Friday morning, and my wife leaves for work around 6:30 AM. Now that she’s gone, I immediately flip on the TV and crack my first beer of the day. No, I’m not a secret alcoholic, nor am I taking the day off – this is work!
Watching as many episodes as you can in a day is called a binge.
Drinking as many beers in a day is called a session.
Hence, the “binge session.” Pairing a beer with each episode of a new season of a popular television series. We'll see how this takes hold.
Master of None is surely one of the better series for the first binge session, especially since season two was just released this May. The Netflix product is the auteurist work of comedian Aziz Ansari. Mostly plotless, it’s a gorgeously shot, often-romantic dramedy that is easy to just melt into after a few brews – what with its meandering conversations mixed with quiet meditative moments, stunning geographical locations and scenes often taking places in busy bars, and heapings upon heapings of food porn to drunkenly slobber over.
Ten episodes, ten beers, one season, one day. (Light spoilers to follow.)
It’s a much better way to start the day than with a Bloody freakin’ Mary.”
Episode 1 - The Thief
Beer: LoverBeer BeerBrugna
This new season continues the saga of Dev in Modena, Italy where he has gone to learn pasta making after a bad breakup. This episode is shot in black and white in homage to classic, mid-century Italian cinema like Bicycle Thieves and L’Avventura.
It’s Dev’s birthday, and he receives an email from his ex Rachel (Noël Wells) who he maybe or maybe hasn’t moved on from... until he has a serendipitous encounter with a beautiful British tourist. A strong start to the season, this uniquely Italian episode – it’s mostly subtitled (Aziz speaking Italian! Allora...) – about love and food and, okay, international loneliness felt best to pair with an Italian beer I would gladly drink alone.
Italy has a rising craft beer culture and LoverBeer is one of the stars on the scene. BeerBrugna is a sour ale fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria and featuring local ramassin plums and it’s a much better way to start the day than with a Bloody freakin’ Mary.
Episode 2 - Le Nozze
Beer: The Veil Broz Broz Day Day
Best bud Arnold (Eric Wareheim) makes a surprise appearance in Modena in this episode, wanting Dev to show him all the country’s “tasty treats.” Having finished his apprenticeship at the pasta shop, this “bud’s weekend” could very well be Dev’s final few days in the country so they plan to live “la dolce vita.” They even go to the so-called “best restaurant in the world,” Osteria Francescana, where Massimo Bottura himself (celeb chef cameo!) serves big bud and little bud a massive tasting menu in a private cellar that would surely set most people back a few months rent.
It’s only 8 AM and I can’t start gorging on Italian food just yet, so I opt for a uniquely American style of beer instead. Broz Broz Day Day is a New England-style IPA from one of the country’s top purveyors. Often known as “juice bombs,” this double dry-hopped, low-ABV Citra IPA is so much better than a glass of O.J.
Episode 3 - Religion
Beer: Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter
By the end of episode 2, Dev has returned to New York, done “making Spaghetti-o’s” (according to his agent), and ready to act again, this time as the host of a new cupcake competition show. This episode offers the backstory of Dev’s love affair with food, when as a young Muslim boy he tasted bacon for the first time at a friend’s house – a religious experience!
A perfectly sacrilegious beer for a Ramadan episode, this Florida beer packs maple syrup, coffee, and bacon into a surprisingly drinkable offering. Religion also features the season’s first appearance of Dev’s scene-stealing parents (Aziz’s real mother and father, Shoukath and Fatima Ansari), who are probably more proud of their son who creates award-winning TV shows, than my parents are of me, for getting blasted while watching award-winning TV shows.
Episode 4 - First Date
Beer: Goose Island Brasserie Blanc
A meditation on relationships in the age of swiping apps, in this cleverly-structured, though often-inscrutable episode, Dev goes on a series of first dates that are inter-spliced together. While Dev wonders about “potential boning situations” with these many women, he also drinks plenty of glasses of natural wine at Brooklyn’s The Four Horsemen bar.
Though a lusciously-boozy series, Dev rarely drinks beer, instead more likely to grab a Negroni or Pinot noir. Perhaps he’d change his drinking repertoire if he ever tried a more wine-like brew. Like this newly-released golden ale, aged for around a year in wine casks with muscat grape juice and Brett. It’s sweeter than I might have expected, and a bit like an ice wine.
It’s kinda good, kinda gross, and totally intriguing.”
Episode 5 - The Dinner Party
Beer: Boulevard Saison-Brett
As we reach the halfway mark of this binge session, Dev is growing increasingly frustrated with the inanity of Clash of the Cupcakes and I am growing increasingly buzzed. In this episode, an Italian friend Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) visits and Dev take her to a fancy dinner party hosted by the famed and brash “Chef Jeff” (Bobby Cannavale).
A perfectly brash dinner party beer, this corked-and-caged fizzy farmhouse ale is dry as the desert and pleasantly funky, with a liberal dry-hopping which adds tropical notes and aroma. At this point I’ve drank enough for an entire dinner party – so it’s probably best if I take a walk and slam a Cortado (Dev’s favorite coffee drink, natch) before continuing on.
