Beer and Games: Cigar City Brewpub Brewer’s Brunch Stout and Thomas was Alone

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So this week I’m reviewing two “darker” entities.  First up, the beer – Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida is now a defined staple in the craft beer community with no introduction needed.  Basically anything they churn out is at the very very least above average.  You can’t go wrong with a CCB beer.  Recently they have taken on a separate endeavor and opened up the Cigar City Brewpub in a small town about 15 minutes away from the actual brewery with hopes of making their own niche in the food and beer world.

I’ve eaten there a few times and the food is always great, but I’ve never been that impressed with the beer they have brewed in house.  All the ones I have had just play it very safe, brewing very easy styles like blondes and wits.  So when I heard they were releasing their first bottled beer and that it was going to be a coffee stout, I was on board.  Finally they might brew something that has a stronger substance to back up their namesake.  So I hopped in my car and drove two hours to the brewpub, picked up a few bottles, and had a pretty good burger I must say.

With beer in hand I drove home and searched for a game I could pair with this dark stout, and low and behold Thomas was Alone was found.  Now you know right off the bat what you are getting into with a game name like “Thomas was Alone”.  It is an indie game that focuses on story and mood instead of strong graphics, opting for an art style consisting entirely of simple blocks.  And it is a game with a story that proposes difficult questions with no strong answers and wrapping it all up in an ending that doesn’t nail everything.  So yeah, sounds like most indie games now-a-days.

Cigar City Brewer's Brunch

So first impressions of the beer, I’m a fan.  It pours black with a large light brown/tan head due to the coffee and lower ABV than I expected (only 6.8%).  Though I should have realized this since this isn’t a Russian imperial stout, it’s just a standard American stout.  Definitely smells of coffee,  so if you aren’t into that then look away.  Taste-wise you definitely get the coffee but also light chocolate and vanilla.  Basically what you would expect from a flavored stout. It is tasty that is for sure, but really doesn’t do anything incredibly new.

Thomas was Alone on the other hand is definitely unique in many ways, but again is wrangled in an indie game foundation.  This is a game that is definitely a story and gameplay over graphics experience.  And I’m not talking in the normal sense.  No this is literally down to the basics in every possible way, opting for simple particle effects and some fluid water physics as the few graphical fidelities.  Luckily it is one of the few indie games where this is actually a strong advantage.  Thomas was Alone is a game that explores personality and human emotions at the fundamental level.  Each character you meet along the way has their own personality quirks and fears, but they are presented in a way that isn’t forced down your throat in a “I’m an indie game, look at me I can be art” type of way.

For example one of the first characters you meet is a fat short square named “Chris” who can’t jump to save his life.  Being that my name is also “Chris”, I take strong offense to this. And yes, it will affect your score “Thomas was Alone”, you better believe it.  You quickly get the gist of the gameplay through meeting these characters.  It harkens back to “The Lost Vikings” where you play as each character and each character has his or her advantages and disadvantages, though “Thomas is Alone” takes it to a even higher level later on where you may be playing upwards of 10 characters at once.  This leads to some frustration in the fact that I can only switch between characters in a left and right serial fashion, resulting in moments where I run to death as one character thinking I am switching to another.  This is a minimal complaint though.  For the most part the game utilizes this mechanic while implementing your basic platformer-puzzle game play.  It works.  There are many satisfying moments where you as the gamer use every single character in unison with each other to reach the final goal.  And it only builds on each character’s personality as they bond with each other in an attempt to reach the end line.

Thomas was Alone meme

Ay man I know you were worried, but don’t worry bro.  Thomas was Alone gots your internet and gaming meme references too. lololol. f me.

