I’m of the mind that, especially when it comes to D&D and gaming, there’s no such thing as too much ambiance. While I don’t recommending getting out-of-your mind drunk while playing (certainly gets in the way of focusing, and unless you’re in the middle of a tavern scene , it can make for some truly less than stellar roleplay… not that I, um, speak from experience…) there are a variety of drinks out there which can certainly lend an extra layer of geekiness to your game. Some are clearly put together for the geek set, while others retain their geek cred through the virtue of their historical appropriateness. Here’s a few of my suggestions:
My recent favorite, and the first in the beer category, is Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin, a delightful ruby beer. The website characterizes it as having a “toffee malt flavour balanced with a rounded moderate bitterness and an overall fruity flavor.” I will admit to buying this beer primarily on its namesake alone at my local wine and beer shop; however, I was absolutely in love with the taste from the first sip. Wychwood makes no bones about the geeky characteristics of its drinks, and other brews include Green Goblin Cider, Black Wych stout, Wychcraft blonde beer, Fiddler’s Elbow (perfect for the bard in your group) and Goliath Ale.
Another appropriately named brew hails from the Rogue beer company. These dark-bottled drinks are usually found around here sold in singles, and come in 22oz. sizes. While not as overtly geeky (the name “rogue” notwithstanding) as Wychwood’s offerings, Rogue offers a whole bevy of ales, which are the traditional drink of D&D taverns (and hobbits) the world over. A particularly geeky recipe, and one I’m dying to try, is the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. I’m typically quite a fan of oatmeal stouts in general, and one heralded by the Bard’s name is certainly worth the initiative. Rogue also offers a great ale perfect for consoling a recently deceased character in your party: Dead Guy Ale, for the not-so-subtle. Not to mention their website is chock-full of great beer and brew information!
How about something a little, shall we say, historical (perhaps to aid in your next history check)? Mead is one of my favorite drinks and, according to many experts in the field, likely ancestor of all brewed beverages (pottery dating from 7000 B.C. in China contain the earliest evidence). The famed archaeologist Claude Levi-Strauss is quoted as saying that the creation of mead marked the transition of the human race from “nature to culture“. Either way, mead is made by fermenting honey, and while most people think of it as very sweet, it all depends on the process and the production. Some meads are very dry; others can be fermented with hops. There are even fizzy and non-fizzy versions. My particular favorite is from Northern California, called Chaucer’s. Yes, I wholly admit to having purchased Chaucer’s on the name as well, but I was extremely pleased with the outcome (and judging by their accolades, I am not alone). Chaucer’s is marketed as a dessert-style wine and uses the honey of alfalfa, sage, and orange blossom. With an 11% alcohol content, however, gamers should proceed with caution, especially if you’re used to beer.
If there’s a cleric in your group, you might want to consider something historically appropriate, like a Trappist beer. The name derives from the monks who make it, the Trappists, who began crafting the brew in the mid-to-late 1600s in Belgium. While the beers themselves vary by monastery (there are currently seven monasteries who brew and sell their own under the official Trappist logo) most also include what’s called a “patersbier”, or a lower alcohol version consumed only by the brothers within. One of the most widely available commercial beers is Chimay, which is brewed at the Chimay Brewery, and originally began inside Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. Even more awesome: they also make cheese.
And last but not least, there’s wine. Wine is always appropriate, in my most humble opinion (especially in my favorite pewter dragon goblet… or, as I did in college, out of my official glowing Lord of the Rings glass mug). One of my favorite (and affordable) brands, which is both geeky and delicious, is Ravenswood, out of California. One of the best parts about Ravenswood is, that in spite of being an American wine, it is made with a very old process, inspired by winemaker Joel Peterson’s experience traveling in Europe. I love what he has to say about the process:
“I didn’t see why we couldn’t employ Old World methods if we were vigilant. If it ain’t broke, it seemed to me that trying to ‘fix’ a time-honored tradition with technology was more like food processing than winemaking. As a result, at Ravenswood we employ relatively archaic winemaking techniques. Instead of sterilizing our juice with sulfur and adding a commercial yeast culture, we use native vineyard yeasts that have a broader range of flavors and aromas.”
If you’re looking for non-alcoholic beverages, fear not! Jones Soda, one of my favorite soda companies in the world (mmm… pure cane sugar), has a fantastic limited edition selection of D&D certified sodas. These are, by far, the most game appropriate, and include names such as Ithilid Brain Juice, Potion of Healing, Sneak Attack, Dwarven Draught, and Eldrich Blast. Would make for some really interesting gameplay, as well! They are available online, and in select stores, for $18.99 for the 12 pack and $10.99 for the 6-pack. Don’t like the available spells? At Jones, you can always customize your own.
Whatever your choice of beverage, remember to drink responsibly, especially if you’re a guest in someone’s house. Also remember, beer, wine, and sodas are an absolutely acceptable form of bribery for your DM (in fact, our DM once gave an action point for some particularly awesome brew). Drink, play, and be merry!
Have a geeky brew you’d like to share? Let us know!