STAFF REVIEW of Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator Box art Gamers do not have a shortage of simulation style games. You can be a surgeon, mechanic, manage a football team, run a farm, pressure wash everything, build PC's, even be a goat – the choices are seemingly endless. I generally find the simulation genre quite relaxing, and I get to explore jobs, worlds, and skills I would never experience in my real life. When I was invited to take a sneak peek at a new sim game late last year, called Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator, I eagerly took a chance to try out my dreams of brewing my own beer without the added costs of financing a real-life setup. Now that I have my hands on the final release, let’s see if it goes down smoothly or if it is super skunky.

Simulation games generally fall into two categories; the ones that are nothing like reality, think along the lines of Goat Simulator, and the ones grounded in reality where you will invest a lot of time learning and growing before really getting into the game. Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulation (simply referred to as Brewmaster going forward) is a really chill and laid-back game that falls in to the second classification. Developed by Auroch Digital and published by Fireshine Games and Sold-out Software. It launched in September on PC and recently on consoles. There are no fail states, no drama, no combat or time limits. It’s just you learning about and brewing beer and experimenting. As your knowledge grows, you can experiment further. Boil water, add grains, hops, honey etc, ferment, taste and repeat. During the tasting you can bottle your beer, creating custom names, labels etc. You are given a full flavour profile and analysis breakdown. You will see the colour, clarity and alcohol content among other characteristics.

As the wise Friar Tuck once said: This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our maker and glory to his bounty by learning about... beer!

There are two major modes in Brewmaster. Story mode and Freeplay. You can play either from the beginning of the game which is nice if you are already familiar with brewing beer. It gives you all the equipment and ingredients, recipes and knowledge you need to brew to your heart's content, in your own time. Since freeplay doesn’t really need more of an explanation, I will focus primarily on Story Mode for this review.

Story mode sets you up to work your way slowly through stages, processes and steps to start your brewing career. You’ll start with one of the simplest recipes, a basic ale, gradually adding new ingredients, steps, equipment and skills to your hobby as you progress through the story arcs. Start by grabbing a pot and filling it with 21L of water. Bring the water to a boil. Since this takes some time, it’s nice to have a fast forward option on your watch as to not have to literally watch the pot boil. Once it boils add your malts and grains, wait, cool, ferment, add yeast, condition and finally taste. Each step requires time like it would in reality, so using the stopwatch to speed up time (or calendar to skip multiple days in some cases) is helpful.

At the tasting stage you can either bottle your beer or store it. Storing it is a great option, especially if it’s a good match to a particular type of beer as you may be able to use it in a competition in the future. Once bottled you can’t submit it to any competition. When bottling you can create your own custom labels, eventually unlocking different bottles, glasses and more custom options. If you are creative, this can occupy a lot of your time. Each stage lets you follow along with a recipe of your choosing or gives you a particular job to complete. This job could be brewing a particular style of beer or brewing a beer using a specific method, tool or ingredient combo. Requests may be small, like achieving a certain colour, clarity, alcohol content etc. This simply requires you finding a recipe in your arsenal that hits these marks. As you progress, however, you will have more requirements to fulfill to complete a job. Perhaps trying to hit a particular colour as well as 4 or 5 different flavour notes, but not hitting others. Maybe your hops need to all be from one region. The requests can be finicky but if you have an eye for details, they are mostly manageable.

Each day starts with you looking at the current brewing magazine for the season. You’ll find some tips and hints in there. You may also have a delivery at the door with new ingredients or equipment. Open it up and put it away in your kitchen work area. Sometimes you’ll also be given the opportunity to create brews for other breweries that want to partner with you, participate in events or even enter contests. I enjoyed the competitions the most. You have a list of likes and dislikes from the judges as well as general guidelines for the type of brew expected. You have a bit of time to enter, so you can enter one beer option, and continue to brew batches, swapping them out if you think they may have a better chance of winning. After the competition closes you’ll see if you win. Placing in the top three earns you prizes and if you manage to get First place, you get a lovely trophy and glass to decorate your workplace.

I was pleased with the balance in Brewmaster. It left me enough freedom to explore and learn and be creative, but also gave me some guidance to follow without holding my hand too much. Brewmaster also didn’t take itself too seriously. For example, it didn’t care if you cleaned your equipment meticulously. You also have a bit of a buffer in levels and measurements. If things weren’t perfect, you were still often lucky enough to get the results intended. I have accidentally left batches uncovered, or for too long in fermenting barrels and still had decent results. Definitely unlikely this would be the case if I were brewing in reality.

One really nice thing was once you purchased ingredients, they were always available to you, they never ran out or needed to be repurchased. This was a good thing as you don’t make a lot of money in Brewmaster. It’s indeed a hobby where you earn a little, and learn a lot. The biggest fault in the game, in my opinion, was a need for more precise measuring of ingredients. Using the 'Right Bumper' to pour meant I was frequently stopping short, just to over pour when trying to add just a little more. Also, when measuring your hops from the fridge, you could only take them in 5g bundles and some recipes required an odd number (43g for example). There was no way to get a precise number here. Possibly this was easier to do on PC. I would have also liked to have a bit more information and guidance to determine how to achieve or change characteristics in the beer. It was hard to sometimes determine how to get a particular level or note from a beer, and how to correct or alter a recipe when I wasn’t sure exactly how each characteristic could be altered. I did spend some time searching online and talking to people who understood home brewing far more than I did. I did encounter a few bugs, mostly where I couldn’t open something or pour, equipment would just vanish from the bench, or my hands, but opening a menu and closing it again would normally fix that.

The gameplay loop is simple. Brew beer, over and over. Even though this could be boring to some, I was drawn into it far more than I anticipated. I made a lot of mistakes, as you would expect, but the science nerd in me wanted to succeed. The beer lover in me wanted to create and discover. The list of equipment and ingredients wasn’t massive but had enough options to keep the game interesting. I am a craft beer lover and have spent a lot of time visiting breweries, talking to real brewmasters, and tasting of course. This game gave me a little sneak peek behind the curtain to the science behind the beer I love. I learned a lot from this game. See, video games can be educational.

Music in the background was ever present, but thinking back on it, nothing really stands out. That it likely a good thing as I wanted the entire process to be relaxing. The sounds of water running, or items being poured seemed well thought out. I have no complaints there. Outside of brewing in game, you can purchase and earn items to decorate your home. It’s a nice little break between brewing batches, or perhaps you want to let your process run in real time and just chill for a bit. Sit back and look at all the trophies you’ve earned in the competitions. Small touches I added to my home made it feel a bit more personal to me versus when I started with the blank slate.

The game is far from hardcore. It’s fairly approachable to casual sim game players, but also in depth enough for beer making enthusiasts. I can see that those with experience would enjoy the freeplay immensely. From hanging out in the Auroch discord, I saw an abundance of knowledge being shared from people far more into brewing that I will ever be. Some even sharing recipes they created in reality or in game with one another. Brewmaster has a lot of depth, a lot of detail and a lot of science. Brewing beer is part science, part art, and all love. There is so much detail that I’d likely need an entire article in itself to cover all the equipment, hops, grains, add-ins and more that are in the game. There is clearly a lot of love and attention to detail involved here. I think if you are a fan of craft beer, if brewing interests you, or you are into simulation style games, you should check out Brewmaster to see if its flavour profile matches with your tastes.

**Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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