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Beer game is what you make of it"

(Note: The following review appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 13, 2002.)

By Peter Rowe 
San Diego Union-Tribune

Is it beer yet?

Until last month, I'd never brewed. Then, at the urging of Chris White, whose White Labs Inc. is a major supplier of brewer's yeast, I whipped up a batch of stout.

I started with dark malt imported from the United Kingdom. Tossed in Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest. Added microscopic threads of California V yeast.

Chris responded with a wheat.

Tomme Arthur, brewmaster at Solana Beach's Pizza Port, tossed off a Belgian ale.

Jeff Bagby, another Pizza Porter, cranked out a lager.

Four beers in four minutes.

Well, four pretend beers. We were playing Brewmaster: The Craft Beer Game, the brainchild of White and his brother, Mike White, a reporter with the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton.

The brothers love beer and board games. In 1998, Mike bought a copy of Brauerie, a German attempt to combine both passions. Chris' verdict: "Very complex."

Within a week, Mike had banged out an American version. Chris' verdict: "Completely uninteresting."

Mike kept tinkering. Chris kept carping. In fall 1999, they had something they both liked. At a trade show in Portland, Maine, they unveiled their prototype to San Diegans Arthur and Tom Nickel, the latter the brewer at Del Mar's Stuft Pizza.

Brewmaster debuted last September at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The object is to brew award-winning beers in six categories: ale, lager, stout, porter, wheat and Belgian. Each turn, you draw an ingredient card; if you have the necessary ingredients, brew a beer; then draw an events card for a shot at a prize.

The $29.95 game is being sold at several local pubs and home brewers' shops, as well as online at www.brewmastergame.com.

I churned out a complete line of undistinguished stouts, and lost convincingly to Bagby. But Brewmaster was fun, fast and absolutely un-German. Thanks to all that tinkering, the Whites seem to have thought of everything.

"We laminated the board and the cards," Chris said, "so you can spill beer on them."

Rowe writes the "Brewery Rowe" feature, which appears monthly in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego Union-Tribune

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