Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bringing the Beast to Life

When I wrote my first Brewtal Truth column for Decibel magazine in early 2009, the only connection I personally drew between craft beer and heavy metal was that some people who were metal fans probably enjoyed drinking good craft beer. This was a safe assumption since roughly 10 percent of beer drinkers are craft beer diehards. Mostly, though, the column was a creative way to write about two of my favorite things. I can't say I really sought to try to draw a connection between the two in every column, but as I wrote, I found it easy to do so. A column on pumpkin ales, for instance, would inevitably lead to mention of German band Helloween, who have one of the cheesiest/most awesome mascots in metal history: a jack-o-lantern.

Decibel does a column called Call & Response where they send a famous metal artist eight or nine unlabeled mp3s for them to listen to and comment on. For my own version, I sent a six-pack of different unlabeled beers to Dave Witte of Municipal Waste to taste and comment on. Decibel editor Albert Mudrian never once suggested a column topic for me and he never balked at anything I turned in. Some columns, admittedly, had nothing to do with metal (anyone remember "Beer Drunk Baseball"?), but they were always about craft beer.

As I continued to write the column in Decibel, however, I began to hear from different people about certain metal musicians who were really into craft beer. Equally cool was meeting and talking to brewers who were serious metal fans. It all began coming together. Just as there is a tight underground in metal circles, the craft brewing fraternity is solid. Like-minded folks find each other. And the more I wrote the column, the more crossover I saw between the two camps. It would be a stretch to suggest that metal is the preferred music of craft brewers worldwide, or that all metal fans and musicians only drink craft beer, but both sides see and appreciate the commonalities.

In the last couple of years or so I've seen a handful of blogs like Black Metal and Brews pop up. NPR did a piece called "Heavy Metal Kegger," about beer-themed metal songs. The first blatantly metal brewery, Denver's TRVE, appeared. Even a totally mainstream mag like Men's Health had the members of Graveyard pair craft beers with metal songs. Suddenly the beer and metal connection was an actual "thing."

I'm not here to take credit for anything, but I can't help but feel that sometimes saying something is "a thing" actually makes it so. A fellow writer doing a story on the connection between beer and metal elicited this quote from a musician he interviewed: "I was never aware of [a connection] until they started running that beer column in Decibel." The fact that Decibel put Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon on its cover holding a (stemmed!) glass of Flying Dog beer is actually a watershed moment. Show me another metal mag (or any mag, for that matter!) that did something as audacious as putting a metal musician on the cover drinking a craft beer.

As groundbreaking as that was, the reality is that there are far more craft brewers out there who would rather listen to the Grateful Dead or Dave Matthews. And the average craft beer drinker probably couldn't tell the difference between Brutal Truth and Napalm Death. But on the margins of two already marginalized things, there are people finding common ground. I'm just here to help recruit a few more.


Black Metal and Brews said...

Thanks for the link and the mention! As I've already made clear, you helped me develop my craft. I remember an early column featuring Unibroue getting me excited about exploring the world of beer in a greater capacity than getting sloshed. Thanks again and I hope to see our community grow even larger.

Brewtal Truth said...

Thanks for the comment! Yeah, it's all about getting more people to try stuff like Unibroue and realize that there are tons of amazing beers out there. You're doing your part, which is cool to see. You'll no doubt inspire some of your own readers to do the same.