with things like hops, barley, and other “real” ingredients that are typically in short supply when it comes to bottomshelf beer.  I could actually taste Ye Olde toasted caramel, malt notes and all that other shit the label talked about.  I actually felt compelled to pour it into a glass.  It still has a Budweiser aftertaste, and when it hits you’re like, “Oh right, Budweiser.”  But it’s good.  I was even going to go so far as to say that a beer snob on a budget should give Black Crown a taste, but then I pictured some douche in a scarf saying, “you really think this tastes good?”  So instead I’ll just say go fuck yourself you smug asshole.  
If it's not cold and you're not Doctor Who there's no reason to wear a scarf

Budweiser Black Crown gets my seal of approval.  Buy some today; because there’s no telling if Black Crown will take its rightful place amongst the Kings of Beers, or be discarded to the ash heap of history along with the likes of Budweiser American Ale, Bud Dry, Bud Extra, Bud Ice Light, Bud the Pretender and Bud the Usurper.  I made the last two up but I think they tie in with the whole sword and sorcery thing we established in the second paragraph.  Also, if anyone at Budweiser wants to look at my spec script “The Cave of Skulls” don’t hesitate to get in touch. 
If this is your kind of thing, get ready to read the greatest script of all time.
UPDATE 2-4-2013
New video version:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Favorite Video Games: Tecmo Bowl (NES) 1989

No one every picks coach

As a kid I remember going to my friend’s house and getting my ass kicked in Tecmo Bowl every single time I played.  I’d be lying if I said that the game left a positive impression on me at the time.  I acquired my own copy of the game pretty late in the life of the NES, when my cousins realized that I was the only person they knew that still played Nintendo, and gave me all the games they couldn’t sell for money.  Unfortunately, for me it was around that time that time that my Nintendo stopped playing games no matter what kind of “tap the system/hold the reset button/blow it out” ritual was performed.  Fast forward to last Christmas: my wife bought me a brand new Nintendo and since then I’ve been playing Tecmo Bowl, constantly.

Tecmo Bowl (NES) 1989
Everyone agreed you had to blow the cartridges out, but if that didn't work the only thing we agreed on was that whatever the other kids did was laughably stupid.  One time a kid spit in my Nintendo.    

"The Denver _____"
At the time Tecmo Bowl was released it was pretty much common practice for sports games to have fake teams and fake rosters, due to the high cost of acquiring a license from one of the major sports leagues. Tecmo Bowl was one of the first sports video games that let you play as actual players.  A game like Mike Tyson’s Punchout might come out, but all of the characters were ridiculous racial stereotypes and not real people (Yes, I’m including Mike Tyson.)  Tecmo got around this problem by reaching an agreement with the NFLPA (the players association.)  Consequently, instead of the Chicago Bears there’s the Chicago Penguins Wearing a Crown(?)  At least we weren’t the Indianapolis Narwhals, or the Denver Androgynous Elves With a Horn(?)
Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea.  I usually say that out loud and laugh over and over again evereytime I go to The Field Museum.

As a kid or an adult none of that shit matters.  What matters is that the team plays in Chicago, and it features the likes of Dan “Danimal” Hampton, “Samurai” Mike Singletary, William “the Refrigerator” Perry, “Momma’s Boy” Otis Wilson, Richard Dent, Jim “the Punky QB” McMahon, and Walter “Fucking” Payton (Fucking was not Walter Payton’s nickname, but I added it because he’s my favorite fucking player of all time.)  As a diehard Bears fan it’s pretty cool not just to play as the Chicago Bears, but to play a videogame from my childhood (1983-2001) in which the Chicago Bears don’t totally suck.  By the time Tecmo Super Bowl was released two years later Walter Payton was retired along with the most of the legendary ’85 defense.
I'd like to play football with her, not for sexy reasons, but because she's a girl and I can probably kick her ass.

Strategy: drink them all when your opponent takes a leak
I don’t want to go too far down that road though.  As cool as Da Bears are Tecmo Bowl the 49ers and Giants are arguably better.  What sets Tecmo Bowl apart from say, Madden 2007 is the chess match that develops.  There are only four plays each team can run, and if you pick the same play as the offense you blitz them for a loss.  If you cover their receiver and the QB throws to him you pick him off.  Dead simple.  The game focuses more on outthinking your opponent and less on being able to hit 13 buttons in the correct sequence when you try to tackle their wide receiver.  There’s still a great deal of skill involved, but there’s a lot less random elements than modern football videogames.  Fumbles, injuries, and dropped passes might be more realistic, but they add an element of uncertainty to a perfectly called play.  Besides, who’d want to play whole 16 game season as the 49ers after Jerry Rice had a season ending injury?  In Tecmo Bowl you might be better at the game, or you might have a better team, but you won’t win on a roll of the dice. 

I'm like Bobby Fisher, but not a weirdo.

