2017 has been a year of exciting changes and stressful challenges. I started working with an incredible group of people as a part-time job. I began several new creative endeavors, including writing and running my first Dungeons & Dragons one-shot. I made some amazing new friends, started novel traditions with loved ones, and celebrated the lives of my most cherished family members. I grieved for my friends’ struggles, I mourned the divergence of relationships, and I wrestled with discord and anguish in the world at large.
In spite of the difficulties over the last 365 days, I am truly thankful for the joy and goodwill that sprung from the previous year.
At the start of spring, I was able to attend Emerald City Comicon, spend time with a good friend, and check another city off of my “To Visit” list in one fell swoop. I had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite creators, discover excellent new media, and play a pile of great arcade cabinets at GameWorks Seattle.
Over the course of the year, I visited several new breweries and sampled their tasty beers. While in Seattle, I enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and wide variety of brews offered by Fremont Brewing. I made multiple trips to the nearby Flying Dog Brewery, mainly to indulge in their seasonal and limited release beers with friends. And I FINALLY made my pilgrimage to the Dogfish Head Brewery, where I toured their fascinating facility and enjoyed the hospitality at the Dogfish Inn.
Most exciting for the future of Digital Draughts, my good friend Charlie has joined the party as a regular contributor and all-around-awesome dude! So far, Charlie has launched a new cocktail column, collaborated on some spooky musings, and provided his own Weekly Brews and Reviews. I am super excited to have Charlie aboard and we have fantastic plans for the future of Digital Draughts.
Of course, a retrospective on the previous year wouldn’t be complete without highlighting my preferred brews and games of 2017. While these beers and titles may have released prior to the last 365 days, each of them were novel experiences for me in the past year.
Final Fantasy XV
I did not expect to start the year with a virtual road trip. When my friend gifted me Final Fantasy XV, I assumed I was getting the latest in a long running series of turn-based RPGs. Instead, I received the keys to a royal heir’s car, a gigantic world filled with magic, and a camera to document my various adventures.
Final Fantasy XV was one of the best multiplayer experiences I had in 2017, thanks to the multitude of pictures shared by my friends. As each of us played this gorgeous game, we documented our various shenanigans and sent them via mass messaging on the PlayStation Network. In between the engaging world-building and creative quests, my friends and I filled our online scrapbook with pictures of epic battles, goofy encounters, and delicious meals.
Looking back over my beer journal for 2017, I saw a spike in the number of sour beers I sampled. This could be due to my palate evolving to appreciate the nuanced taste of tart brews, or simply the fact that there was an increase in the number of sour beer offerings this year.
In any case, my sour beer season kicked off with a chance encounter at my local bottle shop. As I scanned the latest tap listings, I noticed a unique sour brew on the menu: Sorry Chicky from Burley Oak Brewing Company. This dry hopped sour ale had a sharp citrus nose with a potent herbal hop backbone. The taste was a perfect mix of tart lemon flavor, juicy herbal hops, and the malty richness of butter crackers.
Night in the Woods
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Night in the Woods. I had been watching the development updates from Infinite Fall for the better part of 2016, eager to see if this game starring cute animals inhabiting a former mining town would skew more towards the magical or the mundane.
Running around Possum Springs as Mae Borowski, I leapt across telephone wires, explored gorgeous autumnal forests, and investigated haunting mysteries. I also visited with her friends at their struggling businesses, watched Mae’s parents sink further into debt, and witnessed the decay of a once thriving town. All of these events were presented in a unique and gorgeous art style, with an incredible soundtrack to boot. As it turns out, Night in the Woods feels like any return to your hometown: a bittersweet mix of the magical and the mundane.
I did not expect my favorite pumpkin beer of 2017 to be enjoyed so early in the year. I snagged a bottle of Uinta Brewing’s Funk’N Patch from my local bottle shop at the start of March. As part of their recent wild ale program, Uinta brewed a beer with pumpkin and spices, then fermented with Brettanomyces yeast to make things rather funky.
Funk’N Patch has the telltale spicy-sweet nose of Brettanomyces with hints of butternut squash. The wild fermentation imparts a tart flavor of lemon zest and roasted pumpkin, which expands into a malty body of zucchini bread with walnuts.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
During a recent visit from one of my friends, we started a new game in Breath of the Wild. As I had already enjoyed the adventure from start to finish, I let him take the reigns of our century-sleeping hero.
I watched in glee as my friend emerged from the Shrine of Resurrection and immediately started climbing every tree in sight, surveying this new landscape. Once he had acquired some basic gear, his survivalist instincts kicked in. My friend cut down trees and rolled them towards enemies. He dove into nearby lakes to capture fish with his foraged weapons. He played the game as he would prepare for camping in real life, which is to say his style of play was completely different from my own.
I started this journey running around with as little clothing as possible, searching for remarkable ruins, trying to map this new world, and causing as much mischief as possible. In just the first 15 minutes of play, Breath of the Wild allows for so many different experiences and personal narratives, which is precisely what I want from a new Zelda title (or sprawling adventure games in general). Even after my 40+ hours with the game, I am discovering new secrets and experimenting with game mechanics in an engaging and satisfying world.
I did not expect to have the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout in my area, much less one of the special varieties. After a year of drinking so many other barrel-aged and limited release dark beers, I was also surprised to be blown away by this late-year seasonal offering.
Hardywood Christmas Morning takes the beloved Gingerbread Stout and conditions it on locally roasted coffee beans from the Black Hand Coffee Company. The resulting brew has an intoxicating nose of fresh ground coffee, ginger candy, and a hint of honeysuckle. The first sip was a rich start of black coffee with four sugars, followed by a spicy body of gingerbread, orange zest, and honey. As the beer warmed to room temperature, the aroma and flavors of fresh baked gingerbread and just-brewed coffee became more potent, making this an clear winner for my favorite stout of 2017.
Tricky Towers provides the unbridled joy of destroying your puzzle game rivals in friendly competition.
My personal favorite from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp 2017, Ginger Lager is the perfect blend of ginger spice, cayenne heat, and the smooth vanilla notes of oak aging.
Sonic Mania is a time machine to the idyllic summers spent huddled around a television, playing games and having fun with my family.
Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale is a boozy brunch bonanza in a bottle: vanilla bean beignets, slathered in smoky maple syrup, with a rich glass of bourbon on the rocks.
When I was craving the challenge of Bloodborne and the aesthetic of Castlevania, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight said, “Why not both?”
Atomic Pumpkin proves that brewers can still create interesting and worthwhile twists on pumpkin ales.
Super Mario Odyssey made me completely lose track of time with its outrageously fun play.
Sour Monkey is a remix done right, marrying the subtle banana cream sweetness of Belgian Tripel ale with the lemon candy tartness of sour beer.