It is a truth universally acknowledged that beer people love puns, plays on words, mangled references, increasingly creative uses of the word “Gose,” and just plain ridiculousness.
They also love geek culture, as is immediately apparent if you, say, set yourself the impossible task of rounding up all the beers that reference sci-fi/fantasy. Here are more than enough to occupy you over the long Labor Day weekend—really, you’ve got options to keep you drinking well into the next decade, if not straight through to the 23rd century. Though it might be a truly epic quest to hunt them all down…
BEERS YOU CAN OSTENSIBLY FIND AND DRINK (depending on your location)
I don’t know where to start with Michigan’s B. Nektar, maker of meads, ciders, and beers with the most astonishing labels and magical names. Perhaps a nice Necromangocon? A lively cherry chipotle mead called #dragonsarereal? The unforgettable Death Unicorn? Their best label work, though, might be the (sadly) seemingly unavailable Episode 13: B. Nektar Strikes Back. Just look at that cute little barrel-walker! We need one for the office.
(This is not the last time you’ll find “Strikes Back” on this list.)
Created to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Monty Python, this British brew is a golden ale “tempered over burning witches.” JK, JK. Or are they?
Ommegang’s Game of Thrones collaboration began with Iron Throne, a blond ale, and now includes six beers, all of which come in 750 ml bottles. That’s enough to share with friends—or to hoard for the arrival of winter. I’m partial to Take the Black Stout, and not just because it’s the cleverest name.
Pennsylvania’s Broken Goblet is here for your Lord of the Rings references. Currently you can try The Fall of Ryesengard, which “‘ent’ your typical rye.” The super-strong Thorin (11.8% ABV) will fuel your hatred for white orcs. Perhaps a pint of Old Toby? They say it pairs best with “pizza, potato chips, fresh mozzarella, the munchies.” And for last year’s May the 4th, they brewed up Lando Palerissian, a Bespin Pale Ale. Look, someone had to do it.
The official beer of New York Comic Con, Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender is available year-round, with a new look every year. According to the brewery, it pairs best with “spicy foods, Mexican dishes, robust cheddars, tinkering, and art.”
Evil Genius’s lineup is full of pop culture references of all kinds (Stacy’s Mom IPA, I see what you did there). Turtle Power is a grapefruit pale ale. Do Ninja Turtles like grapefruit?
The Canadian—sorry, Khanadian—Federation’s Prime Directive is “to produce high quality Craft Beer, to honour Gene Roddenberry’s legacy, and to unite both Star Trek and Craft Beer fans.” Their beers include Vulcan Ale, Klingon Warhog, and the upcoming 50th Anniversary Golden Ale, which you can preorder by the case at the Federation’s website. For those who don’t want to commit to an entire case of Warhog, the Federation helpfully offers a map of First Contact Sightings—otherwise known as places in the U.S. and Khanada where you might find their brews.
Olympia’s Fish Brewing created a trilogy of beers to commemorate the release of The Battle of the Five Armies, all of which I wish I’d had to drink when I watched the movie. There’s not a ton of info on these available—and none on Fish’s website—but bottles do seem to exist in the world. If you’re willing to face the trials of Moria, the trees of Fangorn, etcetera en route to finding them.
Oregon’s Gilgamesh gets points with the gluten-free among us for their Mashing Pumpkins (see? ALWAYS PUNNING), made entirely of pumpkin mash, but they’re included here for Vader, a black IPA made with coffee beans from a local roaster. So you can drink and stay awake and be evil all at once, like a true multitasker.
Your second very long journey for beer is a jaunt to New Zealand to try this stout, which was created for The Fellowship of the Ring to provide the actors with very low-alcohol beer to drink for verisimilitude during filming. It’s 1% alcohol! Even the smallest of hobbits should be able to handle that.
Rhode Island-based Narragansett now has five notably strong beers in their Lovecraft Series. And Rhode Island isn’t the only thing the brewery and ol’ H.P. have in common: both came into this world in 1890. Clearly, the collaboration was meant to be. The series started with Lovecraft Honey Ale, and each of the successive beers draws inspiration from a Lovecraft story or saying. The currently available latest addition, White Ship, is an “adventurous” white IPA that sounds perfect for the end-of-summer heat.
I spent most of the late 2000s in Eugene, Oregon, where I watched Ninkasi grow—at a rate that might technically be called “crazypants”—from a small local brewery into a mighty player in Oregon’s superb craft beer scene. They just celebrated their 10th anniversary, and frankly I’m sorry to have missed it. The good thing is that now Ninkasi is available all the way over here on the other side of the country, and if you think I don’t snatch up every random sixer of Helles Belles that I find in the deli, well, I do, OK? Sorry: more for me. Ninkasi’s nerdiness is entirely visible in their flagship red ale, Dawn of the Red, but these roots run deeper: their archive includes Ground Control, a gloriously rich stout made with yeast that’s been to space and back, and the needs-no-explanation Critical Hit.
There is nothing I can say about this beer that the incredible label has not already implied.
It’s a double IPA with what looks like a transformer made of hops (hopsformer?) on the label. He’s holding a beer stein bigger than his head. This may be a commentary on the strength of this beer (9%), or it may just be a pleasing image.
Stone co-founder Greg Koch has been collaborating with Wil Wheaton and Drew Curtis on the limited-release Farking Wheaton Wootstout since 2013. This year’s edition involves pecans, wheat, flaked rye and bourbon-soaked barrels, sounds amazing, and should be widely available in the U.S.—for now.
