We love HBO Go because we get to relive some of the best television ever created in binge fashion. We love it more when we pair those shows with the perfect beverage. Here’s our guide.
The Wire (2002-2008)
For once, the hype is real. David Simon’s masterpiece is one of the best documents ever committed to TV, a sprawling and ambitious tale of the state of the American city, as seen on the drug-addled streets and in the corrupt government halls of Baltimore, MD. Though the series lagged a bit in its fifth season, the intelligent, patient writing—as well as its characters, its ability to surprise, and its surprisingly deft sense of humor—has never been matched. Pay homage to the city in which the series is set by drinking some Natty Bohemian, whose winking, mustachioed logo still occupies a place in the city skyline. Or track down a beer from Stillwater, the “gypsy” brewer from Baltimore whose bar, Of Love and Regret, ranks as one of the best beer spots in America.
Those who are easily offended by cursing need not apply (the word “cocksucker” has never been used more frequently, or creatively). But if you can muscle past the imprecations and the moments of punctuated violence, this Shakespeare-by-way-of-the-West genre experiment from David Mitch ranks as one of HBO’s best series, and one that ended far too quickly. But even during its short stint, it gave us fantastic soliloquies from Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat (foreshadowing the equally grand Justified series on FX), and the dangerous drinking game of taking a sip with each curse word. Pursue that latter pursuit with caution, and go with a whiskey that offers a bit of bite, like the Redemption Rye.
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
If HBO’s Oz started the network’s rise as a content creator, this instant-classic elevated that journey to near-meteoric proportions. Led by one of the TV’s most iconic anti-heroes, The Sopranos blended the best of the mobster genre with an equal mix of family drama, surreal dream sequences, and dark, dark humor. Toast this crowning achievement with—what else—a bold, big Italian red like the 2004 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva, one of Food and Wine’s top 25 Italian reds under $25. And pair it with a decadent Italian feast while you’re at it. And pace yourself—there are a lot of episodes to digest.
Sex and the City (1998-2004)
What some might consider a confection others interpret as gospel, and even if use of voice-over and puns inspired a bit of eye-rolling at times, Sex and the City was brave enough to center a show around the lives of four women, with the men (mostly) falling to the peripheries. The half-hour episodes go down easy, so pair it with—what else—a few Cosmopolitans…or Appletinies…or Bloody Marys. Better yet, choose the drink to match the scene (brunch vs. dinner vs. club) and you’ll be set.
Game of Thrones (2011-)
The resounding popularity of this series feels utterly incongruous with the wider interests of the public. A period drama about dragons and spells and knights with a ridiculously long cast of characters based on brick-sized genre novels that actually appealed to those beyond the vocal geek minority?! And yet smart production, fantastic acting, clever editing, and the fact that no one is safe…ever…has helped catapult this series into public consciousness. And yes, the nudity and violence probably also helped. Mead would seem the most appropriate beverage, and a few U.S. microbreweries offer a modern spin on this medieval drink. But we say go literal and chase down one of the beers inspired by the series—Three-Eyed Raven, the Iron Throne, Take the Black Stout, Fire and Blood, or Valar Morghulis—released by Brewery Ommegang.