Relic’s The Huntress at Barcade New Haven

Good Game

Opened seven weeks ago near Orange and Crown, Barcade’s immediate stroke of brilliance is its name, which is quick, catchy and self-explanatory.

Its deeper genius is that it’s actually full of unexplained surprises. Barcade is a bar merged with an arcade, of course, but it’s a nostalgic arcade, full of vintage games Generations X and Y once played as kids. The games themselves, typically viewed as anti-social escapes, are just the opposite in a setting like this, in part because they’re almost always multi-player. And unlike many contemporary games, they’re simple and low-commitment. They don’t require a hundred hours to beat, even if they do require a hundred quarters.

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Another surprise is that the bar’s specialty, beer, is the subject of an approach so crazily committed that it has the power to excite even those of us who usually skip the suds. Aside from a couple of “exclusive” options sold only at Barcade, each new beer the bar serves only gets one keg’s worth of pours. After a given beer’s keg is kicked, it’s immediately replaced by a different beer, which then gets a one-keg run of its own. A beer launched on a Monday might last two or three days, one bartender said, while another opened up on a Friday might very well kick that very day. So it is that the menus Barcade prints each day before opening are rendered obsolete by closing time.

Judging from the beers I tried, whoever’s selecting the queue is doing it very thoughtfully, and other customers seem to agree. Even yesterday—a lowly Tuesday—the bar had reasonably good traffic, leading to several beers getting kicked and replaced over the course of a few hours.

The six I’m about to recommend, along with handy Barcade game pairings, were still there when I left. But even if they aren’t there for your next arrival, the breadth, depth and sheer variety I found bodes well for whatever surprise-filled menu should greet you.

Relic: The Huntress
Colored like a less cloying version of orange soda, its clear citrus aroma was noticeable from several inches away. Crisp enough to wake a drowsy drinker up, the flavor was hardly sweet at all—much more rind than flesh. Served in a snifter, its head was thicker than most of the day’s pours but also fleeting. So if you like your orange with cream, it’s advised you dig in quickly. Not too quickly, though, given a high ABV of 9.3%.

Recommended Game Pairings: Aliens, because of prey/predator Ellen Ripley and predator/prey the alien queen; Gauntlet II, because of Thyra the Valkyrie; Ms. Pac Man, because of Ms. Pac Man, and because the ghosts she occasionally hunts are shaped like upside-down snifters.

Jack’s Abby: Smoke & Dagger
With a light but persistent head—a thin tan line cresting a sea of dark, opaque brown no matter how much I drank—this black lager was smoky indeed while also expressing the softer side of chocolate. With a body that wasn’t bitter at all, and smoothed even further by that creamy froth topper, it was the beer equivalent of a summer camping staple: the s’more. It even had a hint of the coffee you might drink to rouse yourself after a night spent sleeping in a tent.

Recommended Game Pairing: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, because of Smoke, who’s all smoky, and Jade, who throws daggers.

Two Brothers: Ebel’s Weiss
There was a rotund, sweet rush to my nose as it neared a glass of this hazy, yellow liquid. Not very bitter or crisp, the ensuing taste was an alkaline, rounded sort of sweetness, thanks in part to a key flavor note of mellow, yellow banana. Though it had an easy, tasty flavor—the kind of beer some men in particular might not like to be seen drinking—its middling but darker-than-you’d-expect yellow could let it pass for a sharper, more “manly” pale ale.

Recommended Game Pairings: Crazy Taxi, because of the banana-yellow cabs; and Final Fight, because it stars two brothers, albeit from other mothers.

Brooklyn Brewery: Summer Ale
Though it had an occasionally harsh bite, the overall flavor was so light that it was tough to be offended, and in summer, something light and inoffensive might be exactly what you want. It gained sweetness if it sat on the tongue awhile, though it also gained a ton of “spice”—the rasp, not the heat. In the glass it made a very clean, transparent sunny yellow-gold, and in the mouth it made a slight orangey perfume that floated up mid-swig.

Recommended Game Pairing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because New York.

Captain Lawrence: Barrel Select Red
Smelling and tasting of “tart fruit,” as the menu put it—thanks to being aged in barrels previously used to age wine—this “American wild ale” seems more like a sparkling red—or a red sangria given a dash of champagne—than a beer. Colored a deep, opaque burgundy like strawberry fruit leather, it went down pretty smoothly despite an effervescent edge.

Recommended Game Pairings: Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, because of Darth Vader’s iconic red lightsaber during the final dual; and Satan’s Hollow, because of a red light-up joystick.

Sixpoint: Bolshoi
This one definitely has six in the chamber. A Russian imperial stout, it had the highest ABV of the day’s menu (10.2 %), with a dark mocha caramel flavor shooting through a quick, bitter start and long, tempered finish. Though it seemed like more of a winter drink, it might be just what you want on a cool summer night like the ones we’ve been having.

Recommended Game Pairings: Tetris, because a Russian, Alexey Pajitnov, designed and coded it, and because St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is a major design element, and because the soundtrack is based on traditional Russian music; and Frogger, because it, too, is especially hoppy.

56 Orange St, New Haven (map)
Sun-Thurs 12pm-1am, Fri-Sat 12pm-2am (Kitchen: Daily 12pm-12am)
(203) 889-2966

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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