Episode 6 - New York, I Love You
Beer: Threes Brewing Vliet
As we return from the locker room after halftime, I decide to hydrate for the second half with a can of Vliet pilsner, a crisp and clean crusher I keep in my fridge at all times. Master of None is a show hopelessly in love with all aspects of New York; while Threes Brewing is a nearby Brooklyn brewpub that I absolutely love.
This sui generis slice-of-life episode barely features Dev and the main cast at all, instead focusing on one day’s trials and tribulations of three disparate New Yorkers. There’s Eddie, the frustrated doorman at a tony Manhattan high-rise who must deal with giving meds to ailing parrots and covering for philandering residents. There’s a segment on a fun-loving group of African cab drivers looking for love in the city’s cheesy nightclubs. And, most difficult to decipher for someone six beers deep, will be the tale of a cunnilingus-deprived deaf woman – a story revealed completely in silence (without even musical accompaniment), and virtually impossible to focus on if you’re totally buzzing at this point, which I am.
Episode 7 - Door #3
Beer: Ballast Point Indra Kunindra
In this episode, Dev is offered a whopping seven-season contract to host Clash of the Cupcakes, though he’s leery about being locked-into such a long-term deal for a show he clearly lacks passion toward. Instead, he begins thinking more about his Indian roots, wondering if he might instead prefer to do a travel show surrounding the foods of his ancestral land. While this would be the perfect time to slot in an Indian beer, well, there just aren’t many great ones.
A more practical option might be to utilize this Indian-spiced beer. A California-brewed export stout featuring curry, cumin, cayenne pepper, coconut, and kaffir: it’s kinda good, kinda gross, and totally intriguing. It also makes me realize I should probably put something more solid in my belly at this point. I order some samosas on Seamless.
Episode 8 - Thanksgiving
Beer: Off Color Coffee Dinosmores
Taking place during various Thanksgivings over the years, this hip hop-heavy flashback episode sees Dev spending the 1995, 1999, 2006, 2015, 2016, and 2017 holidays with the African-American family of his longtime friend Denise (Lena Waithe). It deals intricately with Denise slowly coming out as a lesbian to her mom as well.
As for me, post-lunch, I can feel the end is nigh, and I’m starting to drag. A caffeinated brew might be nice; even better, I think, if it somehow supports worthy LGBT causes. Luckily, I have a bottle of this coffee- and cocoa-packed beer in my cellar, courtesy a brewery and its co-founder, John Laffler, who proudly donates money to the ACLU. Yeah, it’s a bit too boozy for this binge session, but, then again, I’m just streaming TV alone, not operating heavy machinery.
Episode 9 - Amarsi Un Po’
Beer: Suarez Family 100 Ft North
Just when it looks like the finish line is near, Aziz hits us with a damn double episode! Directed by Ansari himself, and shot like a glossy rom-com (the title means “To Love a Little”), in this episode Dev’s now-unrequited crush Francesca (hot on the heels of a recent engagement to a fellow countryman) comes to New York for another visit.
The sexual tension in this one is thick as a barleywine, but I’m going to a need a low-ABV sipper to get me through this entire hour-long without passing out. When Dev and Francesca sneak away to upstate New York to visit the Storm King Art Center I have the answer to my needs. Because, also upstate resides one of the best new breweries around (though, one they unfortunately do not visit it!).
Dan Suarez surely makes some of the most flavorful, yet seemingly simple beers in the entire country. 100 Ft North, one of the few offerings Suarez currently bottles, is a stunning 4.3% “country beer” – his name for farmhouse ales – brewed with raw local grains and fermented with mixed cultures in oak. Acidic and zippy, it puts a nice jolt in me as I prepare for the season finale.
Episode 10 - Buona Notte
Beer: Schlafly The Variant
I once read that, depressed after the end of his marriage and the flop that was his musical New York, New York, Martin Scorsese holed up in his Mulholland Drive mansion and sat around all day in a dark room watching movies and doing coke. Okay, so today’s binge session hasn’t been quite like that, but it has been more gruelling than I would have ever expected. (Maybe I should do a six-episode-a-season show like Black Mirror next time?)
Admittedly, I haven’t drank every ounce of every beer pairing – but I have closely watched every second of this terrific show. More artsy and ambitious than season one, the five-and-half hours are a bit of a masterpiece. And, this spectacular finale (“Good night”) – featuring Dev’s attempts to do TV his way... and land Francesca – is a denouement I do not want to ruin for you.
Still, I do want to ruin my liver a little bit more, and decide to go out with a bang with The Variant. A new offering as part of this St. Louis’s brewery Ibex Rare series, the cocoa nib stout aged in port barrels makes a perfect nightcap to cap my binge session – it’s dessert-y and liqueur-like and meant to slowly savor.
I’ve had to quickly savor this series in one day, but now my work is done and I can finally relax. With a beer and some television. Phew. I just hope my wife doesn’t want to watch Master of None when she gets home.