I kicked this post off mentioning that as a kid I lost every game I played.  It’s not just that I was bad at video games (I was,) but I didn’t understand the nuances and strategy involved in the game (e.g. ALWAYS cover Jerry Rice.)  Now that I do, the game gets better every time I play.  I can’t recommend this game enough. If you don’t have a wife as cool as mine, or you just can’t shell out the dough, it’s pretty easy to download a ROM of the game and a Nintendo emulator (I use Nestopia) to play the game on your laptop or whatever. 
I was gonna say "I wanna Bear Down on her," but that sounds like assault.  Maybe we could just like get some coffee  and have a respectful conversation?
The Green Bay Packers aren’t featured in Tecmo Bowl.  Not only do all true Americans (and by extension God) hate the Pack, it would seem that the Japanese do as well.  That, or maybe Tecmo only included the 12 best/most popular of the 28 teams that existed at the time, a list which did not include the hated Green Bay Packers. 

As the title would imply, Tecmobowl vs. R.B.I. is a great website for tips, and strategies for both Tecmo Bowl and R.B.I. Baseball. tends to focus on Tecmo Super Bowl, but the site still features some information on the original; not to mention the ROMs and emulators you’ll need to play the game on your PC.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bottomshelf Beer Reviews: Icehouse Edge

Mila Kunis knows, on the edge it's a helluva drop
The other day I saw Icehouse Edge as I was leaving the liquor store.  I know I often start these beer reviews bitching and kvetching like C-3PO on Tatooine, “Woe is me.  This beer looks disgusting.  Fuck my life.  etc.”  But when I saw Icehouse Edge at the liquor store I was like, “why the hell not!”  I don’t like Icehouse, but fuck it.  Yeah, a new high gravity version with a stupid name probably won’t be much better, but it couldn’t be much worse.  If nothing else it will get me drunk quicker, which is the only reason to drink Icehouse in the first place.  On that note: challenge gladly accepted Icehouse Edge.  I relish this opportunity.  Now let’s get it on like Donkey Kong!
Batman, getting it on like Donkey Kong

Personally I can’t hear someone say, “the edge” without thinking of U2’s legendary guitarist that…blah blah blah BWAHAHA!  Just kidding, U2 sucks, and they’ve sucked for long enough now that their present suckiness completely overshadows any of their previous accomplishments.    On the other side of the coin, the good side if you will, Stiff Little Fingers sang about "running at the edge of their world" and The Effigies asked “Where do we go once we’ve seen the edge?”  Not to mention David Lee Roth’s brilliant “The Edge” soliloquy in Van Halen’s 1978 classic “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love.”   It would seem that musicians of all stripes, share an obsession with “the edge,” which begs the question: is Icehouse Edge awesome like a Chicago based hardcore band, or douchey and nauseating like Aerosmith’s 1992 crapptastic single “Livin’ on the Edge?” 
Rather than disgusting all of you with a picture of Steven Tyler and his  "old lady face."  Here's his much better looking daughter.

To answer that question, I’ll start by saying that I typically take pains to avoid drinking Icehouse.  Consequently, I don’t think I’ve touched the stuff since I wrote my review about a year ago.  It’s been a while, but I think Icehouse Edge tastes almost exactly like regular Icehouse.  As a beer, even an ice beer, the flavor of Icehouse is pretty subpar, but as a high gravity lager it’s aces.  8%ABV is a different animal and has to be judged against its 8% peers, otherwise it’s like a cat in a dog show: not winning awards and pooping in a box.  I personally prefer regular beer to high gravity lager the same way I prefer dogs to cats/raccoons (same animal) but comparing the two is unfair to all parties.  Remember Heathcliff?  It was pretty good for a terrible show, but it was no Downton Abbey.
Here's the really hot daughter from Downton Abbey dressed as slave Leia 

To carry the metaphor just a little bit further, in the genus high gravity, the species Icehouse Edge is one of the better ones, because it doesn’t have a harsh chemical taste or shit-mouth aftertaste, at least not anymore than you’d find in regular Icehouse.  A lot of high gravity lagers taste like someone’s topped them off with w a little vodka, but I don’t really taste any extra alcohol in Icehouse Edge.  Of course, I don’t taste alcohol in straight whiskey, so take that how you will.  In a bottomshelf genus dominated by beers you have to pinch your nose and chug just to get drunk Icehouse Edge stands out as being more palatable than the rest.

Icehouse Edge threw the gauntlet and I rose to the challenge.  It was pretty good for a high gravity lager, and I’d say overall it was a pretty positive experience.  Except that I got that fucking Aerosmith song stuck in my head.  I only heard that song like a million fucking times between 1992 and 1995 and about a 100,000 times since then, so I’m going to drown it out with a little beer, and the far superior Weird Al Yankovic parody “Livin’ in the Fridge.”
Speaking of The Fridge...