The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2017

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Page 16 of 128

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS Game of Drinks 16  /  the tasting panel  / september 2017 A fter a decade working in this industry, it takes a lot for me to be taken by complete surprise by a bar. But when I walked into Guildhall in Burbank, California, the sensation was akin to entering a whole new world. At first glance, Guildhall looks like your standard sports bar, with TVs scattered throughout the clean, expansive space. But upon closer inspection, it was quickly apparent this is no traditional sports bar, and if you're looking for a place to watch the big game, it'd be better to find a seat elsewhere. Guildhall is, in fact, an eSports bar, and the TVs here instead depict the top video game players and teams as they forge through virtual landscapes streaming live on a platform called Twitch TV. In the lower left-hand corner, you can watch them navi- gate through games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft, while the rest of the screen shows a detailed view as they play. If you, like me, have never heard of eSports before, you'll be gobsmacked to discover it's a multimillion-dollar industry. Watching players engage in eSports is big business, with live eSport-watching events selling out massive venues like L.A.'s Staples Center in minutes. But the concept of an eSports bar is still very new, and, for one longtime Los Angeles bartender, a lucrative and appeal- ing opportunity. "As far I know, this is the only place you can come and watch eSports," explains Spencer Cox, Guildhall's owner. Groups gather here to watch their favorite gam- ers go head-to-head live, and can get a great, aptly-named drink at the same time. "Every cocktail is a nerd reference," explains Cox, who points to drinks like Heart of Gold (made with Pimm's, Mandarine Napoléon, lemon and simple syrup), Laird Destro (gin, Laird's AppleJack, ginger liqueur, lime and simple syrup) and Tonberry (vodka, orange liqueur and grenadine) as inside jokes for gamers who will recognize these references (that's for League of Legends, G.I. Joe and Final Fantasy, respectively). But the menu is more than a gimmick, attests Cox. "We wanted to make sure that first and fore- most, this is a good, quality bar, where people can come and get a great drink—whether they're into eSports or not." A quality cocktail program is bolstered by a small craft beer and wine list, another extension of the bar's all-nerd, all-the-time motto. "We think that people who geek out over eSports are also going to be interested in a nerdier beer or a less common wine," continues Cox. Even better, an entire wall dedi- cated to board games and delicious bar food make Guildhall a gathering place for patrons a bit more neutral on the nerdiness front. "We want this to be a place where everyone can come and have a good time, regardless of what's on the screen," explains Cox. Board games like Settlers of Catan, Terra Mystica and Pandemic accompany classics like Scrabble at Spencer Cox's Guildhall in Burbank, CA. In the background, eSports are streaming on televisions. by Rachel Burkons

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