So, to preface, I’m a pretty keen homebrewer with a couple years experience under my belt. I got started with it because we have an overabundance of apples from the few trees we have and I thought it’d be great to turn them into cider. Whilst I’m still chasing that idea I rapidly transitioned into good old fashioned homebrewing, thanks almost entirely to me inheriting my dad’s equipment and supplies. From there I’ve gone well off into the stratosphere and have recently graduated to all-grain brewing with the acquisition of a BrewZilla 35L Gen 4 system. This means I’m pretty familiar with the process and craft of homebrewing, something that Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator seeks to faithfully recreate.
To be upfront that’s something that it does with what I’ll call painful accuracy. Whilst you’re spared some of the more routine and time consuming tasks (like cleaning and sanitising things) you’ll still be going through all the motions you’d have to in order to make your own beer. You’ll collect water, add ingredients, wait for things to cool, chuck them in a fermentor and then wait patiently whilst the yeast goes to work turning your sugar water into beer. The game also offers you two modes: a campaign mode which does a great job of replicating the journey many a homebrewer has gone through or a creative mode that unlocks everything and sets you free to brew whatever your heart desires.
True to the simulator genre Brewmaster has simplistic, stylized graphics that focus on being readily identifiable with their real world counterparts. It’s a style that fits firmly in the middle of the uncanny valley, the stylisation not heavy enough to make it feel cartoony yet the realistic elements all feeling left of center. This stands out even more due to the rudimentary lighting and some rather…unsettling foley work for some particular actions (pouring malt extract out of a can, I’m looking at you). Still this is all kind of expected for this genre which is more focused towards simulation accuracy rather than graphical fidelity.
The aim of the game is pretty clear: make beers. In the campaign this means making a certain kind of brew that’s listed in this month’s homebrewer’s magazine, usually one of the fundamental styles that many people will be familiar with. You’ll go through the process of ordering ingredients, gathering them up and then going through the process of transforming them into beer. Should you follow the recipe correctly it’s almost guaranteed you’ll come out the other side with a beer that matches it and you’ll be rewarded with some in-game currency to expand your selection of ingredients and equipment. Once you’ve satisfied yourself for that season you can move onto the next, which brings with it another round of challenges.
Credit where it’s due: the process is accurate which unfortunately comes at the cost of it being fun. I mean, sure, doing what I’m doing below isn’t the recommended way to make beers in anyone’s books, but it’s clear that the game did not intend for me to do this nor did it have the systems in place to cope with someone deliberately setting out to break the simulation. I mean sure, there’s the beer tasting thing at the end of it all which will likely show a horribly confused assessment of your…creation… should you do this but the game otherwise does nothing to reward or discourage this kind of shenanigans.
Which honestly was a bit of a shame if I’m honest. Whilst it was fun to run through a process of creating a beer virtually some of the charm of these kinds of games is taking things to the extreme to see where things start to break down. Fellow homebrewers will note below the absolute impossibility of the numbers shown in the graph below, something which I found genuinely hilarious but the game simply had no clue about what I was trying to do. In reality what I was creating was probably just highly contaminated malt extract but that was the point! I wanted to see my insane vision of hyper containmentated rocket fuel come to life. Sadly, the game was not having a bar of it.
Which I guess comes down to the point of a game like this. It’s obviously been made by those with a healthy respect for the craft and a love of video games. The simulation tending much more towards realistic accuracy means that it’s likely more focused on getting more people interested in the hobby of homebrew which is something I wholeheartedly support. Me as a gamer though? Whilst I recognise it as a very competent simulator it wasn’t exactly something I enjoyed playing beyond my experiments in trying to break it, which is obviously not what it exists to do.
So who does this game exist for then? I can see two camps of people: the first of which is fellow homebrewers like myself who maybe don’t get the chance to do as many brews as they might like in reality and so settle for the virtual experience every so often. Then there are those who’ve been interested in the hobby but don’t yet want to delve into the physical world of it, instead wanting to explore it as game before making the investment. For both there’s definitely something to appreciate here but if you, like me, were expecting something more akin to the rest of the simulator genre you may be left wanting.
Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator is available on PC right now for $25.95. Total play time was 99 minutes with 14% of the achievements unlocked.