THE DARK HELMETS
There are, at minimum, four beers called Dark Helmet (or, in the case of Beau’s, Dark Helmüt); as is only logical, most of them are Schwarzbiers. Westbrook’s Dark Helmet is listed under its “coming soon,” category, but was released in 2011, so perhaps it’s just coming … next season? (Keep your eyes open and tell me when you find it, OK?) Artifex Brewing, in San Clemente, CA, says their Dark Helmet is on tap now; Stone’s Throw, in Little Rock, AR, released their amazing sounding Dark Helmet Coffee Schwarzbier last winter. And if you’re near Strongsville, Ohio, keep an eye out for the Brew Kettle’s seasonal Dark Helmet Imperial Shwarzbier.
THE NERD BEER ARCHIVE
Beers come and go, and the geekiest of them are sometimes event related or short-term productions. But that won’t stop us from appreciating their names. (Some of these beers may be available seasonally, regionally, or locally, or if you luck out at your local beer shop!)
- Breckenridge Brewery: Annual Denver Comic-Con Beer
Colorado’s Breckenridge won the unofficial Tor.com office beer-name contest with the latest in their series of beers brewed specially for Denver Comic-Con: 2016’s SNAPE-RICOT. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Snape-ricot is the latest winner of the brewery’s Name the Comic-Con Beer contest, which has also turned out such winners as Brews Wayne, the Caped Brewsader, and the aggressively great Hulk’s Mash.
- Alesmith: Evil Dead Red
This ale is so red it’s creepy. Which is appropriate for a Halloween seasonal. Alesmith is in San Diego, CA, but you can find their beers all over the place.
- Beau’s: Life, the Universe and Everything
Beau’s, in Ontario, has some really outstanding labels—and the only Douglas Adams-referencing beer name I’ve come across (so far). (Where are the beers named 42? Hops of Gold? Just Zis Guy, You Know? Hoppy Frood?). Even more charmingly, Life, the Universe and Everything was created to celebrate an Ottawa venue called Zaphod’s. Their list of past beers also includes Tyrannosaurus Gruit, and, naturally, Dark Helmut.
- Cambridge Brewing Company
Cambridge’s beer archive is crowded with geeky references, from As You Wish, a Belgian wheat ale originally made for the brewer’s girlfriend’s birthday, to Spock’s Brain, an IPA that obviously goes where no beer has gone before. They too had an Old Toby—made with New Zealand hops, naturally—and at one point brewed up the Gourd of the Rings. (But did it come in pints?)
- Corcoran Brewing: Padawan Pumpkin
Pumpkin beers somehow lend themselves, more than any beer variety, to goofy names. There are Great Pumpkins and Headless Horsemen and Elysian’s Orange is the New Black Pumpkin Stout… and Corcoran’s seasonal set of Padawan Pumpkin and Dark Apprentice Pumpkin Porter. (The Sith get better beer, too? So unfair.)
- Dock Street Walker
Would you like some beer with your brains? No, really. Dock Street’s Walking Dead-inspired beer includes smoked goat brains. It’s cool. You take the first sip.
- Dogfish Head: The Owls Are Not What They Seem
Once upon a time, in 2014, Dogfish Head had this beer on tap at the end of summer, and once you hear what it was, you too will forever be sad you didn’t get to try it. “A very special blend of two very special beers, T.O.A.N.W.T.S. is 2/3 a deep black imperial stout aged in a Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel for 3 months (2nd use) and 1/3 our Special-Cuvee Noir, a super saison fermented atop Bourdeaux variety wine grapes and then aged in the same Buffalo Trace barrel for three months.” Yes, please. Again, please. Bonus points for the Twin Peaks-referencing name.
- Empire Brewing: Strikes Bock
Such a simple, playful name. And such a good one. Empire’s site says this is brewed near the end of winter for a spring release, so you may need just a bit of Jedi-like patience while waiting for this seasonal to come back around.
- Goose Island: Gillian
According to a piece in the Chicago Reader, Gillian used to be called Scully, and is named after Gillian Anderson. Goose Island’s site doesn’t confirm this, however, so we’ll consider this X-File still open until a corroborating mysterious source appears.
- Holgate: Millenium Falcon Emperial IPA
To mark their 1000th beer, Australia’s Holgate dreamt up the Millennium Falcon, which is obviously a Star Wars reference, but slightly less obviously a total beer nerd reference: this double IPA is brewed with “an unprecedented quantity” of Milennium, Falconer, and Galaxy hops. Get it? You get it. Right?
- New England Brewing Company: Imperial Stout Trooper
It’s almost surprisingly there aren’t more imperial stouts that nod to Star Wars in one way or another. This one began its life with a Stormtrooper on the label, which apparently didn’t make Lucasfilm too happy. So the brewery changed it: to a stormtrooper wearing joke glasses. Which just makes it more charming anyway.
- Rogue Hellboy Right Hand of Doom
Rogue is often noted for their foodie collaboration beers, like the Voodoo Doughnut ales or Sriracha HOT Stout. But last year they introduced the Right Hand of Doom Red Ale to celebrate Hellboy’s 21st anniversary. Alas, its limited edition run has already been enjoyed by other people.
- Terrapin Beer Company
The people of Terrapin teamed up with The Walking Dead to create “the official beer of the undead,” The Walking Dead Blood Orange IPA, which features a zombie turtle on the label (no brains in this one). Their archive of side projects included Phlux Capacitor, Hopzilla, and The Dark Side (an Imperial Stout), none of which are currently available. But if you’re in the south or on the East Coast, you may find some of their stuff in your general vicinity.
- 3 Floyds: Apocalypse Cow
Indiana’s 3 Floyds has a list of beer names that’s a total delight (Arctic Panzer Wolf! Mithril Dice! Knut of the Living Dead!) but Apocalypse Cow takes the cake. An IPA brewed with lactose milk sugar, it is, in their words, “not normal.” Which is exactly how we like it.
(Yes, there are more than 42 beers here. How could I possibly take any of these away? Did I miss any of your favorites?)