Not all experiences are inviting. There are many of life’s little moments that are meant to challenge us; to intrigue lesser known aspects of our being. These engagements take a bit of flexibility on the user’s part. An open mind, a grain of salt, and perhaps a spoonful of sugar are all good tools for such experiences.
The result of these events varies. The experience could reveal a newfound passion, or reaffirm a suspected revulsion. But no matter what the outcome, the user and their perceptions are changed. Recently, I challenged my palate with a game from a series universally known for its adversity, combined with a beer from a company known for esoteric brewing.
After our delightful visit to the Adroit Theory Brewing Company, Laura and I have been on the lookout for any of their bottled brews at our local stores. As many of their beers are small batch and limited release, the options outside of their Tasting Room are meager by comparison. However, there are still a handful of Adroit Theory brews to be found in the wild, such as their imperial porter, Black Celebration.
Brewed as a collaboration with drum and bass DJ Damian Higgins (aka Dieselboy), Black Celebration (stylized as “BLVCK”) was brewed with maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, black lava salt, and then aged on oak staves. From this point, some of this complex brew was bottled, while another batch was further aged in rum barrels before bottling.
At first glance, the bottles for Black Celebration seem very minimalist; clean lettering on a matte black label. There is some flourish to distinguish each variety (gold lettering on the Oak Aged and silver lettering on the Rum Barrel Aged), but little else to make this bottle stand out on the shelf. Upon closer inspection, the secret of Black Celebration is revealed. A large alchemical sigil is embossed in glossy black across the label; visible only in certain angles of light and immediately apparent to the touch.
For reasons of personal taste (both in barrel flavors and label colors), I selected the Rum Barrel Aged variety of Black Celebration.
Black Celebration matches its name in appearance. From bottle to glass, this brew pours coffee black with a foamy mocha head. As the beer opens up, a powerful scent of smoked vanilla and sea salt overwhelms the air. The flavor is intense: a rich maple syrup start gives way to a smoky molasses and burnt wood body. Finishing notes of roasted pork and spiced rum consummate the experience: bitter, rich, and powerful.
Black Celebration is most certainly an esoteric beer. While it features the roasted malt and dark chocolate notes of a classic porter, the additional brewing components and barrel aging further the complexity of this beer. Fans of strong dark beers may be intrigued by this brew, along with folks who enjoy the unique crossroads of savory and sweet dishes.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this powerful beer. The slightly meaty notes and molasses flavor complement the natural roasted flavors of a porter, while the rum aging provides a welcome spicy kick. Black Celebration is a perfect way to prepare for the challenging streets of Central Yarnham.
In the past, I have bounced off of From Software’s Souls series. I made a valiant effort in Dark Souls and its sequel; trying to learn the challenging ebb and flow of their intricate systems. But in each case, I hit a massive wall of difficulty that drove me to toss my controller away in frustration (literally and figuratively). I appreciated the nuanced gameplay and unique dark fantasy setting of Dark Souls. There was simply something lacking that kept me from truly engaging with this series. Apparently, that crucial element was Gothic horror and a Lovecraftian narrative.
Bloodborne takes place in the Victorian-era city of Yarnham, where a plague has turned its citizens into beasts of varying ferocity. Some of Yarnham’s inhabitants became aggressive maniacs, while others fully transitioned into giant wolf-like creatures. As the Hunter, players must survive against the monstrous townsfolk while seeking out a cure-all known as Paleblood. However, the reasons to seek this elixir are rather tenuous, as there is no clear explanation for the quest, or how the Hunter came to Yarnham in the first place. The game simply opens with a grisly blood transfusion viewed in first-person, and visions of a horrifying creature made of viscera stalking from the shadows.
Following this cryptic prelude, The Hunter wakes up in an abandoned surgery ward; making their way into Central Yarnham on the night of “The Hunt.”
I will be frank with you, reader: the start of Bloodborne is unforgiving and cruel. The path leading through Central Yarnham is long and filled with mobs of crazed citizens, hungry for blood. Any one of these maniacs has the ability to catch you in a combo that will quickly kill you, so the frequent packs of enemies typically spell certain death. These basic enemies are often combined with ranged attackers, quick-striking dogs, plus-sized abominations, and no checkpoints leading up to the boss encounters. In short, you will die in a regular and bloody manner on your way through this cursed city.
If this experience sounds completely unappealing, trust me- I understand. I struggled to stick with this game in the opening hours. Watching my Hunter die over and over again to the same frustrating enemy encounters was very disheartening, and I nearly gave up on Bloodborne altogether. However, once I made it past the first major boss encounter, the game became exponentially more enjoyable.
Following a frantic and tragic battle with a fellow Hunter, Bloodborne offers branching pathways, multiple character builds/options, and an engaging and mysterious narrative. The history of the once-great city of Yarnham and its Healing Church slowly unfolds as the player further explores this foreboding world. The visuals of Bloodborne are equally haunting and beautiful. The power of the PlayStation 4 is put to incredible use; providing gruesome details on every monster and amazing lighting effects on each surface. I often found myself taking a moment to appreciate the grim scenery of Yarnham, taking care to clear an area of any potential threats before such respite.
Having enjoyed both Bloodborne and Black Celebration, this combination should be an easy recommendation. The engaging narrative and visceral combat of this game pair nicely with the rich molasses and smoky maple flavors of this dark brew. However, the antagonistic opening of Bloodborne and the uniquely savory notes of Black Celebration prevent a universal endorsement of this challenging pair.
But if you can overcome such challenges, then a dark and delicious treat awaits you, good Hunter.