Thanks to the fact that each of these characters are simple blocks with the only defining characteristics being shape, color, and ability, we are allowed to focus more on their actions and words spoken opposed to how stupid their shirt and hair may look.  Basically stripping out all extraneous details of the characters allows you to focus on just the important parts that the writer is trying to present to you.  Brewer’s Brunch does the same.  This is not an imperial stout with a high ABV.  This isn’t a beer barrel aged with the worlds rarest coffee.  No this is a back-to-basics coffee stout focusing on flavor and it is relatively easy to drink.  As it usually goes with these stouts, I’m getting more nuance of flavor as it warms up.  CCB has another beer called “Cubano Espresso” which is an explosion of coffee and chocolate flavor.  Now I know these are different beer styles entirely (the Cubano is a brown ale), but I can’t help but make a comparison between the two.  You can definitely taste the fact that they must share at least some of CCB’s ingredients.  Brewer’s Brunch is more muted in the flavor department, but this is actually a good thing in a lot of ways.  Sometimes I love Cubano and sometimes it is just too much for me.  Brewer’s Brunch seems to hit a pretty strong balance in the multitude of flavors without over doing it.

The more I write about it the dumber it seems to sound to me, but it is true.  Each one of these blocks comes off more human than most characters in other games.  And it fits right in with a story examining what being human means and when an AI becomes too human, though in a much much simpler fashion than say something like Blade Runner.  You shouldn’t even compare the two.  I don’t know why I did.  Forget about it.

But in all seriousness, Thomas is Alone is definitely a special game.  The developer obviously went out with a goal in mind of achieving emotion and player interest in characters, and that was achieved.  Things like fear, paranoia, love, hate and jealousy are all explored via these sentient quadrilaterals in a way kids on a playground show off each of their emotions in their most basic, fundamental form with no real knowledge of “the real world” and the shit that comes with it.  The music played throughout has similarities to the tunes played during movies and TV shows when a character finally realizes what another character has been doing all along and the brilliance of it.  You know the scene where one character has already left the setting and the other realizes he has been scammed by him, but in an almost playful way where both of them smirk while implying a statement like “good game” and both walk off while the one thinks he should have known all along what was happening.  Still not following me? Well tough shit. It is the tone of music that plays during those scenes, and it really helps add to the feeling that something special is happening as these shapes come to life.

And every shape is voiced by the same voice actor who I guess is some guy that is famous in Britain.  This is America. I don’t know who he is or what he has done.  If you want to know you Google it.  I’m not doing your research for you.  Get it together man.  But yeah, voice acting is really good and helps justify even more each shapes’ unique personality.

The difficulty definitely ramps up near the end of the game when a plethora of character swapping comes into play, but I never really had a “stop and think, I’m totally stuck and have no clue what to do” moment.  Especially given the fact that I am almost 100% sure there are many ways to accomplish some of the hard puzzles.  Thomas is Alone is a game that can be appreciated by all types of gamers thanks to its accessibility early on.  I’d go as far to say that virtually all ages will find something to appreciate, from grandparents to five year old children.  Brewer’s Brunch isn’t for all ages.  Don’t give kids alcohol.  Just trying to help out.  Cheers.

Thomas is Alone ends in an expected fashion with not everything really fully being explained, but just enough to not feel cheated.  If I had read the synopsis on paper, I wouldn’t have thought much of the story.  It really isn’t anything special, but the journey with these blocks is.  It is definitely a fun little experience.  It is short, I’d guess not breaking three hours total, but by the end of it I was satisfied with the length.  It is a good little experience I’d recommend but don’t expect to get your mind blown.

Nice head

Same with Brewer’s Brunch.  If you have had a lot of coffee stouts in the past, your brain isn’t going to explode.  It is a very well executed coffee stout in every way.  And to be honest I really have no complaint minus the fact that it doesn’t do anything radically new.  But I can’t really bash it for doing what it sought out to do.  I definitely recommend it if you are entering the coffee stout game.  I don’t know how you will get it because it isn’t hitting distribution and is only being sold at the brewpub, but if you do get your hands on it I think you will be pleased.  It really has reinvigorated my faith in the Brewpub and I’m hoping for this caliber of beer being released in the future by them.  Good job guys.

Cigar City Brewpub Brewer’s Brunch Stout: 9.0/10

Thomas was Alone: 8.0/10

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Author: Chris Fadeley View all posts by
I am UF alumni and a computer engineer. I know virtually every useless fact about videogames ever. I like computers and potatoes.

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