Friday Froth: A Trip To Barcade New Haven, Video Games + Beer

James Gribbon

Maybe it's just the freshness of a mind before it reaches pickled adulthood, but childhood memories seem more permanent. I can't remember breakfast on most days, but I recall hopping on bikes with a few friends, ditching our mother-mandated helmets, and riding down to Vic's Variety on Paradise Green in Stratford to buy Crybabies and play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a stand up, four player arcade game. 

Nintendo and Sega Genesis had killed video game arcades as dead as iTunes killed record stores until four guys in Williamsburg thought "What if we bring them back, but with beer?" That was 2004, and in the ensuing years the Barcade franchise has spread around New York, to New Jersey, Philly, and now, New Haven. It was once again time to get my Hadouken! on.

Travel time driving to Barcade is variable, in my case 3 hours in traffic. But by the time I arrived I was seriously ready to blow something up. Centipede, Galaga, Punch Out, four player X-Men and Ninja Turtles, Ms. Pac Man... take your pick, they're all still 25-cents to play. 

The secondary reason I made it to Barcade on a scorching hot day in late May was the tap takeover they had with Smuttynose Brewing of New Hampshire - including the special release of Barcade/Smuttlabs Coily Belgian saison. 

Coily is otherwise known as the purple snake nemesis of Q*bert in the iconic game, and the small batch beer bearing its name incorporates Italian plums, vanilla beans, and cinnamon. This results in a heavy, creamy saison, made a bit prickly by the cinnamon, but sliding smoothly along on that vanilla base. There is a bit of sourness to the nose from the plums, and they poke their heads above the waves with a vanishing tartness in the flavor from time to time. 

I also used the occasion to quaff some Smuttynose Granite State Destroyer. GSD is another Smuttlabs collaboration (this time with New Hampshire band Scissorfight), and is described as an "imperial corn lager" - in other words, small-batch, artisanal, malt liquor. It was released in quart bottles for authenticity the only other time it was brewed. It weighs in 8.5% abv. under a thick head from the tap, and it was unusually cloudy for a malt liquor. GSD is smooth, and I could definitely taste the corn adjunct, but without the eau de industrial runoff of most 40 juice. Tasty, hipsterish, and rare as moon rocks, I can see Destroyer effectively encouraging roof top swimming pool jumping, porch off-falling, the sudden urge to create flaming arrows, and other traditional malt liquor driven pursuits.  

I returned to playing some games (Barcade thoughtfully places shelves for drinks everywhere), and was deeply aggrieved to find out the friend I'd arrived with had never played Contra before, and was thus a North Korean sleeper agent. Thinking quickly, I distracted us both with a sit down, flat top version of Pong which was unquestionably older than either of us. 

A look at Barcade's menu sees burgers, a French dip, a Cubano, a chicken and waffle grilled cheese, and the Fat New Haven - a cheese burger with fries, bacon, fried clams, L+T, and clam chowder sauce on a grinder roll. I was neither stoned nor brave enough to attempt it, but I did order the tater tots, which arrive pressed into the shape of Tetris pieces. My communist companion was overjoyed.

By the time I left, I owned the high score on Operation Thunderbolt, an FPS right next to the bar. See if you can beat me, I'll be back to retake it. Anyway, I still have a few tokens left over. 

Barcade, 56 Orange St., New Haven;