A Guide to Pairing Your Comics & Beer
Don't be like Wolverine. Drink responsibly.
Throughout history, mankind has always found reasons to add booze to everything, under the auspices of somehow making it classier. Eventually, people figured out how to use these seemingly tangential excuses for drink as a means of complementing and enhancing their experiences. Drinking wine? For shame! Wine and cheese? Perhaps a side of delicious red steak? Now we’re talking! Drinking in the morning? Forbidden! Orange juice in your cocktail at brunch? Fantastic and socially acceptable! Even in a recession, when people are cutting corners and forced to find new ways to be frugal – everyone still likes to drink.
The point is, drink pairings are classy. And in a world where comic books are finally seen as “cool,” why not add class it up some more? Comic books are an event, after all. I guess what I’m trying to say is this all just a clever ruse for me to combine two of my biggest passions into one delectable event. Comics and Beer – the perfect combination. But like wine and cheese, the real trick is in finding a brew that will somehow improve upon your comic book affair. One that accentuates the proper tones, and enriches the flavor – a beer that you can experience along with your comic book. A beer that betters your comic book, and a comic book that betters your beer, all at the same time.
Here’s a brief guide to pairing your Comics and Beer:
Captain America: Captain America is, well, American. That’s kind of the point. But not in that corporate, militant, bully nationalism-type way. Cap stands for the American ideal, something that everyone can agree with and get behind, that’s not colored by politics and money. That’s why you’ll want to go for a microbrewed American-style lager or pale ale. Something clean, palatable, and easy to drink, something that everyone can agree on but is still wholly American. I’d personally recommend Brooklyn Lager (after his home turf after all), or Sam Adams Lager, or something similar.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is, of course, blind, but the rest of his senses are heightened and more than compensate for this. India Pale Ales (IPA) are flavorful and aromatic, thanks to an abundance of hops (historically added to act as a preservative so that English ales might survive the long trip to India). As a result, they engage the senses more than the average beer, and will encourage you to rely on more than just sight, like Daredevil himself. IPAs are also known for their bitterness, and as anyone who’s ever read a Daredevil comic can attest, bitterness and aguish run rampant in the life of Matt Murdock. The higher alcohol content will make your head spin, much like the conspiracies and ninja smoke that Murdock faces himself. Recommended for the uninitiated: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Mojo IPA, Harpoon IPA.
Woodchuck Cider Photo via The Perfectly Happy Man
Spider-Man: Spidey’s not much of a drinker (except for that one time he got wasted on 2 beers at Aunt May’s wedding and almost hooked up with his roommate before blacking out), so this is a tough one. But to complement Spider-Man’s innocence and playful nature, I’d recommend you go for a hard cider, such as Magners, Strongbow, or Woodchuck (Harpoon also makes one of which I am particularly fond). They basically taste like sparkling apple juice (something that Peter Parker would definitely drink), but with the added bonus of giving you a slight buzz (thank of it like your very own personal spider-sense). Plus, ciders are refreshing – an excellent end to a hard day of web-slinging.
Iron Man: Dude. Seriously? That’s not funny. Tony’s an alcoholic. (But if you were to drink something along with your Iron Man comics, I’d recommend something classy and foreign, like a Chimay. Or go all the way like Tony himself with some red wine or a nice bottle of scotch. But you’re still an insensitive jerk.)
Ghost Rider: Rogue Dead Guy Ale. *rim shot on the drums*
The Hulk: For a Hulk comic, you’re going to want something strong. Something that gets you smashed. And possibly a little angry. Isn’t that what The Hulk is all about? I’d recommend a barleywine – Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale might be the best and most obvious option. Something (very) high in alcohol, with an almost sickly sweetness to counteract the bitter, chewy tastes. (and remind you of the human innocence within the Monster. Or something. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.) You could also go for a Russian Stout, such as Rasputin’s, which also has a sickly, albeit cough syrup-esque sweetness in otherwise dark and heavy brew (although this might be better paired with one of the Hulk’s adversaries such as the Abomination or the Red Ghost).
Wolverine: Labatt Blue. For one thing, it’s Canadian, and has that crisp, refreshing Canadian flavor (whatever that means). For another, you can drink a lot of these, and feel neither too full, nor too drunk, just like Wolverine himself! Except, you don’t have a mutant healing factor, or an adamantium skeleton, nor were you the unwilling test subject of a government super-soldier experiment. So not like Wolverine at all. But enjoy the beer!
X-Men: This is a very broad category, as there are a lot of X-Men among the different teams (approximately 198 at current, thanks to the Scarlet Witch). Rather than break them down by individual or team (which I could very easily do, but it would take a while, and I don’t think you want to read about which beers pair best with Chamber, or Longshot), I would recommend that you pair your X-Men comics with any variety of brews for the Dogfish Head Brewery.
Dogfish Head’s slogan touts them as “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” and, well, what’s more off-centered than a bunch of genetically mutated superhumans banded together into a peacekeeping unit (and currently occupying an island nation off the coast of San Francisco)? Dogfish Head has a history of incorporating bizarre or slightly off-beat ingredients into their brews, and when you’re looking at a cast of characters that includes a fuzzy blue lion-man who happens to be a scientific genius as well as a poet, or a billionaire playboy with feathered or metal wings (depending) who sometimes also the angel of death, or a redhead who or may or may not be either the embodiment or host of the psychokinetic galactic manifestation of life in the form of a firebird – well, I think off-beat covers it.
Chocolate Stout Photo via The Perfectly Happy Man
Batman: Look for a sweet stout, something along the lines of Young’s Double Chocolate or Left Hand’s Milk Stout. A darker, richer beer –much like the Dark Knight himself – that still has a sweet spot, as Bruce does for young boys. (Not like, a sweet spot for young boys, like – whatever, you know what I mean, get your mind out of the gutter) The chocolate/sweetness is more of a mask – the face of Bruce Wayne, if you will – that plays up his exterior image as a decadent playboy, but really serves as an attempt to hide the burnt bitterness beneath. Of course, Batman is also a detective, and the thick, roasted, robust flavor of these stouts will encourage you to drink them more slowly, holding back the effects of intoxication and allowing you to keep up with the Great Gotham detective and solve the clues along with him.
Green Lantern: Arrogant Bastard Ale. A little darker, a little heavier – much like the emotional weight of being an intergalactic police officer – with a high enough alcohol content to make you a little hot-headed, like Hal Jordon himself. Or Guy Gardner. Or, hell, Sinestro. Or the Guardians, actually…there’s a lot of hot-headed Lanterns with dark sides to them, huh? Plus, Lanterns receive their abilities from willpower, and it’ll take a lot of willpower to stand up, or doing productive, after polishing off a few of these.
Superman: Much like Captain America, Superman reflects an American ideal that everyone can get behind, regardless of politics. Unlike Cap, however, Superman isn’t quite as in touch with the American people (because he’s, ya know, an alien), and as such, wouldn’t be as attuned to the craft beer movement that’s been sweeping the nation. I would still pair him with a light, easy, American-style pale ale or lager, but rather than a hip microbrew, Superman would go better with something with more of a pedigree and universal appeal, such as Yuengling.
The Flash: FourLoko. Duh. Do I even need to explain this?
Thom Dunn is a writer, musician and comic book fan. Follow him on Twitter (@thomdunn) and visit his blog at thomdunn.net.